How to harness the creative spirit for event promotion

By Ben Moorsom

In a world that’s cluttered with noise, it often takes a splash of creativity to make people listen.

In early November, Virgin America airlines began re-capturing the attention of its passengers – and the rest of the digital world – with a masterfully produced music video created to replace the standard safety demonstration played prior to take-off. It’s a little bit Broadway and a little bit hip-hop. It’s perfectly choreographed, and skillfully composed. And, it’s sure to have people engaged in their seats.
The airline, celebrated for its creative spirit, recognized that it was going to take something really special to get passengers to look up and actually pay attention to this oft-repeated safety information. This was their solution: a five-minute video featuring the music of American Idol semi-finalist Todrick Hall and directed by Jon Chu, known for directing movies like G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It’s clean; it’s professional; it’s modern, and it’s catchy.

And, if you travel as often as I do, then I’m sure you know how easy it is to tune out this information, whether it’s delivered by a flight attendant or pre-recorded video. Not only is this video getting passengers to pay attention, it is generating buzz all over the Internet. Just Google “Virgin America safety video” and see how many articles, blog posts, and reviews turn up.

This kind of celebrated creativity is exactly what we all want to achieve, especially when we are creating and launching new campaigns, promotions, or product offerings.

In a world that’s overly cluttered and full of information vying for people’s attention, how are you going to get your audience to hear you? How do you get your audience excited about something that might not typically be seen as exciting?

The answer: Creativity.

Even if you’re convinced it’s all been done before, I can assure you that’s not the case. I can only imagine how many airlines will step up over the coming months and try to breathe new life into their existing safety presentations. And I wonder how many times we’ll hear “why didn’t we think of that?” coming from corporate boardrooms across the commercial airline industry.

Creative risk taking

Being creative means you have to take a risk. But, not all companies are comfortable with that. I find there’s this all-powerful ‘fear of judgment’ which many face as they’re trying to push their traditional practices outside the box.

What if it doesn’t go over as well as we thought? What if our audience responds in a negative way? What if the powers-that-be refuse to approve something so different? These are all reasonable questions, but they’re also extremely limiting.

Creativity is about embracing the child within you…within reason. You want to deliver a message that’s in-line with your corporate philosophies, values and objectives. But you also want to have the courage to be different.

I can’t see traditional airlines creating such a provocative and captivating music video as the one Virgin America produced, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from a dose of creativity.

When you’re able to see beyond the limitations, the budgetary restrictions, the fear of judgment, and a risk-averse culture, you’ll be free to take some chances and start generating buzz of your own. I believe in “Brave Ideas”: challenging the norm and pushing back against complacency. And, this is something we recommend everyone to strive for. Remember, it’s not about coming up with something new or better, it’s about coming up with something different. This difference will set you apart.

To start thinking differently consider the following:

What if you’re not creative?

Believe it or not, everyone is creative. You may not be trained as an artist or skilled in musical composition, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have inner creativity just waiting to be harnessed. Being artistic and being creative are not one and the same. Creativity is an instinct that we all possess to some extent. If you can’t find your creativity, you’re likely not looking for it or looking in the wrong places.

How will you open yourself up to creative ideas?

I always encourage people to explore their own surroundings as though they are a traveller. Look around you as you go from place to place; gather inspiration from people you meet, shops you visit, street signs, and cultural events. Go to the movies, the theatre, and concerts. Visit parks. Wander around the department stores. Ideas can be found in the most unexpected places – you just have to start looking.

When traveling for business, be sure to have your eyes open at all times. The most original ideas can come from new places and different cultures.

Make your brainstorm sessions more rewarding!

We all know the standard rules of effective brainstorming: there are no dumb ideas; don’t criticize; build on others’ ideas; and the more the better. But, how do you get the most creative ideas out of these brainstorming sessions? How do you ensure you’re dreaming up ideas that are different?

To begin, ask yourself, what do I want to accomplish? Realizing that your final idea likely won’t come from the first round, consider breaking your brainstorming sessions into multiple shorter sessions. This gives people the opportunity to stew on interesting ideas and allow them to grow organically. Consider taking your meetings outside of the boardroom. Find more inspiring places that will support creative idea generation. Encourage your team to play and have fun with the process. Don’t put time restraints on these sessions. If nothing is coming, cut the meeting short. If ideas are flowing, allow it to run a bit longer.

Once you’ve got ideas, how do you position them in a way that connects?

The key here is to know and understand your audience. Once you have the idea, you’ll need to develop the rationale that supports your creativity and links it back to the objective of your event, communication campaign, or incentive program. This may take a bit more work up front, but trust me; the results will be worth it.

What Virgin America did successfully was take something mandatory and mundane and put a creative spin on it. They took a risk. They took airline safety to a whole new level. And the buzz followed. It’s not about trying to be the best; it’s about allowing yourself to be different. Creativity is the birthplace of buzz. So what are you waiting for?

About the author

Ben Moorsom is President and Chief Creative Officer at Debut Group, an agency that specializes in corporate business communication and events across North America. Since 1997, Debut has pioneered new ways of delivering content and has mastered the art of creating greater perceived production value for their clients. For more information on how Ben and his dynamic team of communication and production veterans deliver better results by producing bold creative that is strategically grounded, emotionally engaging, and flawlessly delivered to meet any clients budget, visit Debut at

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