Check out this Pinterest board from Karin Birch. Karin is a CD at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and we met when we judged the Las Vegas Addys a couple weeks ago.
More and more clients are expecting work that goes beyond what they’re asking for. If the brief calls for a new print campaign, the agency may throw in a microsite. Or an outdoor idea. Or a guy with a rickshaw. Whatever.
Problem is, while more and more clients are expecting this, and love to be surprised by additional work, these ideas rarely come to life. They get placed on the back-burner while the real (i.e., urgent, expected, and sometimes less-exciting) assignments are produced.
A few years ago, I was part of a team that helped create a giant snow globe in Times Square with live actors inside. I recently asked my old CD, Chris Hunter, how he sold that idea. (Giant snow globes are never something the client asks for in the original brief.) There’s a huge insight in his answer. Here’s what Chris told me…
I’ve found the way to move forward [beyond-the-brief work] is to link each idea to some kind of measurable engagement in order to demonstrate the value they add to a program.
In the snow globe’s case, it had to do with NY being a media city and getting PR from that. These days I don’t know if I’d recommend the Giant Snow Globe as an investment for the client because the return seems pretty low outside of Times Square. But tying online engagement / participation to a real-world installation — and then incentivizing participation — can start to demonstrate returns for a client, especially if the engagement aspect of the creative drives pass-along behavior. A snow globe that was web-cammed that would allow viewers to control what the actors did inside it, for example, would start to get at that (not a very creative example but you get what I mean).
Also, it’s best to build in engagement programs (be they online, in a real location, or both) at the start of the brief development. This turns the extra thinking into a real assignment vs. a time-wasting exercise. If the client isn’t disciplined enough to do this, then at the very least bundle your extra idea firmly to original assignment — print in this case — so that the two play off one another and are co-dependent. This starts to turn what was once a print assignment into something richer and more programmatic. And by this, I mean make it so that one cannot really exist without the other.
I guess what I’m suggesting is, eliminate the ‘lucky-strike-extra’ sensibility from your mindset and theirs. It will help make your engagement concepts seem more core and essential vs. extra credit.
(Chris Hunter helped his team win a Bronze Lion at Cannes this year, so he knows what he’s talking about.)
I love multi-media campaigns.
There are few things as inspiring when looking through the awards shows than amazing ideas executed in ways you’ve never seen before. The Mini launch is a great example of creative media executions. There are countless others that are newer.
These campaigns often include complex installations and things that have never been done before, so a lot of explanation is often required. Fortunately for agencies, they have the means to produce submission videos to award shows to demonstrate the breadth, creativity and sound business results to accompany these innovative campaigns in a clear, comprehensive manner. My agency actually has several people dedicated to this job.
You have your book.
The target audience for your book is a busy group of people. Campaign after campaign of lengthy description multi-media onslaughts may not always be the best approach.
To be clear, I think it’s fantastic to see blown-out campaigns. Assuming they’re great campaigns and blowing them out makes sense. (Times Square installations and transit dominations probably don’t make sense for small start-up companies. Keep the realities of a brand’s budget somewhat based in reality. Somewhat.)
But sometimes, I just want to know you can knock out some killer print ads or OOH or posters or something I can look at for 10 seconds and think, “That’s cool,” and doesn’t have a gazillion moving parts.
And please know that blowing out your campaign doesn’t make it good. As a recruiter at my agency recently said to me, “Just because you’ve done an iPhone app for your idea doesn’t make it a good idea.”
So what’s the solution?
Before you blow out every single campaign in your book, make sure it calls for it. Make sure your book needs another blown out campaign. (I’d say two is the maximum amount I have the ability to fully take in.) Above all, make sure the ideas are great.
Show you can do something with legs. Show you can do things no one’s ever seen before. Show you’ll bring something invaluable to an agency.
But make sure you also, in easily digestible format, show that you can make a traditional ad campaign. Because once you start working, you’ll have to make good old fashioned ads.
Give Peter some love (or disagree with him) in the comments section. You can also get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the story as I remember it:
The agency had already developed two different poster campaigns for the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. The team thought it would be cool to do some guerilla advertising by having a glam-model with smeared lipstick walking around Chicago a few blocks away from the hotel in a HRH bathrobe, asking strangers if they knew the way to the hotel. The gist was this hotel let you party like a rock star, and this was just another starlet/groupie/guest who had partied a little too hard and was now just a bit lost.
So the team hires a model and a photographer and heads down to Michigan Avenue. I could be wrong, but think the plan was to be there just long enough to get some pictures and make it legit for the award shows.
While they’re down shooting, a camera crew from a local news station shows up and asks if they can cover the stunt. Serendipity, right? Well, as it turns out, the model doesn’t want to be on TV in a bathrobe looking like a skank. Can’t remember why. Maybe she was afraid her parents would see her. But the bigger concern is that the creative director has to call the client on his mobile phone and say, “Um, remember that idea we talked about? The one where the groupie/stripper would be on Michigan Avenue, asking people – yeah that’s the one. Well, we’re kind of shooting it right now, and there’s a camera crew from Channel 4 that wants to film it for the evening news. You cool with that?”
The spin on this was that the agency was taking photographs of the model to build the case for the client that it would be a good thing to do.
Ethically, you could say this should have never happened because the client didn’t give their approval. You could also argue that doing agency-produced work like this simply for award shows is a waste of time.
Professionally, you could point out that this campaign is now featured in one of the seminal books on ambient media and certainly doesn’t hurt to have that when you’re interviewing for a job or asking for a raise.
I’m not saying which is right, or for that matter which I’d choose. But work long enough in this industry, and you’ll probably have to answer that question yourself.
Here’s a personal anecdote. Maybe you can learn something from it.
I once did work for a client that had very strict marketing guidelines. Most of them were very poorly thought out, in my opinion. All their print work had to include the following:
- A key visual taken from the client library.
- A frame on at least two sides of the key visual.
- The frame had to be one of six pre-approved colors patterns.
- Supporting copy in bullet points, just like these.
Very restrictive. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an ad with bullet pointed copy in an awards show. (If you know of one, I’d love to see how they pulled it off.)
Every time we went to the client, we’d bring in ads that adhered to their guidelines, and some better ones that didn’t.
They’d usually appreciate the more creative ones. But they’d always fall back on their guidelines, because they were, after all, guidelines. (Emerson has some words about this.)
It became apparent that no matter how brilliant the idea, we weren’t going to do any award-winning print for them. Realizing this was pretty crushing. And I spent the better part of a morning researching other agencies I might work for.
But then I realized that their guidelines only applied to print. No one had written guidelines for ambient media. Or webisodes. Or PR stunts. Or bus wraps. Or a ton of other media they probably hadn’t considered and might benefit from.
Sometimes even the best clients and the most creative creatives get trapped in their own Groupthink. Where everything is done a certain way because it just is.
And sometimes coming up with a big idea is figuring out a better way to come up with a big idea.
A guerilla piece (alternative, ambient, whatever you want to call it) has already become an essential part of any book worth reviewing. And for good reason.
- Overly and needlessly art directed boards.
- Little / no / unclear explanation of what the piece is about.
- Too much explanation of what the idea is about. It needs to be clear, but not belabored.
If you need clarification, look at how these types of ideas are presented in the annuals. Or pick up a copy of Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising. Or just write a sentence or two as if you were explaining the idea to your parents.