Filed under: Comment
The title of this post is something that I have been a huge advocate for years and years and years.
Taking something that, on first impression, sounds totally mad and then – with clear and concise explanation and information – appears a perfectly normal – even sensible – thing to say or do.
Of course I am not the only person to do this – there has been lots and lots of examples of this sort of approach from lots of lots of brands and agencies covering lots and lots of decades [ie: ‘Dirt Is Good’] – however as I’m fortunate to have been involved in quite a few of these ideas and I whore myself around the conference circuit more than some power-hungry politician, I often get asked by people how we got clients like SONY to agree to being about feelings rather than technology … or Diet Tango to be the antidote of weakness rather than the ambassador of health … or have Microsoft Advertising accept they could prosper from celebrating the dark side of human behaviour … and I always give the same answer – we proved the twisted was actually the logical.
There’s no magic formula or slight of hand, it was all about hard work, investigation and exploration – because we knew if we wanted to end up creating something interesting, exciting, meaningful and differentiated, we had to present our thinking in a way that ensured the client didn’t think we were a bunch of drunk idiots but a company that was commercially minded and had a deeper and stronger understanding of how society thinks/believes/acts/does than anyone else.
Actually, thinking about it, there was a magic formula – it was the fear that clients wouldn’t believe a word we said – so we would seek out as much evidence to prove our point as possible.
From getting Wes Craven to explain why people love horror movies for SONY through to asking marriage councilors to discuss the effects technology has had on infidelity … we’d explore any option that we thought would demonstrate how our proposed strategy was filled with powerful, meaningful and relevant insight and if it came from people that would be hard to argue against – whether engaged by us directly or indirectly – so be it.
We used to call this approach this ‘higher power advocacy’ but it didn’t just rely on getting ‘names’ to help us [we couldn’t afford it for a start, though you’d be amazed how many people are willing to help if you ask them nicely enough] it was simply about finding independent evidence – preferably totally unrelated to adland – that highlighted our points or views.
From car thieves and surgeons through to journalists and my beloved prostitutes [to name but a few] – we’d seek out any person whose professional view or experience could/would help convince our clients that what we were suggesting was ‘logical’ rather than ‘fanciful’.
But don’t think it was all about people’s commentary, we would also find data.
Lots and lots of data.
We’d scour annual reports, financial data, industry magazines … and while clients tended to remember the more ‘left field’ methods we’d adopted rather than the traditional, we knew that had we not put in the hard yards on the ‘classic’ research approaches, they’d never purely accept the words of some left field professional claiming to hold a key bit of information that would liberate their future.
Did it always work?
Did it bollocks … but we knew that if we didn’t find a way to make the ‘weird’ sound ‘logical’, we’d never get a chance to have a second meeting, let alone create the idea we had – which is why even as an old fucker whose done quite a bit in his 41 years, I still embrace the ‘higher power advocacy’ approach because while times may change, clients need to be intrigued and assured hasn’t.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we all would like to do crazy stuff, the key to achieving it is to make it sound as sensible as sensible can be and that means accepting nothing you can say will be as convincing as independent data and the words of individuals who always be respected more for their opinions and experiences than you.
30 Comments so far
Leave a comment