From working at both an agency and media owner, I often find myself comparing our industry to a shopping trip to TK Maxx. The choice available is never-ending and with each visit comes a complete change in what’s available.
As with most industries, we are guilty of having overcomplicated our relatively simple purpose of positioning brands against their target audiences. We have "achieved" this through adding layers of complexity and bringing solutions for problems that don’t exist.
Case in point; recently I joined a meeting to look at our rich media offering and was asked whether we needed to simplify our current offering - with 30-plus high impact varieties available I suggested we probably should. To me, this is just one of many examples of how the easy option is to continuously build our product and service offering to cater for all, whereas a much harder task would be to reduce your proposition to create a genuine speciality that is recognised across the market.
A step towards this dream would be to look under the bonnet to understand what each company stands for – what is their DNA?
When briefing the market, brands lay everything on the table: what they stand for, their challenges and objectives. Yet often the responses they are presented with appear plagiarised, as seemingly all organisations are able to offer every service under the sun, thus making it increasingly difficult to distinguish the difference between each proposal and understand which response will truly benefit the client.
The concept of "less is more" is never more prevalent than the briefing process itself. Does the fact you have pages of information make it a good brief? Of course not. Our industry is blessed with a plethora of talent that extends to Adam Foley, The Guardian’s strategy director, who would urge you to reduce an entire brief to one simple sentence that addresses the question: what is the client actually trying to achieve?
Furthermore, by removing the requirements and recommendations from the process, it naturally removes the shackles to enable greater creative thinking through media owners using their unrivalled understanding of their own business to put forward a solution that is more likely to succeed vs adhering to a checklist of what is perceived to be best for their client.
This should not be viewed as a problem that sits solely at the door of agencies. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to challenge and put forward solutions that works to your strengths to ensure the question is ultimately answered as to what it is the client is trying to achieve.
"No such thing as a free lunch"
I fully understand the irony of this statement given that most Thursdays and Fridays we all look for our best contacts to treat us to lunch. However, in this instance I am referring to the way we appreciate and value the cost of the products available to market.
Naturally this argument will be bias as I work for a premium publisher, but, having discussed this with businesses across the channel mix, it becomes apparent that the majority of media owners are clumped into one box and increasingly involved in a value war that is akin to the supermarket sector, whereby we are all simply partaking in the dreaded "race to the bottom".
If I were at the helm for the day I would ask the industry to seriously think about the value attribute to the product they are buying.
For those of you who have endured the process of building work at home, you would usually look to explore several options to get an understanding of the costs involved. Typically they will vary in price and this will, more often than not, be based on the quality of the workmanship and the materials being used. Our industry is no different.
The advent of new technology has unquestionably changed the shape of our industry, but whether this has been for the better I am yet to be convinced.
The obsession with layering campaigns with the latest innovations, for me, further dilutes the process and adds greater confusion and ultimately less control for the client. If mass scale and reach is the primary objective then please ignore and carry on, but for brands wanting to be aligned with quality, premium environments there has to be an appreciation that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that quality comes at a cost.
Right, rant over.
I need to get back and decide which of our 30-plus high impact formats we should put forward before heading out to pick up the tab for a lunch.