March 27, 2009

The One Question Every Client Should Ask And Never Does

Earlier this week in a post called "Clients Ask All The Wrong Questions" I said...
Any agency person who's ever participated in a new business pitch has been asked this question: "What is the process you use to develop advertising ideas?"
I also said...
There may be a process for developing a strategy; there may be a process for developing a media plan; but there is no process for giving birth to an idea... This does not mean, however, that there is not a very important question that clients should ask. There is, and later this week we'll talk about it.
Well, it's later this week, so let's talk about it.

There is one question every client should ask a prospective agency, and if you're in an agency it's a question you should be able to answer. The question is this:
What are the principles by which you create advertising?
If you can't answer that question, you are confused. If your answer is about "360 degree touchpoints" or "cultural conversations" or "consumer engagement" you are not only confused, you are also full of shit. There is a difference between a principle and a jargon slider.

Here's how to know if something is a principle or not. A principle can be stated in a simple, declarative sentence without the use of marketing cliches.

Here are some examples of principles:
- Advertising is only effective when it is entertaining. This is totally wrong, but it's a principle.

- Advertising works best when it uses celebrities. Also totally wrong, but a principle.
Principles are truths that can be applied in general and across many categories. They are not necessarily rules. They are guidelines that inform your thinking about advertising and help explain why you think this is a good advertising strategy and that isn't.

I am not trying to convince you of the correctness of any specific principles, but I am trying to convince you that establishing your own principles helps everything you do.
  • It helps you explain to your clients why you are recommending this campaign and not that.
  • It helps you explain why this is a good ad, and that isn't.
  • It helps you train your colleagues to think in a strategic fashion.
  • It helps you clear up the fog of confusion that enshrouds every agency.
What are the principles by which you create advertising? If you can't tell me, you ain't gettin' my account.

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