January 30, 2012

Overcooking The Set-Up

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

As a result of sitting through so many of these things, I have developed a hypersensitive allergic reaction to "the set-up."

The set-up -- the front end of the presentation before you get to the work -- is supposed to prepare the client for what is coming by reviewing the assignment and calibrating her expectations.

Instead, what it usually does is annoy the shit out of her by repeating to her all kinds of stuff she originally told you; boring her with planning claptrap that she's heard five times before; reminding her of stuff she hasn't forgotten; and trying to inoculate her against evil thoughts she hasn't yet had.

Most set-ups are way too long and way too full of bullshit. The true purpose of the set-up should be to demonstrate that a) you see the problem from her perspective, and b) you have a sensible strategy that informs the creative work. This can usually be done in under two minutes and under 10 sentences.

Do not stand there holding layouts while you explain your philosophy of life. Do not lecture her on what consumers think or say. Do not let account people or planners confuse the shit out of her 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 stuff.

Oh yeah, and once she says yes, sit down and shut up.

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