I thought it was time to get back to some planning craft stuff, it's been a while. Now we've done creative briefing already, but I thought it was worthwhile looking at propositions in more detail.
I think it's important because it's always the part of the brief the creative reads first - to the point where they'll read that, hopefully plow on ahead and only read the rest of your brief when they get stuck, or want to build on their initial ideas. Like it or not, it's the most important part of the creative brief.
It's also the most debated. How it should be written, how long it should be, how simple, how single minded, how open, how closed, ask four people in any agency and you'll probably get five answers.
One thing most will agree on is that there is a part of the brief that focuses all the other information into a simple statement. The role of that statement is the bit where the conflict comes in.
Many cling to what I believe to be an outdated view of advertising, based on 'information processing'. This still dominates most thinking about how ads work. Basically, it assumes we are all rational people, you can predict our behaviour and, as long as you give people the right (usually very rational) message, they'll behave, think, do what we want. The role for creativity and emotion supports the core message by making someone 'like' the advertising, while the advertising is most effective when it gets high attention and people think a lot about what you are saying.
Another way of looking at this is to focus on response rather than 'message'. I think this is a much more credible approach. It's not what advertising 'does' to people that matters, it's how they respond to the advertising. Long gone are the days when you could assume that a person was passive, rational receiver of information, ready to do or think what you say. People make a contribution to how communication is received. Let me explain:
Humans are influenced by subconscious perception, we like people without knowing why, we act on instinct way before we have time to think about it. Decisions are always influenced by feelings. In this sense, communication is continuing process of developing and modifying relationships through behaviour, not just 'words'. There are signals that are responded to without the person knowing, feelings, associations. At the moment of communication, HOW you say it is important as WHAT.
I'm not saying delivering facts or information is wrong. I am saying though, that advertising with no clear 'message' or 'benefit' is always right, in my view, quite rarely.
What I think this means for propositions is, firstly, that they are not the most important bit on the brief, whatever the habits of creatives. Tone and manner matter too - that's hard to get across in words when these things are, of course, intangible. So the briefing and the stimulus you provide really do matter.
Secondly, a simple sentence is good, but a proposition isn't necessarily a simple benefit or USP, it the one thing you need to communicate to reach the objective set for communications. That can be a lot of things.
Whatever you write should be interesting, true and shouldn't be an endline. Sources for it might be:
Ways of using it
How it is made
Surprising things about who uses it, how they use it
Direct comparison with competitors
Picking new competitors
Philosophy of the company
They tend to be written as a statement, promise or observation, but should never be just information, it should be information that's relevant. Imagine telling someone your proposition in a pub, would they be interested.
You should already know your strategy, for example make people trust British Airways because of its scale.
So explore the product/brand truths - every year British Airways carries 12 million people
But then follow the argument through - every year BA carries 12 million people...to other people.
Then find the observation that brings all that to life, something that makes it human, emotional relevant and reflects tone of voice a little - BA brings more people together than any other airline.
I guess I mean push it. Whatever fact, benefit or observation you have, find the fact behind the fact, the benefit behind the benefit.
It's fast...it saves you time.......it saves you time......it gives you more time with your family.......it gives your family more time with you.
For brand usage - Eating Revels is a risky business
For target audience - Harvey Nichols is heaven for fashion addicts
Benefit - The new VW makes you feel safer than the average small car
Philosophy - Irn Bru is the maverick of soft drinks
Comparison- Umbro don't make leotards, they only make gear for football
Product usage - you either love or hate Marmite
Now, we could stop there, if we weren't going on to go about process. In fact, we will, I've run out of time. We'll go on to show how 'task' based propositions free up a different kind of work, a different kind of process and maybe lend themselves to the 'take-out' or 'emotional school of thought' a little better.