A killer campaign needs a killer brief - it's not all about TV

By Andrew Melsom, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 08 November 2012 08:00AM

Cindy Gallop demands that "adland blow themselves up and start again". In her speech at The Guardian’s Changing Advertising Summit, she said that even new agencies were populated by those who had enjoyed distinguished careers in traditional agencies. Young, hungry start-ups begin by being old.

The 1976 film Logan’s Run depicted a future in which every day was more blissful than the last, until everyone was killed on an exploding carousel at the age of 30 – just when Jenny Agutter had become your girlfriend. We now know that even 30 is 12 years too late.

JWT’s Generation Z research suggests that the people born after 1995, who were conceived wirelessly and delivered digitally, represent a fickle group who are unmoved by earthly campaigns. They can "slip seamlessly" between chatting face to face and Facebooking – while their brains turn to porridge.

The research from JWT could also suggest that the existing agency model is far from future-proof if it continues to recommend TV-led umbrella campaigns. Events, as Harold Macmillan called them, can obstruct political achievement, but they have a positive effect on the future of agencies.

Nike and its agency R/GA, the 35-year-old start-up, set the gold standard with the FuelBand. The idea was completely relevant to its audience, the product was desirable and the campaign was infrastructural – not dependent on broadcast media for its success. Yes, we could blow up agencies that want to "make good advertising" and not "make advertising good". At the same time, we can explode the media where advertising is presented as a punishment for a casual click: "…eight more seconds to go, bear with us before you find out who won Celebrity Ferret."

One very senior media agency figure told me recently that, although he routinely blasts his own teams for not showing enough innovation in their media recommendations to clients, he despairs of the client briefs that continue to ask for a TV-led schedule with press and online display fawning in its wake. "It’s what they’ve done before and it still works, so they want it again, and will not allow experimentation," he said. Blow up the agency model? Yes, that’s probably a necessary idea. But maybe we should nuke the briefs. Old-style agencies and old-style briefing continue in disharmony. Which is the evil of these two lessers?

We have yet to receive the killer client brief that asks: please arrange for spontaneous love (of our brand) from a random event that will: 1) be accidentally captured on CCTV; and 2) raise our share price by 40 per cent. You may not use any of the following: commercial spot TV, press, OOH or online display. Consider llamas as a starting point.

Andrew Melsom is the senior partner at Agency Insight

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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