August 22, 2012

How To Sell An Ad

My advertising career has included about 1 billion creative presentations to clients. I have  made many myself, and have witnessed millions of others.

As a result of sitting through so many of these things, I have developed a list of things that make for a good presentation and things that make a presentation annoying and crappy.

For those of you who regularly present creative work to clients, here's one guy's ideas on how to do it better.

1. You Gotta Believe: First of all, if you are not happy with what you are going to present, postpone the meeting. An intelligent client would much rather move a meeting than get crap forced down his throat. On several occasions I have called a client and said, "Joe, I'm just not happy with what we have yet. Give us a few more days." I have never had a client react badly to that. As a matter of fact, a smart client will appreciate the honesty and the fact that you care enough not to show him stuff you're not satisfied with.

2. Look At What You're Presenting From The Client's Perspective: Your criteria for what constitutes a good ad may be very different from your client's. She doesn't really care if your girlfriend is going to think it's cool. She needs to sell stuff and make sure her boss doesn't fire her. That doesn't mean you should change a good ad. But it does mean you need to be thoughtful about how you present and position it to her. 

3. Don't Overcook The Set-Up. Most set-ups -- the front end of the presentation before you get to the work -- are way too long and way too full of bullshit. The purpose of the set-up is to demonstrate that  a) you see the problem from the client's perspective, and b) you have a sensible strategy that informs the creative work.  Do not let account people or planners confuse the shit out of the client or put her to sleep before you even get to the ads. The set-up should go something like this:
  • "The purpose of this advertising is to __."
  • "Our strategy is to ___."
  • "What you are going to see today is __."
Then quit tap-dancing and show her the ads.

4. Do Not Be Afraid To Show Several Ideas, But Have a Recommendation. There's nothing wrong with having more than one idea. But at some point in the meeting a smart client will say, "Which of these do you recommend?" There is nothing more pathetic than watching a bunch of people make furtive eye contact trying to figure out how to answer. Know what you are trying to sell and know why. Have a good explanation for why you prefer idea #1 to idea #2 or #3.

5. Do Not Be Afraid To Be Honest. If the key agency people in the room don't agree on the recommendation, go public with it. Give the client the arguments for and against and give her credit for understanding that intelligent people of good will can disagree. Say, "we recommend idea #1 but Jack and Jill actually prefer #3." Then let Jack and Jill make their case. I'd much rather have a conversation about which ad is better than a conversation about whether any of them is good.

Oh, and one more thing. It helps to have quality shit.

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