If we only knew advertising world through books and publications, we would image that the conference rooms of the great agencies are filled with people talking about strategy, targets, demographics and branding. A typical exchange between a copywriter and an AE might go something like this:
CW: If we really want to speak to our target audience. I suggest we change our strategy from superior quality to increased affordability.
AE: Can you do that and still not alienate the upper middle-class consumer?
CW: We can shift the message in pubs targeted at a more affluent demo.
AE: And make the logo bigger.
Now this is pure fantasy (except for the logo part). Real advertising conversations sound more like this:
AE: Jan’s not going to like that color.
CW: Why not?
AE: She always hates blue. Back in ’98 she did a blue ad and sales went down 3%. She got totally chewed out by her boss and almost got fired. Since then the rule is, no blue.
AE: No blue!
You see, in the real advertising world, sound marketing concepts take a backseat to office politics, psychology, petty feuds, paranoia and revenge. To further illustrate, let’s take a look at the path of a print ad starting with the:
Head of Marketing
It’s time to put out the yearly summer ad. She would really like to do something different, but she remembers that back when she was just a lowly assistant, the head of marketing got fired for wasting money on a high-profile ad that didn’t work. With her performance review only a week away, she calls up the agency and ask them do the same thing they did last year.
He knows that the creatives are going to hate this. Every time he brings them a cut-and-paste job, they complain about how crappy the work is. But he knows that his client is not going to budge on this one. He carefully crafts the creative brief to “suggest” that they base the new ad on last year’s. He even includes a print-up for their convenience.
She is too busy studying brochures for the new BMW 6-Series to read the brief. It goes to the creative team.
The copywriter is annoyed at this crappy job and suggests that they just get it done and knock off early. But the art director has an idea. There is actually some money for this ad. If they completely ignore the brief, maybe they could get a piece for their portfolios. It would also be a good way to piss off the account team for giving them such shitty holiday gifts. The copywriter agrees, and they put together a whole mess of Archive worthy concepts.
Never having read the original brief, the CD is thrilled with the work. Maybe she can get some awards to put on her empty shelves. She approves the ads and they go to the account team.
Holy Shit! What is this? There’s no logo! No copy! And...is that…a tit? The client cannot see this work. Just the other day at lunch, she was saying how nice it was to have an agency that always listened to her ideas. This work would totally insult her. The AE calls for a meeting.
Everyone is mad. The AE says that the work is totally off target. The creative team says that it’s the only way to break through the clutter. The CD tries to calm everyone down, but the art director starts yelling about how the account team always lies about deadlines. The AE reminds the creatives about the time he pushed through their wacky holiday card that pissed off all the Mormon customers. Finally, a compromise is reached. The creative team will put together an ad that follows the brief, and the account team will present the more conservative of the original concepts.
The account supervisor presents the creatives’ original idea as an ice-breaker. Everyone laughs and then he shows the client the ad there are really going to do.