March 18, 2009

Ignore The Paperwork

I'm no David Ogilvy, but I've had a reasonably successful advertising career.

One of my secrets is to ignore the paperwork. When I'm doing a creative project I never wait for the paper. When it comes, I used it for fact-checking, never for guidance.

Often what happens in an agency is that you will meet with a client, you will talk about a project, and then someone will write up a brief and do the paperwork necessary to get the project started.

The paper often arrives days after the meeting took place. It is almost always deficient in one of these ways:
  • A misinterpretation of what was said
  • A misstatement of the problem
  • A misrepresentation of the issues
  • A misunderstanding of the strategy
I don't know why this happens, I just know it does. I learned very early that my interpretation of the meeting was usually better than what was written up in the notes and the brief. I also learned that if I got to work on the project immediately, I was fresher and more likely to create something interesting.

Here are 3 reasons not to wait for the paperwork:
  1. It's usually inadequate anyway.
  2. Your first impression of the problem is often the most insightful. The ideas you have during the meeting are often the best ideas you're going to have.
  3. You're just going to get angry when you see how flawed the paperwork is. It's better to spend your energy on the creative task than on the anger the paperwork is going to engender.
In an agency, I guess the paperwork is necessary, but it is rarely useful.

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