Most of us who make a living tethered to a computer understand the concept of verbal-visual composing. We call it "adding eye-candy" to the text. But on a higher level where advertising and marketing campaigns are devised for Fortune 100 or Inc. 5000 clients, the process takes on a high-stakes urgency to employ methods that produce Results.

So, it's good to know that the ivory-tower set is at work to explore and teach verbal-visual composing. In Envisioning Collaboration, Dr. Geoffrey A. Cross places a gigantic magnifying glass over an unnamed ad agency in the throes of developing a media campaign for an important prospect. He joins the team as an observer and researcher in an "ethnographic" approach. This type of "real-world" exploration will be helpful in teaching students how to benefit employers in search of better marketing mousetraps.

As well, the book is helpful for ad agencies and the academic community. Each group will gain a finer appreciation for the other by learning more about how its polar opposite approaches the topic, and will learn insights to apply to work projects. Perhaps it will open some doors for a fraternal order where ad people provide war stories for professors to debrief, and bring about some needed camaraderie.

Cross, a specialist in Collaborative Business Communication at the University of Louisville (Louisville, Ky.), sets forth to evaluate and build on theories that have been developed by fellow academics on how writers and commercial artists can best interface for successful creative work.

As software and website resources make it easier and faster to combine verbal and visual content, and as visual content takes the lead in guiding viewers and readers, those involved in procuring "share of mind" for companies whose public-enemy-number-one is the information glut, need the best training and insights possible.

Artists and writers understand the trends, so in collaborating, their private spheres are not as guarded as in the past.

Creative people deserve respect!

Too many variables influence the process of developing an ad message. Good grief, we ad people must thoroughly study and understand the effects of current challenges on our customer's industry, how to differentiate the customer's offerings, what the mix of media AND messages ought to be to reach and capture the right audiences, and how to pitch to all those people with a view to their psychographics and demographics, as we take advantage of the latest tools and techniques for creative work, with the goal of achieving the edge. It's a lot to do.

The staff at the agency under Dr. Cross's scrutiny was in the process of doing all those things. With the "creative brief" in mind, the creative people went to work to come up with concepts that would develop into comprehensive layouts to show the prospect.

Although the creative process is ephemeral in nature, Dr. Cross does expose its chimeric underbelly. At the end of the book, one feels his good, long, hard look at creativity-in-motion provides a reality check for us creative types before we start on the next big project.

Verbal-visual composing relies on inspiration and brainstorming, yet there are tips and tricks and boundaries that can be set so that inventive minds do not spin without weaving, and so that results can be successfully applied to the key media.

This study revealed the importance of personal selling within a planned environment, and had a happy ending: the special reward of customer loyalty and appreciation for hard work.

I recommend this book to agencies and creative people seeking to hone the skills and processes that shape their ad campaigns. Although the creative process normally moves at warp speed, some reflection on how it works or is derailed can only help to guide it.

Envisioning Collaboration: Group Verbal-Visual Composing in a System of Creativity, by Geoffrey A. Cross. Published by Baywood Publishing Co., Amityville, NY, 2011.

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