I always get asked “So what is it that makes some Marketers great at advertising?”. To me, the best Marketers are able to get great advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air.
I have seen some Marketers who are great at the execution side, but I have see more who struggle. I try to tell people that it really takes five big campaigns for you to get into your zone where you are good. That might sound a little comforting, but it is supposed to be equally challenging because it suggests you should learn from those five campaigns so you become great. Too many Marketers who struggle, actually get worse. They start to believe they suck, or their agency sucks. Sure Advertising takes some good instincts, but it also takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. You can learn how to be great. You will not learn if you do not adjust.
If you knew that being a better client would make your execution better, could you actually show up better? Would you?
From my experience, here are the main reasons that some Brand Leaders kinda suck at advertising.
You blame yourself
- You never find your comfort zone: You have convinced yourself that you are not good at Advertising, so you show up skeptical, uptight, too tough or too easy and you seem easily annoyed by everything.
- You don’t know if it is really your place to say something: You figure the agency is the expert and will even say “That’s why we pay them” so you give them no direction. Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up and blame them later. You can never abdicate decision-making to anyone else, when you are running your brand.
- You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure: The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we will miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand. So you cave in to the pressure and go with the Ad you hate. You have to figure out how to use time pressure to your advantage. A lot of the best ideas come right up against the clock.
- You can’t sell it in to management: You are not sure if it is the right thing to do, which makes you hesitant and unable to sell the idea in to your boss. Once you decide, you have to own it and sell it.
You blame the Agency
- The Agency writes a brief you don’t like or you box the Agency into a strategy they don’t like: If either of you force a brief on each other, then you are off to a bad start. You must be collaborative with your agency.
- The Agency’s creative team over sells you and you feel you get hood-winked: You are not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Tell your agency you have to love the work and then if you don’t love it, you have to reject it.
- You lose connection with the agency: One of your primary roles is to keep your agency motivated, challenged and engaged. Be the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on. And never assume they have to work for you, just because you are paying them. You might be paying WPP, but you are not really paying the people at the table.
- You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, so does your ad. This is where experience pays off. The advertising process is likely more complex than anything else you will work on.
You blame your brand
- The “I work on a boring brand” argument: You think only cool brands like Nike or Apple would be so much easier to work on. Guess what, Nike and Apple don’t really need you. However, with a so-called boring brand, you have more room for creativity, that while it is a challenge, it should actually be even easier to work on a boring brand.
- You are too careful: Great ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. You have to learn how to take smart creative risks.
- Advertising roulette: Where brand managers have not done the depth of thinking or testing, the briefing is like a game of chance. You have to do the homework to know your strategy is right, making the execution easier to nail. You should never figure out your advertising strategy by doing advertising work.
- Your strategy sucks: You figure we don’t have a great strategy, so maybe a good Ad can help. A great strategy can make an ad, but an Ad by itself will never make a great strategy.
To get better, you have to find the magic in the execution of a brand. Inspire greatness.
All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a Brand Leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Brand Management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist Brand Leader. When I see Brand Managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. Brand Leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation and experts in selling the product. You are trained to be a generalist, knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work. Find strength being the least knowledgeable person in every room you enter.
- We don’t make the products.
- We don’t make the packaging.
- We don’t make the ads.
- We don’t buy the media.
- We don’t hire the front-line staff.
- We don’t sell the products.
- We don’t do the accounting.
- We don’t really do anything.
- But we do touch everything.
- And yet, we make every decision
As Marketers, our only greatness comes from inspiring experts to reach for their own greatness, and to apply it on our brand.
To get better, it is time Brand Leaders step back and let the creativity unfold. Find comfort in ambiguity.
It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution like the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. Experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up the sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way. It is time to step back and assume your true role as the Brand Leader. It is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. Brand Leaders need to rediscover the lost art of doing nothing.
Here are the 8 secrets for getting better Advertising:
- Determine if the strategy can be executed. Develop a brand concept you know is motivating to consumers, with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points.
- Tighten your brief as much as you can. Narrow the target, add engaging insights that tell their story. Focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say. Focus on one message.
- Make it personal. Meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work.
- Lower the pressure. Hold casual tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts. Work off line or behind the scenes.
- Stay big picture at creative meetings. Avoid getting into little details. Do that after the meeting. When giving direction, avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions.
- Take creative risks. Build your career by being the one willing to stand out by being different. Make the ad you want to look back on with pride.
- Manage your boss at every stage. Early on, sell them, on your vision what you want. Then be willing to fight for great work at every step of the process.
- Be your agency’s favorite client. Be the client they “want to” work on instead of being the one they “have to” work on your business. It really matters.
To get better, Brand Leaders need to stay focused on your vision at every stage, always inspire and yet challenge.
Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to get better at Marketing Execution, looking at both the creative and media.
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