I knew someone with a stammer once. The person had tried all sorts of voice coaching with only moderate success. It was only when he tried counselling and dealt with the pain and indelible shock of seeing his father die, that the stammer all but disappeared.
Because stammering wasn't the problem, not having dealt with that un-imaginable pyschological scar was.
When I was a child, I had chest infections and bronchitis all the time. In fact, when it came to lungs and breathing, I seemed got everything apart from pneumonia. Anti-biotics dealt with every new illness, but it was only when I started swimming 5 days a week that I banished illness for good, because the problem wasn't infections, it was weak lungs and general mild asthma.
It's not just child illness and speech impediments. Many percieved problems are actually a symptom of something far more fundamental.
You can deal with the symptom of course, but like the mythical nine headed hydra, the heads will just grow back until you kill the actual beast.
You can pump up the flat tires on a bike before every journey, or you can actually change the inner tube.
You can continously look for dieting fads, or you can change your lifestyle for good. Or change your outlook and be happy with who you are.
Just as you can mask unhappiness with buying things, which just leads to buying more things, but at some piont, you need to address why you need validation from consumption and search for more sustainable source of happiness, rather than gratification.
Just as you can stimulate sales by cutting prices, but at some point you have to address why not enough people will pay full price.
This 'kill heads' or 'slay the beast' metaphor is useful when to applied directly to planning, and like everything else, planning is a lot more useful when it avoids chopping a few heads wthin in easy reach and valiantly gets on with ending the life of the fearsome serpent.
Solving business problems with creativity and brands, rather than solving advertising or brand problems as an end in itself.
This isn't self -serving opinion either. The IPA Databank has conclusively shown that campaigns that set out to solve 'hard' business problems (business or behavioural results) have a 50% success rate against campaigns that set 'soft targets' (brand awareness, advantage and all that rubbish) with an average rate of 11%.
Taking the easy option, apparently, isn't that easy after all.
Which means reaching non-buyers, which in turn means removing genuine reasons not to buy. Of course that means a brand needs to be distinctive, but that's more to get noticed at all with people who don't care that much, much less moving people through 'Familiarity to Bonding' and ad nauseum.
Intuively though, it makes complete sense, since most busines problems are not brand problems, they're business problems! Just trying to shift brand scores will not necessarilly shift sales, but trying to shift sales in manner that will maintain, or shift brand scores will.
This addressed the fact that less people were considering a Golf because it was being lumped with the Max Power brigade.
This was all built on the realisation that Skoda didn't need to persuade people to consider the brand, they needed to make them feel their peers wouldn't laugh at them.
Then, when enough people were brave enough to put Skoda on the long list, they needed to know more about the cars before they would test drive.
And you know what? The work I'm most proud of is actually for a bed retailer desperate for a sales uplift, where the problem wasn't conversion, it was footfall.
The research told them the blockage to people coming through their doors was brand awareness- no one knew where to go, or could be bothered to find out.
But their budget was tight and they didn't have the time to invest in a long term 'brand preference' campaign that takes months, even years to pay back.
But with a few additional depth interviews with people IN THE MARKET, we showed them that the gestation period between deciding you need a new bed and actually buying one was around ten months, and the biggest barrier blockage was the pain in the arse of getting rid of your old bed (back in the day, retailers wouldn't take away your old bed for claimed hygiene reasons all of them do it now).
So they were persuaded invest in their infrastucture, to take away beds as well as deliver them.
Then do cost effective , tactical outdoor, within the vicinity of the retail parks where the client's stores were.
With a clear, simple, message, 'We'll get rid of your old bed for free', to create the "Sod it,why not, since we're here" moment and trigger spontaneous action.
It was the biggest growth in footfall they'd experienced, the biggest growth in sales volume and, most significantly, the biggest leap in profit. Because the cost of doing the tactical ads AND setting up the new 'take-away' service was tiny next to budget a huge campaign to shift brand preference would have cost. And they were able to charge a higher price for the bed to offset the take-away cost.
Then they put it well bought television and continued to build proditable sales further, but, significantly, the unexpected message in a world of 'sale ads' and the DEMONSTRATION of leadership and 'we get what you need' achieved additional growth in brand awareness and, more significantly for how brands really work, 'salience' that was unprecedented for the category and, indeed, any low budget tactical campaign.
I guess someone would call his a Behavoural Econimics case study these days. I just see this and the other examples as addressing the fundamental blockage to business success.
Now, if you're lucky, many of the briefs will be about the fundamental problem, but the majority will be about symptoms.
They'll ask you to chop heads much more than killing the beast.
One of the real skills of planning folk isn't to justify the executions, to be an 'ad tweaker', it's finding the correct role for the communication in the first place -without telling to their face the brief was wrong.
Diplomacy and tact are not just required skills for account handling. Sorry.