Out of nowhere I ran again across this small section of Rory Sutherland’s „Life lessons from an ad man“ talk at TEDGlobal 2009. I had forgotten how interesting and brilliant, filled to the brim with awesome it was. If you like this small section, you will enjoy all the highly recommended 17 minutes.
Working in teams with the creatives here at Miami Ad School in Hamburg, I have a strong feeling of deja vu – of me as a young copywriter. The one defining lesson I took from my experience in the creative field was how much you can fall in love with what you believe is a great idea. But, truth be told, it is not a good idea – no matter how eloquently you post-rationalize it. The memory of me as a bad copywriter is my constant reminder how important the third person in the middle is to ask, „Does this really work?“.
A quote from a discussion this week: „I know it goes against all the values of the brand, but I want to present it anyway.“ So what do you think will happen? That miraculously the client throws over board all his prior considerations and picks your idea? That would not a the brave client, that would be a stupid client.
Now there is proof you can make a client brave and bold, but you need substance and strategy that make sense for the client, not for yourself, not for the idea. I am still amazed how many of the seemingly crazy ideas (Old Spice guy) have obvious and clear strategy behind them (we need to address married middle-aged women because they make the bodywash decisions for their husbands, often choosing lady-scented varieties). Planning gruntwork and great creative helped P&G take a controlled risk, not a leap of faith.
Creatives have it tough. Idea after idea after idea rejected, buried, killed. Every meeting a rendezvous with the guillotine for your most brilliant work to date. I get why they hate it. I’d hate it, too. But all the great clients are usually the toughest clients with meetings that can be summarized (according to folks I met) as „Great! Your best work, ever! – Make it better.“ To steal and paraphrase a quote from Winston Churchill: „Great creative is the result of going from one rejected idea to another with no loss of enthusiasm“. Creative is more about letting go many ideas than coming up with one perfect idea.
That said, being aware of the creative’s fragile mind I avoided to kill off the idea of the prior quote: I will let the person present their great idea personally, if they show up on time. Which they never did at any of our meetings. I rest assured we will not be wasting our client’s time in the meeting.
Noah Brier has done a small website with a great, yet simple idea. Brand tags simply collects tags and comments for brands by users entering the site and then displays the tag clouds. More than 100.00 people have tagged already giving an interesting look at all the brands on the site.
I always thought that tagging and tag clouds or web 2.0 things like tweetclouds are great tools to analyze and display the results of interviews and focus groups. What works with brand tags on the larger scale can be done for single client, too.