Viewpoint: Restrictions essential to spur creativity

Jeffrey Perino, creative director, Triple Threat Communications
Jeffrey Perino, creative director, Triple Threat Communications

If you're worried that healthcare regulations are squeezing the life out of our industry, check out “Take It From a Fish”—AstraZeneca's unbranded cam­paign (developed with DigitasLBi) that reeled in the Grand Prix at Cannes this summer. 

To realize that change and restrictions are often necessities, you only have to consider that the American consumer was once told, “More doctors choose ­Camels than any other cigar­ette.” Restrictions exist as essen­tial components of creativity.

What makes us more productive in the last 30 minutes of a jam-packed day than during an entire weekend? Answer: restrictions. The very thing holding us back may actually fuel creativity. 

We're products of our time and place and we work within established parameters. Would anyone devalue Mozart's genius simply because he adhered to the strict classical forms of the day? Consider his piano sonatas: By staying within the rulebook, he composed incredibly inventive work without breaking conventions. And his piano output alone spans the full range of emotional expression.  

Now consider the classical pianist, who must adhere to an extremely detailed set of musical direction. It is his or her job to flawlessly play what is written on each page, down to the very last sixteenth note. Yet how the music is uniquely interpreted is precisely where the pianist's creativity shines through. 

Restricting fuel takes many forms. If word count is your limitation, creativity means never having to say you're wordy. If a deadline gets bumped up, focus becomes your creative polestar. If a budget gets cut in half, resourcefulness becomes your canvas. (Did you know that Handel wrote Messiah in 24 days—in time for a planned charity concert?)

However restrictions appear, they provide something to work within and push against. That blank canvas or empty page can be paralyzing. Restrictions may take away some of the choices that can immobilize us from making progress. When we're firing on all cylinders, we can and must quickly distinguish the creatively feasible from the infinitely possible. 

Most creatives working on a pharma account love conceptual branded work. But remember, there are many other fresh­water streams to trawl for creativity—from claims development to infographics to rep-engagement communications. There are always new lures and new ways to set the hook. Take your cue from—and see how creativity rises to the surface without being tied directly to branded product promotion.

Embrace the restrictions and let your imagination run free. It promises to be your best catch of the day.

The most recent MM&M Skill Sets Live event, "Personalizing the Healthcare Experience," surveyed a range of issues relating to some of the industry's hottest topics. This e-book conveys a wealth of information and opinion designed to help marketers demystify the challenges associated with the personalization of healthcare messaging. Click here to access.