Clients get the advertising they deserve.
While that’s a very famous tongue-in-cheek quote from David Ogilvy, it should be a kick in the butt to clients. It suggests that if you suck as a client, you will get advertising that sucks. It’s likely true. As I’m coaching clients on advertising, I like to ask a very difficult question: If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? When it comes to advertising, the role of the Brand Leader is to consistently get good advertising on the air, and equally consistently keep bad advertising off the air. Baseball pitcher David Price has a sign above his locker: “If you don’t like it, pitch better”. The same thing should hold true for Brand Leaders: If you don’t like your Advertising, then show up better. So what is it that makes some brand leaders good at advertising?
Before we figure what makes someone good at advertising, let’s figure out what makes someone suck
Theory #1: you blame yourself
- You never find your comfort zone: You are convinced you’re not good at advertising. No experience, feel awkward or had a bad experience. You think you’re strategic, not tactical. You are skeptical, uptight, too tough and too easily annoyed.
- You don’t know if it’s really your place to say something: You figure the ad agency is the expert—that’s why we pay them—so you give them a free reign (aka no direction). Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up, and blame them later.
- You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure, or you don’t know why: You don’t really love it, but it seems ok for now. The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we’ll miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand.
- You can’t sell it in to management: you need to make sure if it’s the right thing to do, you are able to sell the idea in. Tell them how it works for your brand—and how it delivers the strategy.
Being a good client takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Don’t write yourself off so quickly. Learn how to be a good client.
Theory #2: You Blame your Agency
- You hate the brief: Agency writes a brief you don’t like—or you box them into a strategy. If either of you force a strategy on the other, then you’re off to a bad start.
- Creative team over sells you: you get hood-winked with the “we are so excited” speech: You’re not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Ask yourself what’s missing before you buy an ad.
- You lose connection with the agency: Keep your agency motivated so that you become the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on.
- You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, then so does your ad.
An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. Next time you want to fire your agency, maybe focus on yourself for improvement, because you’ll bring the same flaws to the next agency.
Theory #3: You Blame your Brand
- The “I work on a boring Brand” argument. You think only cool brands like Nike, Apple, Ikea etc. are so much easier to work on. However, think again, because your boring brand has so much room to maneuver, it should be even easier.
- You are too careful and think we can’t swing too far: Good ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. Consumers might not notice your “big shift”.
- Advertising roulette: Where brand managers haven’t done the depth of thinking or testing, briefing is like a game of chance. Brands go round and round for years.
- Your strategy Sucks: You figure if we don’t have a great strategy, a good ad might help. A great strategy makes an ad, but an Ad will never make a great strategy.
It’s one thing to be a “fan” of advertising in general, but we need to see you be a “fan” of YOUR advertising.
Show up as a better client and watch the Advertising work get better
Here are eight ways to challenge yourself to show up better at every stage of the advertising process
- Do you develop a testable Brand Concept with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points that you know are actually motivating?
- How tight is your brief? Do you narrow the target and add engaging insights? Do you focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say? Do you focus on one benefit and one message?
- Do you meet creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work?
- Do you hold tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts?
- At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions?
- Do you take creative risks, and are you willing to be different to stand out?
- Do you manage your boss at every stage? Do you sell them, on your vision what you want? Are you willing to fight for great work?
- Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Do they “want to” or do they “have to” work on your business? If they love you, they’ll work harder for you and do better work. They are only human. They will never tell you this, but I’m a former client so I will: if you want better work–it’s pretty simple–show up better.
Be better at every stage
- When doing the strategy pre-work, dig in deep and do the work on insights, create a Big Idea and lay out the brand Concept. Even consider testing the concept to know that it motivates consumers. Never use the advertising process to figure out the brand strategy.
- Create a focused creative brief to create the box for the creative team, that has one objective, two insights, the desired response, one main benefit, two support points.
- Hold a creative expectations meeting to give a first impression on your vision, passion. Inspire and focus creative team. Do not take a hands off approach and avoid meeting the creative team, assuming your account team has conveyed EVERYTHING.
- Use a tissue session to explore ideas. Use this when you don’t have a campaign. Be open to new ways of looking at your brand. Focus on Big Ideas, without getting into the weeds. Be willing to push for better ideas if you don’t see them at the tissue session.
- When in the creative meeting, be a positive minded client, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. Avoid giving your solutions. No Details. Ask yourself: are you inspiring?
- Use a feedback memo that is 24-48 hours after the creative meeting for more detailed challenges but without giving specific solutions. Use this to create a new box. Do not use this memo to say new thoughts that were not in the creative meeting or in the management meetings you had. If it is a new thought, pick up the phone and talk about it with your account person first.
- If you use ad testing, you can use either quantitative or qualitative depending on time and budget. I always recommend that you use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision.
- When gaining approval internally, sell it in!!! That’s part of your role is to fight for the work you love. Be ready to fight resisters to make it happen. My rule of thumb is to bring the senior account person when that person has a good relationship with my boss and even use them to help sell it in (since they are better trained at selling) and then bring the most senior creative person when the creative work needs selling.
- Through the production stages, your role is to manage the tone to fit the brand. Think of this like managing the kitchen of your house–you have to live in it, so you have to live with every decision. Always, get more than you need so you can use it later.
- With post production, talk directly with and leverage every expert you come in contact with. The more you connect and empower them, the harder they’ll fight for what you need.
Be a better client and get the advertising you deserve
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