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Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open

As we’re entering the season of good will everyone is swiftly becoming overtaken by Christmas ads, Christmas card lists, presents lists, shopping lists, and just more lists really.  And, if you’ve got children, the race to reach the bottom of those lists becomes that little bit more frenzied. The next three weeks will be full on and, somewhere in between all this preparation will be work. Work for many of us now takes a back seat to planning for the 24th, 25th and 26th, yet I’ve always found this time to be the most rewarding in terms of getting some real thinking done.  Yes, all the budgets and planning for the next year would have been completed a few months or weeks earlier, but there’s nothing like taking some time out, when everyone else is at party pitch, and concentrating on what you’re really doing with your business and with your client’s. This may sound rather boring, but here’s a short story to get you thinking…

Decades ago, as a very junior account executive at Ogilvy & Mather, I was working with the team who created the Naughty but Nice campaign.  All the research pointed to going along a completely different creative route, but the team was convinced taking a more revolutionary approach would get more attention, make a bigger impact and, ultimately, sell more milk for the Milk Marketing Board. The campaign did just that.  It wasn’t dumb luck, it was the combination of intelligence, forward thinking and an innate understanding that the British consumer is anarchic and wants to be entertained not bombarded with ‘bland’.  The client was prepared to take the risk too. The rest is history, and yet it’s not.  These days, irrespective of whether you’re running a campaign on the Internet, on billboards or tattooed on the forehead of Sean Bean, it’s all about originality.  You can’t just look like a breath of fresh air, you need to actually be one. And it doesn’t just happen… someone, somewhere has thought long and hard about the best way to upset the apple cart and they need compliance.  In our case, at O&M we had a wonderful client who was brave enough and open-minded enough to give a totally outlandish campaign the ‘go-ahead’.  The agency won many awards, but if it wasn’t for our client…

Years ago I experienced the converse.  I went to work for a small company where the response to an issue, any issue, was always a new advertisement or a new piece of literature.  This was not an example of strategic thinking, it was not an example any thinking really, but a new ad meant a media budget and new literature meant a print budget, so more money not to mention mark up for the company. Thankfully most of us operate in a more transparent (or honest) fashion these day, bankers aside naturally, and we know that by being creative with both the budgets and our thinking is the only true way of demonstrating our skill and our commitment to our clients.  Of course you’ve got to get results too; the best strategy in the world is no substitute for poor sales. When you’re super busy or distracted by other issues you can sometimes forget exactly why you were appointed by your client in the first place and now’s really great time to take stock.  Don’t waste this time, use it and start January in great anarchic form.


Posted in Brand values, Crisis management, Don't lose reputation, Honest broker | Leave a comment

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We are all born originals - why is it so many of us die copies?
Edward Young