October 08, 2008

How To Sell Great Creative: "Let's Do It On The Floor"

In the first part of this series, The Big Show, I talked about how big presentations are the death of good ideas. Today, an interesting lesson I learned from a couple of oddballs.

At one point in my career I was creative director for the US operation of an Australia-based agency called Mojo.

Mojo was recognized as one of the world’s really good creative shops. It was named “International Advertising Agency of the Year” by Advertising Age in 1988.

It was ultimately bought by Jay Chiat and re-christened Chiat/Day/Mojo.

During my tenure there I learned a very important lesson about presenting creative work from Alan (Mo) Morris and Allan (Jo) Johnston.

Mo and Jo were unpretentious oddballs. They had a dread of big meetings, fancy presentations, and anything that smacked of formality.

They shared an office and worked as a creative team, although they were both copywriters.

They had a very unusual and successful method of presentation. When they had an idea, they would call the real decision maker at the client company and invite him (usually a man in those days) over to the agency.

It would be Mo, Jo and the big guy. No account people, no researchers, no observers. They would sit in their office and spread the layouts or storyboards out on the floor, and then they'd explain the ideas.

No big set-ups. No Powerpoint. No parsing every word of the brief. None of the tortured logic of account planning. None of the usual agency rituals and bullshit that turn creative presentations into torment and agony.

It removed all the major obstacles to a successful presentation:
  • the anxiety of the big show
  • the focus on the unimportant
  • playing to the crowd
  • the irrelevant opinions of onlookers
Their technique was very successful, and it helped them sell what they wanted to sell. It is without question a better way to accomplish the primary goal of both agency and client -- to produce better advertising.

And yet, because of the structure and politics of most client-agency relationships, this method of operation is almost impossible.

In the next part (How To Sell Great Creative: "Ego and Failure") I'll talk about why this simple, sensible method of presenting ideas has almost no chance in most agencies and with most clients.

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