Jeff Goodby Reveals the Best Creative Advice He Got in His Career

Think you have the best idea? It might be time to throw it away

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It’s easy to become wedded to an idea, and tough to let it go. But sometimes starting over is the way to an even better idea—or to getting the first idea approved if it was rejected by the client the first time.

For a new series of videos, Adweek is sitting down with top creatives in the business and asking them about the best advice they got in their careers. We start today with Jeff Goodby, Patrick Scissons, Leo Premutico and Matt MacDonald.

Here is the best advice they ever got in their careers:

“Start over.”

—Jeff Goodby, Co-Chairman, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

“Very often people—we just fall in love with our ideas that we can’t let them go—so we try to force them down a client’s throat,” Goodby says. “I think that learning to go, ‘OK, I’m just going to leave that alone. I’m gonna start over and come up with something else’ takes a lot of faith in yourself to do that. But I think many times you look back on it and go, ‘Shit, I’m really glad I did that, because that first idea wasn’t that good.’ “

“Be passionate but allow yourself to be emotionally disconnected.”

—Patrick Scissons, Global Chief Creative Officer, KBS

“The reality is, sometimes the work that you feel is the best work on the table may not get bought, for whatever reason,” Scissons says. “And you need to be able to have that separation—to go back, be pragmatic, and bring back more good work.”

“Understand the difference between an idea and an execution.”

—Leo Premutico, Chief Creative Officer, Johannes Leonardo

“Coming up with concepts, it’s important to understand that if the execution isn’t amazing, then that doesn’t mean the idea is wrong. Or vice versa,” he says. “Just separating those two things out helps you create an understanding of the creative process.”

“Be surprising.”

—Matt MacDonald, Executive Creative Director, BBDO New York

“Being surprising is the one gift you can give people, as a writer, as a creative,” he says. “As people who are creating advertising, we sort of owe it to our audience to reward them, to surprise them by making them laugh or making them think. … It forces me to constantly look at stuff and go, ‘Is this truly surprising? Is it really rewarding? Or is it just something that will go out there and be wallpaper?’ “

For more from top creatives, check out our “Best Ads Ever” series.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.