Top tips for writing great briefs:
1) Don’t over think things.
2) Release yourself from the tyranny of conscious thought
3) Express everything in a simple yet interesting way
4) Something that allows people to ‘feel’ not ‘be told’
5) Turn functional into exciting
6) Ignore details and distractions and focus on clarity
7) Briefs that are exciting, infectious and ‘bursting with possible’
8) A proposition that opens doors rather than creates small boxes
The reason I mention this is because recently I came across a quote that seemed to explain why these 2 subjects are inherently linked:
You see the problem I have is that I often think too much about something.
OK, that’s wrong, we should never undermine the ability to think something through with rigour and purpose … it’s just that sometimes, in my focused state [I know, amazing eh!] I find it almost impossible to express all that I’ve learnt and had to consider in a simple – yet interesting – way.
And that’s where music helps and why that quote is so good.
You see once I’ve worked out the context of what I’m trying to convey, I basically look for songs that have that theme in their title and then just listen to them.
I know that sounds utterly ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how often…
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This talk is interesting not only from a nutrition & health perspective (it might lead to a debunking of some long held beliefs about obesity & diabetes) but because of the scientific thought process behind it which we could learn from. It shows a willingness to challenge the pre-accepted hypothesis and to develop empathy with a situation rather than just passing quick judgement.
It is a demonstration of open minds, courage to throw out yesterday’s hypothesis, and a recognition that scientific truth isn’t final but constantly evolving.
So how can we learn from this for our own industry? For me there are two points:
First, although advertising is not a science but we should try to make it so – for example we search for an insight just like researchers looking for Cholinesterase inhibitors treating Alzheimers. The difference is that we shouldn’t debate, procrastinate and pontificate over it but instead invest in a true process of discovery.
Second, even when we do uncover an amazing insight, the enchantment of great advertising is not actually the insight itself but about taking a straight forward insight and turning it into something amazing.
The point is that ultimately advertising is an entertainment / creative & social industry. Maybe we shouldn’t be over-thinking creativity and searching for a holy grail, and instead just letting go of our inhibitions and enjoying ourselves (just like when we watch something that engages us). Let’s be honest with ourselves – these days whether a campaign for a noble humanitarian cause or the next big Soda campaign, the life span of an idea is a few days / weeks with a # before something else takes its place. So let’s be nimble, let’s be flexible, let’s search for entertaining ideas rather than unequivocal truths because there are very few unequivocal truths in the world, but many points of connection.
I’d like to leave you with this message from Joi Ito. If innovation has been broken down and democratized, then it’s right for advertising to be also broken down and democratised. The future is about not getting bogged down in words and statements and more about quick prototyping, experimenting, learning to trust the team and building on each others ideas. This doesn’t take the responsibility off strategic rigour, but it recognises that advertising just like Science and Innovation is about experimenting, coming up with quick iterations, building and breaking hypothesis and then getting to the point where we can make a creative leap to something fresh yet useful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In communications, great ‘insights’ are coveted. To be in touch with our consumers and find out how they spend their time, what they hope, what they fear, what they are motivated by, how they choose, how they live. These ‘insights’ help us develop communications that will engage people and trigger some sort of response or connection.
A lot has been written about insights – how to get them and how to crystalise them. But I think nothing has been written on capturing insights in an economy and landscape and lifestyle that has remarkably changed. So, although the pace of the world and the pace of change today is spinning faster than previously, I think the way we capture our insights hasn’t adapted.
We still spend time searching for the ‘golden egg’ when this concept is outdated in todays economy.
Today there are many inspired people with ‘hack / prototype’ mentality and ways of doing things. People who have a belief and vision to change the world. They don’t wait for an ‘insight’ – they work on a belief. So it follows, that our strategic insights should come from this starting point. I put forward that insights should be real, instinctive, based on a belief on where the world is headed, and based on a reservoir of built-up research – i.e not research commissioned specifically to capture an insight.
This is ‘radical’ coming from a ‘planner’ because insights have been the area planning has been built around (Bernbach, Pollitt et al) but advertising as we know it is history. So whilst we’re reinventing the advertising wheel, we should start by reinventing how we define and crystalise insights as well.
