The situation – Death by committee
So imagine an impulse purchase soap brand. (Because all brands are soap brands for the purpose of this blog.) Client wanted to do an ad because ‘it has not been advertised for a while now.’ We push. We ask, how exactly will advertising help the brand now? Some confusing slides that perhaps were rehashed from another presentation find their way into our inboxes. We ask what it means – contradictory briefs in one brief. So they try to rationalise. We don’t get a satisfactory answer. We do our own thinking. Figure out that there is a bigger potential for growth if we target certain occasions. So we need to increase occasion based TOM for brand. Client agrees – exactly what they meant apparently. So we give them beautiful ideas to solve the problem.
But the brand has made a problem solution commercial in another country. Someone somewhere in the client hierarchy likes that work. He wants to do something like that. But we argue that the category is impulse, problem solution will narrow its relevance down. But client persists. So we do a second round of even better and potentially very memorable problem solution ads.
But someone somewhere in the client world has woken up. Says how can we do problem solution. Says we need to just ‘tweak’ the scripts. Just focus on the solution. Not the problem. #facepalm
The reading of the situation
For any given project, no matter how effectively you suggest a strategy that is sound and reasonable, the solution will be shaped by the power dynamics at the marketer’s office. (BU wants this, boss wants that, APAC/ Global head wants something else, research team wants to save its ass by pasting these things etc).
The truth is – Power dynamics define what the brand says, not the strategy.
So, if you can ‘align’ the ‘story’ of the idea with the power-that-be’s perspective, the chance of it actually happening is higher. Hence, must always get the big guy in the conversation at the earliest stage. What exactly does the CEO/marketing director want with this campaign? What is his interest? What is his angle. Not knowing this can lead to futile waste of time, efforts and most importantly, will affect creative team’s morale when they think that the creative idea is at fault, but the reality is about the unsaid objective that they never knew of.
A junior marketing executive, no matter how ambitious and bright, will seldom have the perspective of the APAC head/ country head. From close to the ground, there are many problems that a brand faces and that the executive wants us to solve. But a 30,000 ft perspective of the leader is more illuminating – his perspective will be about existential threats to the brand and the long term interest of the brand. This is the perspective we need to know before we begin work.
Beyond the perspective, there is power play too. There are local heads, national heads, global heads – too many heads to deal with one thing. The multiple power centers in the client company might have competing interests. They might want different things from the campaign? Now these machinations are beyond our control and view. But, it helps if we know these unsaid objectives. What is the leadership’s perspective? what do they stand to gain/ lose? If it doesn’t concern them immediately, great! But if it does, what are their concerns?
If the agency doesn’t know the many invisible hands at play, they are rendered dumb, groping in the dark for some validation, wasting time and efforts on pitches they were never going to win, doing hard work for campaigns that will never see the light of day.
Must know what the multiple interests are, who are the players. Must know the bird’s eye’s perspective of the business as well as the perspective from the ground. Once we know these things, simple common sense will do.