In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the concept of thinking “outside the box” began to permeate corporate America. The world of advertising led the charge. At the time, this approach was brilliant in its simplicity. It let people know that they needed to think, act and do things differently because the outside world was changing. Then came the dot-com era of advertising and “outside the box” became “outside of reality.” In their eagerness to create whole new ways of thinking, many advertisers lost sight of basic business principles. In some cases, creative executions strayed so far from their objectives and their target, that they were speaking a different language to their customers. Not good for business.
We prefer the idea of “pushing the box.” This means you are actually still living inside the world of reality, but you are tied to basic, fundamental truths about what you need to accomplish, who you are speaking with and how you are speaking to them. This is where true creativity is born, because the answer must be grounded while also revolutionary. You force yourself to create ideas that are strategically sound, but require absolute creativity in their execution.
Great advertising comes from taking a simple, true business premise (e.g. an insight about how people think, use or feel about your product) and then pushing that idea creatively until it stretches the box sideways a bit, but never quite breaks outside of it. You might read this and say, all the great work of the past was “outside of the box.” We would argue that the real greats were simply pushing the box…really hard. Consider “1984”, the classic TV spot for Apple by Chiat/Day. This creative was absolutely and soundly based on the premise that, at the time, PC users were tired of not having choices, being told what they needed in a PC and then being given a complex, difficult-to-use product.
Appropriating George Orwell’s 1984 as a metaphor for the Mac revolution was brilliant. But solidly in the box.