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One of the things I always find interesting to observe is how people approach problems.
In my experience, they tend to fall into 2 distinct areas:
1. Jump right in with ideas.
2. Think [& discuss] the brief … then get on with coming up with ideas.
The basic problem with both of these approaches is that you assume the brief is correct.
I’m not suggesting someone has given you wrong information on purpose, however I have seem way too many briefs that talk about executional wants rather than commercial needs.
One is like going to the DR, telling him what is wrong with you and then ordering him what to prescribe whereas the other is like going to a specialist, explaining your situation and then having them diagnose your problem and offer advice on how to make you well.
There’s a whole bunch of reasons for these 2 possible outcomes, however one that is entirely our fault is our reluctance to investigate the brief.
I don’t mean asking a few questions about the audience or highlighting a few issues about timing or budget … I mean genuinely understanding what the brand/product/business actually needs to achieve and then evaluating that with what has been given to you.
Now I appreciate that sometimes, clients don’t know.
Some seem to have the attitude their only objective is getting marketing collateral into the hands of their sales teams within a set time period, whereas others have this belief ‘advertising’ is totally separate to ‘marketing’.
Of course not everyone is like this – and for those who are, some have the attitude that they’re not worth dealing with – however I don’t really share that point of view, at least not initially, because I believe there is a way to help everyone see the light and that is asking questions.
But here’s the thing, it’s not about asking any question, it’s asking the right question.
So how do you do that?
Well for me, it’s about understanding that there is rarely an all encompassing ‘magic bullet’ question – that one bit of curiosity that suddenly makes everything clear – it’s about asking questions that allow you to prod and poke, explore and cross reference until you slowly identify and close in on the real issue that needs to be addressed, not the superficial or the generic.
Ultimately, it’s being a Rodi – knowing your clients business intimately rather than just relying on what the brief says.
And of course, when I say ‘knowing their business, I don’t mean in terms of advertising, I mean in terms of their actual business.
Distribution. Development times. Competitive environment. Sales information. Internal issues and opportunities.
KNOWING. THEIR. BUSINESS.
Too many planners seem to think their job is purely about the advertising.
Sure, they might ‘talk’ about the business issues of their client, but they simplify it to either:
1. It’s a communication problem.
2. It’s a differentiation problem.
3. It’s a relevance problem.
That’s it, according to them, all the issues of commerce fall into 3 simple areas.
And even if it was true, it doesn’t explain why they believe all of them can be solved with another piece of advertising.
Or an app.
Or a powerpoint document full of meaningless or un-executable ideas.
[If you want to know what I think it the way to approach things, you should watch this from 8″ 9 secs to 8″ 25 secs. The rest of it is utter fucking waffle as usual]
This isn’t – like some would like to claim – some ‘out-of-date’ man trying desperately to remain relevant in an ever-changing World, it’s a highly successful and experienced planner wondering where the fuck the rigor has gone from our industry.
At a time where so many planners swan about the place thinking they’re ‘Rockstars‘, the reality is many of them have confused cool with clever.
Anyone can say they are focused on the business – or quote something from PSFK – but that’s very different to being able to prove you’ve done something.
And I’m not talking about having won some EFFIE awards.
Sure that’s good, but sadly, that has become as much about your submission writing skills as it has to do with creating effective work.
I should point out that this has nothing to do with age, but attitude and application.
Forget the hair-gel and fancy loafers and focus on the approach and the rigor.
I’ve said many times why I think Northern is so good but put simply – like other people I look up to, like Paul Simons and Mark Sareff to name a few – he understands that a problem is simply something that hasn’t had the right questions asked of it yet and before any jumping to solutions can happen, he has to find out what the hell he is really being asked to solve.
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