Food for thought.
As an ambitious young student searching for a career to pursue, it seemed a paradigm shift was happening away from manual / technical labor, production, agriculture. The future belonged to those with a profession, the service industry, those who had ‘intellectual property’.
But this bit of forward planning didn’t predict the Internet & digital boom, the population explosion, the effects of the environmental meltdown, endemic global economic woes, global inequality or various political rumblings.
We are living in recession weary yet technologically driven days. Data and knowledge is easily accessible and what we do with this is what sets us apart. Publishing and communication has never been easier. Any industry which is opportunistic and relies on the success or failure of others will remain stagnant. Anthropologist David Graeber calls these the ‘Bullshit Jobs’ which tend to be concentrated in “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers”. And any industry that fails to acknowledge and adapt to the rapidly changing political, economic or environmental changes will suffer.
Over the last 15 years and specifically the last 8 years, (since the launch of Facebook) the world has changed faster than the previous half century. We are now in what many call a ‘state of flux’. A constant state of rapid development.
In this state of flux, technical skills are increasingly in demand. People who do and make stuff, who have a unique flair for creating something new or improve on an existing design. The ‘new world’ is like an island inhabited for the first time, a chaotic frontier, it needs designers, builders, plumbers, carpenters, bakers, chefs, farmers, app developers, software & hardware designers and developers, engineers, scientists, mathematicians. People who do, who create, who help solve old world problems in new world ways.
Leading this transition is Generation Flux, a new breed of entrepreneur who is quick and nimble at making something new or improving on previous ideas.
We can no longer afford the luxury of old world silos and job descriptions; we must create new ones, based on symbiosis and flexibility. Jobs are not guaranteed, especially lifelong jobs – in the new world once a project is over you move onto the next project. When your contract is over there is help needed elsewhere. We need an army of doers. A constant state of symbiosis with our fellow inhabitants and the land.
The world is changing at a rapid rate, much faster than you can say MBA. Are you ready for it?
I think ‘strategy’ is the most over used word in this industry. Too often it is misunderstood, and too often people use it inter-changeably with just ‘a thought’.
Good strategy is creative, just like good creative has to be strategic.
Good strategy is a jump from the mundane. It’s based on an idea. It makes a statement about what the brand is up to. Following from this people either buy into the brand or they don’t.
When you think about campaigns like Avis’s ‘we try harder’, or Honda’s ‘power of dreams’ it is very obvious what the brand is up to, the strategy stands out.
Here are some jump starters for writing good communication strategy:
1. Develop an insight or story, and then summarise it as a strategy.
2. Think ‘what is my creative angle on this problem’ what’s the larger than life proposition to the world?
3. Think ‘what is my point of view’ on a subject matter?
4. Work out what it is your brand or product is ‘against’ – what do you oppose?
5. What is the consumer benefit? How do we demonstrate this in the creative?
6. The problem – Great ideas start with big problems. What is the consumer problem you are trying to solve?
Your position – What is your position on the things that the consumer cares about? Show you care about the problem. For example: ‘The campaign was created to communicate the Pampers brand’s philosophy that children perceive the world very differently from adults, even the simplest things are opportunities to learn and experiment, and children should be given the freedom and comfort to do so’
Your promise – The promise is the way in which you (implicitly or explicitly) prove to the consumer your credibility in holding that position and what you intent to do about it. E.g.: ‘Pampers provides comfort to your child so they can be free to experiment’.
The Brand Idea – This is an outward facing crystallisation of the position and promise. It’s the brands point of view ‘Look at the world through the eyes of a child’.
7. What do we want the target market to think, feel, do?
8. What is our unique ownable property? The unique aspect that only our product / service has? It could be a product feature, something inherent in our design. For example:
- FJ Cruiser’s unique retro look, going back to basics, the type you can use for a long time – product concept is ‘the rebirth of rugged’,
- Audi’s Vorsprung durch Technik, How can we relate that to the key proposition?
Today, good brand strategy is based on mutual benefit, takes into account sustainability. Is transparent and honest.
Till next time, enjoy!