When I was confronted with this brief - write a client's perspective on producing great advertising - the first issue I faced was how do you define great advertising?
Now this definition may differ from client to client, agency to agency, guru to guru. For me, great ads create emotional engagement with the target that ultimately has a demonstrable effect on the growth of my business.
In my case, this is selling cans of deodorants and bottles of shower gels.
I've been lucky to be involved in a business that has benefited from a past and present of great advertising that has had a demonstrable effect on its business. A can of Lynx now sells every three seconds in the UK, and the Axe European business (Lynx is called Axe across the rest of Europe) has doubled in size over the past ten years.
So why have we been so well endowed with such great advertising? I believe that this is due to two main factors. First, a series of organisational principles instituted by Unilever (the owners of Lynx/Axe) to improve the standard of their communications. And second, a series of beliefs and practices developed by myself, my colleagues and my predecessors working on the Axe brand over the past ten years. In 1999, Unilever instituted a central process for communications and advertising development, which we called Advanced Brand Communication.
The principles of ABC made senior marketeers responsible for the advertising process, centralised these decisions at a regional rather than local level and forced the development of big brand ideas rather small executional ones.
It helps when the organisation's vision is to produce better communications.
But this is only part of the story, as the teams and individuals involved actually bring these objectives to life.
On Lynx/Axe, we have a series of beliefs and practices in dealing with all our agencies, particularly our advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, that have really helped us produce great work:
Inspire the creatives
Agencies are intellectual businesses whose value is their people and ideas, not machinery or distribution network. Agencies are emotional bodies and respond to support and encouragement. Creative departments are the centres of agencies so we have to inspire them to get more than our fair share of their intellect working on our business.
Develop a relationship with the agency at a personal level
Find someone in the agency that really "gets it". This isn't necessarily a creative person - more likely someone from client service. Share your business vision. Entrust them to deliver great creative work. They are the conduit through which we can inspire the creative department.
Be clear and consistent
Clear briefing is essential. If you can't brief it on one piece of paper, don't. Make sure you are consistent with your requirements and then with your feedback. Ensure that all parts of your organisation are aligned with the process and the work at all key stages.
Pick and stick with an agency
Continuity is a great advantage. Relationships are built over time. And time builds trust, which can lead to more challenging decisions being made. By making more of these decisions, you will no doubt make mistakes, but you will also create work that delivers a change to the fortunes of your business.
Never get comfortable
Don't let yourself or your agency rest on their laurels. Push them for more original thinking and creative solutions. Learn from mistakes and benefit from successes. Take risks. Keep scared.
To bring these principles to light, I thought I'd detail a recent case history. Every year we add a new fragrance to the line. In 2003, this was Pulse. In the past, the launch had been heralded by a big burst of TV advertising.
In creative development for this project, BBH suggested rather than the usual 30-second commercial to announce the arrival of the fragrance, we should use the spot to help create a music and dance phenomenon, which in turn would herald the arrival of Pulse. This idea, by its very nature, would engage more with our consumers than a traditional TV execution alone.
As you can imagine, our initial response was along the lines of "eh?"
At first glance, this idea appeared to be completely unhinged and risky.
But as we discussed it further, we realised that this concept wasn't as crazy as it first seemed and just the work we should be producing.
After a great deal of hard-talking and development by BBH, we took the plunge and, in partnership, picked the track, dance and finally the advertising and communications that would help make them famous.
The rest is history. I'm sure you remember the ad - a geeky Tom woos two gorgeous girls with his cool dance moves. The soundtrack - Room 5's Make Luv - was at the top of the charts in the UK for four weeks and sold more than 300,000 copies. The dance featured on the commercial became a staple of nightclub dance floors, as well as TV and the popular press.
And most important of all, Pulse broke all records for sales of a new Lynx fragrance.
This year we are planning to do more things that make me uncomfortable.
I'm sure some of our ideas will be more successful than others, but everything we do will be focused on increasing the emotional engagement with our target and then ultimately lead to the growth of the brand.