Generosity Matters

Al Mackie, Chief Creative Officer at RAPP UK, argues that now is the time to put ego aside and embrace the power of the collective.

Al Mackie

Chief Creative Officer RAPP UK



Neonatal incubators were invented in Paris by an obstetrician who, when taking a lunchtime walk in the park, noticed an incubator hatching eggs. As cruel or odd as it may sound to us today, he decided to make a version for human babies.

Those neo-natal incubators proved such a success at saving lives, that for many years they’ve been among the first pieces of equipment to be shipped into war zones and disaster areas. The trouble is, they were always hard to maintain. At least until another bright spark had the idea of using car headlights to keep them warm – because anyone can change a light bulb.

So which development is more significant? Of course, the answer is neither. The contexts are different, but both are saving lives, and that’s what counts.

Advertising may not be saving lives, but we could do with remembering this incubator example in our creative departments. Historically the tendency has been to come up with an idea and then guard it jealously as your own, regardless of the processes and iterations that might be necessary to maintain and build its relevance across platforms and over time.

In this new world, where we’re all working with different teams contributing different skillsets – often specialisms like AI or voice – we need to be generous. Whether we are collaborating with businesses that are part of our own bottom line or entirely separate, there’s no room for egotism anymore. Especially if we want to put our clients’ interests first.

On a personal level, generosity is important too. You have to be able to give people time and space to work and live. But it’s also an important tool in gaining back some control we have all lost to the pandemic, battling creative paralysis which we saw in a lot of creative work at the beginning of the first lockdown. The way to escape that stalemate is to open up, to be generous and to collaborate.

Some of our clients expressly ask us to come up with ideas that they could go and make with other partners: they might be required to use a production house that they’re aligned with globally, or already work with an established tech partner.

That’s fine. Clients need different partners and we can’t just go into every meeting looking selfishly for an opportunity to grow our remit. We have to keep an open mind, to share our ideas, to play with them, and to enjoy playing with other people’s ideas – to let go of the insistence that we must be the owners of every last iteration.

The world is changing, and just as we have to look at the collective impact of our activities on the environment and on ourselves, we must take a collective approach to our professional lives.

It happens all the time in music, where you can feel the joy of artists coming together to build a new creativity, one that doesn’t have to be better or worse than an individual’s output but opens up new possibilities for artists and listeners alike.

Gorillaz’ most recent album featured everyone from Peter Hook, St Vincent and Elton John to Octavian, Kano and Slowthai. The Lost Tapes of the 27 club sees artists, technicians, producers and AI collaborate to create an album of unique songs that raises awareness of mental illness and is inspired by the work of artists who died aged 27, including Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison. 

Author Matt Ridley suggests that throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of minds to make new ideas. He says “It's not important how clever individuals are; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is”.

The team behind the Unreal Engine is a lovely example of this. Unreal is what many immersive games like Fortnite are made in – it’s cutting edge tech, developed to be the absolute pinnacle of CGI. The software is absolutely free and accessible to all, but if you use it to create anything that you make money from, you have to pay Unreal a percentage.

Consider Mandalorian, the Disney+ series which collaborated with Unreal, was the most in demand series of 2020 and the awards it’s collected, I'd suggest it was a worthwhile collaboration for everyone involved.

Collaboration doesn’t mean surrendering your precious IP, it means an exciting opportunity to be generous, to share ideas in new and productive ways. And a reminder that we should all go for more walks in the park.

Al Mackie, Chief Creative Officer, RAPP UK


Linda Hill, Harvard Professor, describes our job as creative leaders is to create a space ‘where everybody's slices of genius can be unleashed and harnessed and turned into works of collective genius’. So perhaps now is not the time to hide our ideas in our houses. Perhaps now is the time for us to be more generous with them.

We could look back to the incubators and say that the car headlights adaptation is effectively a collaboration with the chick-inspired version. It’s an important lesson for our own daily realities: collaboration doesn’t mean surrendering your precious IP, it means an exciting opportunity to be generous, to share ideas in new and productive ways. And a reminder that we should all go for more walks in the park.


Guest Author

Al Mackie

Chief Creative Officer RAPP UK


Al is an expert in customer communications at all touchpoints. His experience, in the UK and Australia, covers all sectors from automotive to telecoms, and from healthcare to fashion. He has consistently won international awards for creativity and effectiveness across almost every discipline for over two decades now. But he is resolute that success can only come from a team. Building successful teams that thrive on great ideas is what excites Al and it shows when you meet him.

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