Fall for the latest thing. I know I’ve said don’t read advertising books, but I would say it’s worth reading Paul Feldwick’s ‘The Anatomy of Humbug’. Mostly because he doesn’t really tell you how advertising works, rather it depends on the brief and the client. But also because he shows that most, so called, leaps forward in advertising thinking, are really different riffs on the same stuff that came before. So don’t think that ‘rational product messaging’ is wrong, nor subliminal communications, or even brand led advertising, all are right, all are wrong. I like his analysis of Byron Sharpe’s thinking as ‘do lots of publicity’ which I guess means put PR at the heart of you thinking, but I think he misses the point. He ably argues that ‘showmanship’ that bit of magic is possibly the best way to give yourself a good chance of advertising in all its forms to work, but that’s kind of Byron Sharpe too – don’t bother to differentiate, just be distinctive and get noticed.
Even stuff like native is just an ‘advertorial’ which is kind of how advertising began. Just as ad funded programmes and content are not new, the reason soap operas got their names was that soap brands funded programming that lots of people would watch weekly.
Quote books or respected sources all the time at clients. They’re either read How Brands Grow by now or they don’t want to, you don’t look clever by reading a book, you add value by applying good thinking to client’s specific problems, then claiming it for your own. Take ‘reach the whole market’. Any idiot can reach the whole market, even with moderate budgets, it’s just it will be on really bad TV programme, display ads everyone ignores on awful platforms and other stuff that delivers big numbers but has the same impact as trying to knock out a heavy weight boxer with a feather.
Quote industry research as gospel. This goes for the IPA databank as well. The data is generalised and from a ludicrously biased and small sample. It’s funny how the same strategy folks who like to dismiss research love to quote the IPA, mostly because it fits with what they want the client to buy, while research involving real people tends to spoil the argument.
WARC are at it, with analysis of their prize entries. An even smaller sample of people who entered and post rationalised their work to try and win.
Look, I’ve written award winning papers, I’ve delivered case studies to clients. I can’t remember one I’ve done that didn’t either bend the truth, leave out data that didn’t support the argument or at least pretend the process was simple and linear. When mostly, myself and the team stumbled upon the core thinking after lots of false starts, the first presentation was in-conclusive and the final approved plan wasn’t a very different version of what was originally intended.
Expect anyone to work to a brief. Creatives, media planners, content strategists, media owners. All want to put their stamp on the work. In almost every case, a good brief should major on a great objective or task, rocket fuel for the people you are briefing to get to a great solution. It should rarely be the solution itself, especially slaving over a proposition that’s a brand line in disguise. The first instinct of any creative team will be to ignore it at all costs.
I suggest an exception might be media owners here, they have a habit of trying to ‘do the strategy’ and create work that’s nothing to do with the brief, perhaps here, you should get them to follow a constricting brief exactly. My own view is that you need them to buy into what you need, which means the usual trick for them (and indeed everyone) of making think it’s all their idea. The amount of value they will throw if they believe in the project can be staggering.
You are surrounded by experts, you should hope and, to be honest, expect, the final output will make your brief look very ‘first page’ and shaky. Which it will be.
Think Powerpoint is the point. Now, I’m not saying don’t do slides, unfortunately clients expect it in many cases. But do try and avoid them unless you really are making a presentation. But don’t do slides until you have a story with a maximum of three key points. If it’s all building into three key things you want people to remember, you’re on track. It’s worth approaching from the standpoint that for every slide you create a kitten gets shot (unless you hate cats, a fairy then). That said, ignore people who simply count the number of slides and tell you it’s too many, when they haven’t seen you actually present – it’s how they support what you SAY that should be how they’re judged, the deck is not what matters, it’s what YOU deliver as a whole.
I’ve written 200 page decks for a half hour presentation where every slide was a picture. I’ve delivered two -page decks for a three hour meeting.
And if you have a boss who just looks at the slide headlines, run away from your organisation fast. If that individual writes them forward, run even faster.