I just discovered the writings of Paul Feldwick formerly of DDB, who is widely recognized as an authority on how advertising works. A couple of things he writes really hit home. In a piece titled Exploding the Message Myth, Feldwick expounds upon the trouble with parity — it can be hard to buy something bad these days, and even harder to tell the difference between brands. Feldwick writes: “in most categories products are pretty close to parity, or it’s sufficiently complex that the choice between brands can hardly ever be made on purely rational grounds.” Certainly when one looks at CPG brands, this is increasingly evident. Brands may think they have product advantage, but consumers care less and less about 5% more of this and 15% more of that. Perhaps Feldwick sums it up best when he wonders how “30 seconds of entertaining nonsense leads to a situation where people not only choose a brand but will pay 35% more for it.”
Finally, Feldwick leaves us with seven propositions to avoid more advertising agony:
- Define the advertising goal as building saleability.
- Stop talking. Mostly about messages.
- Start talking about associations and about relationships.
- Recognise the power of analogue communication.
- Shift your focus away from the abstract message or idea to the advertisement as a whole.
- Resist the urge to over-analyse and over control.
- And if all that fails, just concentrate on being a ‘charming guest
Tell me this quote doesn’t sound like it could be a Planner talking?
You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?
I’m constantly getting questions about how to break into Strategic Planning, and honestly answering this is more difficult than responding to my 3-year-old son when he asks ‘Where does hair come from?’ The point being, there is no clear rhyme or reason, which is a beautiful thing. But we can sometimes get caught up in this mystery. A recent blog post by Rob Campbell, Asia regional head of planning for Wieden + Kennedy, caught my attention. Rob writes: ‘planners – love to make a big deal out of being curious…Let’s be honest, curiosity is a basic human trait and even if planners execute this more than the majority [which I'd say is open to debate] they’re no where near as curious as people in the finance, technology, R&D or criminal investigation industries, to name a few.” Rob is spot on. All too often we set up Planning as some form of creative Black Magic. Something that can’t be described or discussed –The first rule of Planning is: You do not talk about Planning. The second rule of Planning is: You do not talk about Planning. We Planners have no magic powers (other than being loquacious and absurdly profound at times). In fact, quite the opposite, we are ‘liberators’ as Rob succinctly writes. It is our role to help liberate our client business. Now, rather than being seen as the mysterious agency people who lurk in the background, Planners are the ones who release the hounds! There is something tangible here. But alas, how does this help us in regards to breaking into Planning. Well, we don’t need to frame it up as a special club only for the curious few — but we can introduce it as a club for those who truly want ‘to understand and represent our client audience.’
So, my advice?…Go to your cave and find your power animal.
“True wit is nature to advantage dress’d, What oft was thought but ne’er so well express’d.” …Or so said Alexander Pope. This is why I sometimes spend days looking in people’s medicine cabinets and refrigerators. We value insight so much in advertising — as we should — but it’s not so much about seeing what’s there, but seeing what’s not quite there yet. As this great piece from Jeremy Bullmore at WPP says, “A good creative brief contains a bold hypothesis. To generate hypotheses you need to speculate: you need to progress from the known to the unknown.” So Why is a Good Insight Like a Refrigerator? Who gives a shit. Just know what’s in the refrigerator and why — and what’s not and will be…
So every agency is constantly toying with their creative briefs, trying to find just the right fit for their strategic ethos and agency culture. Well, I knew the CIA was good for something — and think I’ve found it. The Phoenix Checklist is a set of questions developed by the CIA to enable their agents and operatives to think about a problem thoroughly. There are some great questions here, such as “What isn’t the problem?” and “What are the best, worst and most probable cases you can imagine?” This is a perfect foundation for the creative process and solving our client’s business needs…