I read something this morning that stopped me mid coffee-sip. I was so dumbfounded I had to re-read the article twice.
Ad Age has an article about Grey Worldwide's CEO outlining their plans for change. What's his radial new solution that's going to change the world's fifth largest agency network? Put more focus on strategy. His first two hires were well known strategic planners Suresh Nair and Nat Puccio.
'Not had great clarity'
Messrs. Nair and Puccio will work closely with Grey’s chief creative officer and president-North America, Tim Mellors. “In recent times, we’ve not had great clarity in our strategy. One of the huge wastes of time is to use creative teams to get to a strategic insight. That was often a problem on Mars (a former Grey account), where we’d work up 15 different commercials to get to the few that were right on,” said Mr. Mellors. “It would have been easier to start with a strong strategic brief.” Grey had strategic planners on staff, but they didn’t work together as a team. “There’s been inconsistency,” said Mr. Puccio.
What????? It's 2006 people! Are you really just now coming to the conclusion that strategy is important? That it's best to have a clear strategy based on customer insight before you start the creative. Ya think???
Holy cow. I'm speechless.
In the past, I've worked with many companies and agencies who hired me to create their marketing campaigns. There were too many times the client gave me little to no information and the mandate "Just make it creative. You're the creative director, right? So it's your job to come up with something great."
I educated them about the importance of uncovery and fully understanding their company, customers and competition. I made sure we came up with strategy first that everyone agreed on - then, and only then - did we move on to the creative work.
In my work with websites, it's the same thing. I would estimate 60-80% of the time I spend with a client is spent on planning - doing uncovery, creating personas, wireframing their pathways - creating a clear strategy and applying it to every single click on the website.
The number one lesson I learned in my 15 plus years as a creative director was: You must agree on the strategy first. If you don't know what the strategy is, how can you judge whether you're creative will be effective or not?
Strategy takes the subjective process of creative approval and makes it objective. (or as objective as it can be) Does this spot convey the strategic message we've all agreed on? Does it appeal to the carefully outlined needs and motivations of the target audience? This is a much more productive conversation than "It's not funny enough. It's not creative enough. can we change the music? We need something more edgy. Hey - wouldn't it be great if at the end instead of thanking the advisor he gave him the finger?"
Can massive ad agencies really just be waking up to this?
Be afraid. Be very afraid.