An Argument for Manifestos

Just a follow-up to Jim’s assignment.

You could argue that writing manifestos is a waste of effort. They can be time consuming, and there’s no manifestos category at Cannes or the One Show. Much better to just sit down and start coming up with ideas, right?

Maybe. But here’s my argument for writing manifestos.

It used to take me a long time to write one. Then I realized that a manifesto doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to do three things…

  1. Crystalize the direction (not just for you, but for everyone else involved in the project).
  2. Get the client excited.
  3. Serve as a springboard for future ideas.

Manifestos are a great way to open a presentation. It’s far more exciting to open a meeting with a battle cry than to say, “Okay, let’s look at some work.” Once, I even read a manifesto with some accompanying music.

I’ve had the account team internally and clients during a presentation applaud a manifesto. I promise you, you’re going to have a much easier time selling the real work if you can get people applauding BEFORE you even show it to them.

Lastly, if you’re a writer, you need to be able to write. That means you need to have a sense of language. It means you have to be able to simultaneously clarify and dramatize an idea. Headlines are a great way to do this. But a manifesto is an even broader canvas.

One caveat about manifestos: Clients tend to love them because they can say everything and nothing at the same time. The more specific you can be in your manifesto, the better chance you have of selling the work that you came to show. Don’t hesitate to go back and retrofit your manifesto to sell the work.


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