Don't forget, we're all in advertising unless we're on the client side, it's just cool to call it something else these days.
1. Only read marketing and brand stuff. If you only look at industry stuff, which is what everyone else tends to do, you’ll make the same kind of work as everyone else, which, again is what everyone else tends to do. It’s good to know this, but read as much about EVERYTHING as you can, great thinking tends to connect two things in a way no one else, re-combination if you like.
2. Not get to grips about the boring bits of your client’s business. In fact, let me correct that, there is no boring stuff. The more naïve folks on the twitterweb might go on here about solving business problems rather than marketing problems.
They are right, but the reality is that most clients don’t want you to solve business problems, that is there job – the good ones would rather talk about business objectives, but they are few and far between. I don’t mean the majority are bad clients, but there’s too much experience and baggage from years of media agencies only wanting to talk about media, creative agencies fetishizing the ‘brand’, PR folks talking about fluff and so on. If you want clients to talk to you about their business, talk to them about it first.
Read the annual reports, build relationships with the non-marketing folks, and in general, respond to marketing led briefs with marketing led solutions, on the face of it, but evidence your work with business reasons, not just consumer and brand reasons.
3. Blame clients for your, and the industry’s shortcomings. It’s not entirely the fault of clients they are all going for short term digital stuff they can tick, when ad and media agencies were perfectly happy for so long to join in with the tracking conspiracy….if the activity shifts tracking scores it has worked, no matter how people have actually behaved.
Or even worse, pretends IPA Awards really showcase effective campaigns and provide a bank of data to help others do better – rather than a vault of case studies that happened to use econometrics, that the client would sign off on and that would provide a ‘story’ to the industry.
There are three ways to deliver additional payback for a marketing budget – innovation, deals to get the media for less and then the stuff between…basically knowing what you’re doing, working to the right objective, finding the right audience, creative assets that build on what people already recognise about the brand, Fame strategy etc etc.
4. Take research and data at face value. Most research is done badly and analysed even worse. Sometimes it’s not of course, but the good stuff, even focus groups can useful if conducted in the right context – for example doing football research at a football ground – and with the right objectives. Just as big data can be good if you know what you’re looking for and you know how it was collected – for example, even a sample size of million from social media is usually hopeless for understanding what most people really do, because no one shows what they’re really like on social, unless you have male friends who post how much porn they’re watching.
Listen to your boss. Seriously, it’s a flaw of human nature that we only see and appreciate facts and experiences that fit with our world view and our opinions.
In other words, we all hate being wrong and miss out on amazing feedback and ideas that challenge what already think or know. In a work situation, the higher the stakes, the more stress and more likely views and ‘knowledge’ is unshakeable. There is nothing higher stakes in an agency than running it, you are seen be their because of your experience and judgement, therefore, most bosses will be keen to give advice, asked for or not and usually it will be wrong, based on their experience and inferior knowledge of the project…and it’s harder to change their mind.
So avoid sharing work with very senior bosses and if you have no choice, involve them early, be sneaky and ‘help’ them have the ideas you want and when you shoe them something different later on, if it is, help them believe it was their ideas all along. Same with senior clients, tissue sessions are great if you do them early enough. It’s not their fault though, if you manage not to get fired for disagreeing with your boss and eventually get their job, or move to client side, you’ll do just the same, because you’re human.
5. Not listen to your boss or the people around you. Perversely, you need listen to feedback and advice as much as possible, even your boss. Your boss might just be on to something now and again, although it’s more likely that your wider team and agency partners will (if they’re the kind of people who want to be nice and good rather than ‘win).
The best ideas are rarely the flashes of insight, and even great ideas end very different to how they started out. Dyson wasn’t the only one to think of the bagless vacuum cleaner, it’s just that he was the only one to keep working on it to make it fit for the market. So don’t sit waiting for ideas to come, start working and open if your work to as much feedback as possible (apart from your boss) and kicking and screaming, the good stuff will emerge, phoenix like from the ashes of your very bad start.
Which also means don’t be precious about good ideas when they arrive, open them up to feedback, it’s the constant ‘tested to perfection’ mentality that creates standout ideas and work. It’s also why agencies that fetishise the brief, creative, media or otherwise, or clients who reject responses that are not on-brief are like runners cutting off one leg, they’re missing the chance for truly standout work -and as for dinosaur organisations that still bow and scrape to the creatives, or the TV department, or clients who never question the sophistry of brand consultancies..well you know what happened to the dinosaurs.