Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Are Only As Good As Your Client...

It's an old topic, but one I was asked to write about by a blog follower... so here goes!

You Are Only As Good As Your Client...

One of the key problems with advertising is that the reasons your brands hire marketing managers are not always the same as the reasons we would. Take that money vs creativity conflict that account folk have and ramp it up even more...

It doesn't matter who you are, be you Juan Cabral, Dave Trott, or Pete Smith the DM copywriter; if a client doesn't buy it, it doesn't get made. Good clients will get good work, bad clients will get bad.

Having great account people and planners can help you cheat this limitation. Using their knowledge of client business, customers, communications and the market; they can help sell in strategies, briefs and work that weaker staff could not. Most clients are more than good enough to get great work if you sell it correctly.

Sadly though, there are a small number of clients that just grind creativity to a halt. I have heard stories of all of these from various agencies and friends, though happily I have yet to experience them:

  • You spend months in creative development working to an agreed brief, making amends and adjustments. It is finally ready, a perfect fit to the brief; and they decide to go with a safe dull sales heavy idea instead

  • The client struggles to make any decisions, so nothing ever gets made

  • You create a brilliant, groundbreaking new idea, and the client sits on it so long someone else gets there first

  • You go to make a great ad, but the client insists on changing every line and every shot til all the original idea has gone

  • Plus the good old - client refuses to have a brief with any hope of creativity
A good personal example of the twists in a client relationship for me was working on a TV and press campaign for a growing brand. The client would go through every detail with a microscope, justifying every word of copy and every mm of layout. It was difficult to sell in work, and a long long process to get the final work. But we were able to make really good work because he fundamentally understood creativity, branding, the use of white space, where to sell and where not to, etc. He turned out to be a very good client.
You only have to look at most great campaigns to see how having a good client is vital. Would a bad aftershave client have spent a big budget making videos to talk to people on twitter and you tube? Would a bad insurance client have bought a campaign about a rich mongoose breating your customers?
Then look at some bad campaigns from good agencies over the years. What are the odds that they did better but couldn't sell it in... A bad client is like a flat tire. It doesn't matter how big your engine is, how good your suspension, how beautiful the body work... you ain't going nowhere.

I guess the thing to remember is that like every industry, there are good people, and there are bad. We should take time to appreciate the good and try and help the bad!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good Work Headlines...

Here's a round up of the exciting pieces of work I have seen this week:

Gillette in Good Work Shocker!

It's been a while, a very long while. But finally I get to say something nice about a Gillette piece of work!

Of course it's fake, but it says far more about both the brand and the use of sporting stars as spokespeople than any amount of sales driven tv work. Please please look at how interested people are in this video and realise that the work of the last few years is easy to let go, you've found a good path now, don't lose it.

Give it Some Soul Kia

This is crazy work. It makes no sense whatsoever untill the endline hits you smack bang in the head. Hard to know if its the right strategy for this type of car, but the execution nails it.



Big Up to Carlton

Their best work since the famous Big Ad. This long but nicely made piece hits bang on those slightly dodgy moments that men all know about. Plus the endline is one of my favourites of all time.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Is This Crowdsourcing??

Lots of talk going on today about the new 'crowdsourced' Peperami ad for Unilever. It's the usual stuff for the brand, decent if not amazing, but for me the biggest news is how it was created.

Unilever keep stating it was 'crowdsourced' to save on paying the retainer costs of an ad agency, an idea put out to the general public, and the best ad was made and will be shown.


The character, the campaign idea and the strapline already existed. Created for by a paid, retained ad agency team and tried and tested over a long period of time. The only part of this ad that was actually put out to the public was the script for this execution.

Now let's add to this the fact that the winning team was a pair of ad execs shall we? Open up the general public to submit their ideas, and in the end the best one came from two ad folk... hardly suggests a response worth publicising does it? It ends up looking like a piece of tight budget cutting instead of a real attempt to let people take control of your brand.

[Update - As Charles mentions in the comments, it's definitely a case of a PR brief . However the fact it was won by an ad team using an agencies' campaign idea makes me think the PR isn't actually that great.]

Why did they (seemingly) not look at finding a smaller agency that could offer a lower cost without losing the planning and creative skill sets from the brand? How about one of the many talented non-London agencies, with no Central London rent costs? It annoys me that none of this appears to have been considered, an apparrent case of 'Big London agency or nothing', even when they are openly trying to reduce costs.

I suspect it's for the same reasons that the ad wasn't truly crowdsourced... it would have needed risk taking to change the campaign. But smaller/cheaper/non-london agencies (Like the one I work in) would love to work on a brand like Peperami; we would all work like crazy to make great work and would be much much lower risk than real crowdsourcing of a new campaign.

I have nothing against the idea of crowdsourcing, and absolutely nothing against Unilever or Peperami, I just want accuracy. If we are going to talk about crowdsourcing, can we not do so when we really just mean 'hiring freelancers' please.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Advertising Lessons No.1

Getting into advertising is bloody hard work. Having spoken to lots of placement students this year, I stressed to them the need to be active and dedicated towards finding an opportunity.

This led me to thinking about random advertising lessons, and where I learnt them. This first one was from watching Nigel Mansell in Formula 1.

Sadly it wasn't a lesson in the artistry of moustache care, but that cliche of all cliche's... Never Give Up.

My first overiding memory of Formula 1 was the last race of the 1986 season, when he needed to finish third to win the World Championship. He was in third until about three quarters of the way through the race, his tyre exploded spectacularly and he finished runner up; probably saving his own life with some incredible car control. Mansell always seemed to suffer from horrific luck, I remember him running out of fuel on the last lap of a race.

He was a fast and fearless driver who won races but could never quite manage to win the title. But he kept on racing, never gave up, and kept on driving at his very best (see this clip, one of the greatest overtakes ever, and the first overtake in this one) until 1992, when he finally achieved the championship title in style, winning the first five races and dominating the season.

I learnt a valuable lesson from watching F1, if you keep at it, if you put the effort in, it will pay off in the end.

See also: Johnny Herbert winning his first ever victory at the British GP after nearly losing his legs in a huge crash.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

SupNorth II nears

It's nearly time for SupNorth II. The usual informal gathering of advertising, marketing, design, digital, PR (etc) peeps for a beverage or two.

This time it will be on Friday 20th August, at The Northern Pub, Tib St, Manchester. Officially starting at 7pm though some of us may arrive before then.

For more info view the event on Facebook: SupNorth II

Monday, August 02, 2010

Fur Goodness Sake

My main worry about the Compare the Meerkat ads was how they would manage to keep the idea going without it becoming annoying. The GoCompare ad lasted 1 viewing, but as of yet the meerkat is still working. (Though people saying 'simples' is a little worn...)

A big part of that for me is the clear care that goes into them, the way that the online takes the TV ad and rounds it into a fully formed world. Take the latest ad:

It's not hilarious, but it keeps the story going nicely. The real star of the show is online, where the ad series is available as a pastiche movie poster, where there are fake reviews and cinema aping visuals. (Meermax... genius)

However my favourite bit is the reference to Aleksandr's papa having to take a second job comparing Muskrats. I searched for, and guess what... it's up as a really cheesy porn-esque site, with a warning about 'uncensored muskrats', cheesy porn style music and a 'all muskrats appearing are of legal age' disclaimer.

Just brilliant. If only all ads had this much care put into them.