Contrary to popular belief, creating stellar work isn’t the hard part. Selling it is.

February 10, 2014

always_be_closing

I like to think I’m a good writer. I like to think I’m a good presenter. Alas, I still haven’t figured out how to sell a client a piece of work they do not want to do. Has anyone… really? Precious few clients are predisposed to do breakthrough work. For most, advertising (regardless of platform) is just a line item. An ever-smaller box to be checked. That these clients don’t behave more bullishly or even see the virtue of truly creative marketing is their part of the problem.

But what is my part? I believe in options. I like to show clients several campaigns for any given assignment. Of these we of course make a recommendation. Sometimes they go with it. Many times they don’t. We still consider it a victory (for both sides) if a client gloms on to one of the other campaigns. If none of them are runts then we have nothing to worry about. Right? Wrong?

Either way, that’s been my policy. But I do wonder. Should we/I have pressed harder for our recommendation? Certainly my creative team would want as much. Yet, if a client desires a hamburger you can sell the steak all you want the client will only get frustrated and maybe even to the point where they balk at the goddamn hamburger. Then what have we got? That’s right: a pissed off client and no sale.

south-park-chef

So, we ask: What do you want on your burger?

Yet, when I look back at some of these outcomes I second-guess what might have been had we gotten our way. In order for an agency –any agency- to get to the next level it has to demonstrate extraordinary creative and have at least one iconic campaign to its name. Iconic work rarely comes from compromise or committee. So, I wrestle with the vogue notion of collaboration. Tissue sessions are practical as they vest client participants in the eventual outcome but they also corrupt the outcome, playing to a common denominator.

We all know this but what’s a girl to do? If we force a piece of work down a client’s throat they will most likely spit it back out and usually in our face. Produced ideas –bad, good or great- often don’t reveal themselves in the first weeks of communications, let alone a creative presentation. If a CEO questions the CMO about newly approved work it rarely ends well for all parties, including the agency. Therefore, the CMO is risk averse. Questions turn to concerns, which quickly become issues and then the kill switch is pulled. Second chances are rare. Therefore, doing work that instantly appeals to the many tends to be the safest bet. Rare is the CMO who stays fast with a seemingly risky bet, or makes one in the first place.

Do not assume strategy plays a decisive role in choosing creative. Filet and hamburger are on strategy for meat dishes. Alas, hamburger is a crowd pleaser. Adding to that, it is faster and cheaper.

I’ve worked at enough places to know there are plenty of creative chefs in the kitchen. Dissing agencies for dishing out burgers is easy but perhaps unfair. Not when precious few customers appreciate the cuisine.

It’s maddening. What I can control is putting out a good menu and pitching the top items to the best of my ability. After that I can use all the help I can get. And divine intervention from the Gods of Advertising.

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7 Responses to “Contrary to popular belief, creating stellar work isn’t the hard part. Selling it is.”

  1. JMBG said

    Good read. When you provide your client with options, do you show them three completely different solutions or slight variations of the same solution? I’ve seen a lot of people do the latter and wasnt too happy with it. I believe in options as well, especially because we’re not mind readers and creative briefs tend to be misleading in lots of cases.

  2. Before you prepare your hamburger… find your starving crowd.

  3. I think you’re spot on for offering your clients a choice. Also, I agree with another point you made: strategy doesn’t play a decisive role in choosing creative.

    Of course, without strategy, the client doesn’t even really know why they wanted a hamburger in the first place. Why not just offer them three varieties of steak instead?

  4. I really enjoyed reading your article. I like how you emphasize the importance of providing your client with options. In both PR and advertising it is essential to provide your client with more than one idea for a campaign.

    Having a good reputation can help you sell your idea. It is important to build your reputation overtime. The best PR firms and Ad agencies did not become prestigious over night but are built upon a strong foundation of hard work.

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