Q: Our agency recently presented a new campaign idea that was rejected by a client because he didn't think we were passionate enough about it and should have "sold it harder" if we thought it was right. We've since been fired and he's taken his business elsewhere. Should we strap some balls on next time we present work?
A: If you've convinced yourself that you got fired simply because you didn't sell an idea hard enough, you'll certainly get fired again.
Like other unfortunate incidents, such as train crashes, account losses are always the result of multiple causes.
Not all clients tell the truth when they fire you. They find it hard to say that they can't bear coming into your agency any more or that you've been taking their business for granted for far too long now or that they're under severe internal pressure themselves and need to be seen to be doing something dynamic.
When all these things combine, and sales are disappointing for the third successive quarter, and you've gone £20,000 over budget, your relationship cruises silently past its tipping point until it reaches its breaking point. You weren't fired because of a lack of passion on a single occasion.
You were fired because your client had had enough and you didn't even bloody notice.
Pretending to be passionate about mediocre work will only make you seem even more inadequate.
Q: In the old days it was creative idea first, media plan next, based on that idea. Then comms planning came along and it became media strategy first followed by an idea to fit the chosen medium. Now it's all up in the air. Which way is best in your opinion?
A: None of the above.
All briefs are very simple. Only experts make them complicated.
Every brief has an objective and it's always the same one: to get certain people to do something that they're not currently doing. (You will, of course, instantly reach for an exception to this truth but unless you delude yourself with sophistry, you'll fail to find one.)
There's therefore only one place to start and always has been. You start with those certain people. Lindsay Camp knows a lot about persuasion and he's particularly good on milkmen* so let me follow his lead.
If you want the milkman to leave you a second bottle of milk (younger readers may need help here), you don't start by thinking about the creative idea or the media plan. You start by thinking about the milkman.
Does he come every day? Do you know his name or has he just taken over from old Jake? Where does he normally leave the milk? Did you leave him a little something over Christmas? Is he short-sighted? The more you know about your milkman, the better: you should try very hard to see the world through your milkman's eyes.
For example, is it quite a long walk from where he parks his buggy to your doorstep? If so, he won't be best pleased to find your message when he gets there because he'll have to go all the way back for the second bottle.
He will very properly find you guilty of thoughtlessness. This is what we call an insight. It should influence either your medium or your message or possibly both. You now know that you must either leave the message where he can see it from his buggy or begin it with the words: "From tomorrow, please ..."
If you think of all your target groups as milkmen, almost everything else falls into place.
Start with people planning and all the other plannings seem to sort themselves out. Proper people planning demands a great deal more than "18-35 C1s with 2.4 children".
Proper people planning demands that you know not just who they are but what they're like; not just what they do but why they do it.
And as Seymour Eaton said as recently as 1907: "The advertiser must have discernment sharp enough and vision clear enough to know the year and the month in which people are not only living, but in which they are thinking." My italics. Because your milkman's response may be: "Delighted as always to help such a thoughtful and appreciative customer." Or not, as the case may be.
It's entirely up to you.
*Can I Change Your Mind?: The Craft And Art Of Persuasive Writing by Lindsay Camp. A&C Black Publishers Ltd.
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