Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Sausage Not the Sizzle

Advanced apologies regarding the analogy, I’ll explain. I’ve recently just come out of what can only be described as one of the most enlightening meetings with a planning mentor.

We tend to discuss advertising (well I do) here on blogs in very conceptual, consumer interacting ways which is obviously the sexy part of advertising theory and debate. I indulge in this past time a lot and I worryingly force those not in the advertising industry to engage in such debates also (which isn’t always the best way to make friends). However, I was stopped in my tracks today and asked to in a very thorough and logical way to express my understanding on how certain campaigns came to the fruition. So I started using a VW example which is the new print executions about their new fold down roof and the way it works with the consumer, visually it……. No no no Anton, what did the agency actually do to get there?

I think when discussing advertising it’s very easy for us to get lost in the sizzle, by that I mean how the ad looks, how it sounds, how it is reacted to. When really this should maybe become a luxury conversation that comes after we’ve been credited with discussing the sausage by providing a solid and practical discussion on how the strategy was arrived at, translated into a brief and then passed on to creatives. Was this a brutal and simple USP or product benefit that when tested on audiences, responded well to and as a result developed into a strategy i.e. a sports car with greater leg room for passengers for greater comfort. Was there an insight discovered about how the product was used which was then crucial to building a creative strategy and how was it discovered i.e. how people consume Cadbury Cream Eggs and practical research techniques into the phenomenon on how it is physically consumed hence ‘How do you do it’.

I dissed rigid strategic frameworks but at the same time celebrated their importance in previous posts which I can understand must seem confusing. What I was trying to express is that arriving at a strategy can’t be the same in every instance…which is obvious, obviously, hence we can’t apply the same way of arriving at a strategy every time you are tasked with writing a creative brief. A different brand and product will require a different methodology in getting there. So maybe to build the really important part of a career in advertising is to understand and discuss the very beginning of advertising strategy and think about the practical ways the agency got to that pretty picture – sales and market data, consumer habits, well structured research groups, factory visits, interviews with industrial opinion leaders and product designers - all the really important steps that were taken to get there. In some cases I said that some advertising was created off the back of a strategy ‘make it look cool’, and quoted ipod. Whilst I still believe that to be true I’d like to note that the luxury of such instances are rarer than a blue steak and can’t be a rule of thumb.

Ramble over, just a thought or a critique of oneself.

Anton xx

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