The New Advertising Secret – Strategy

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.

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11 Responses to The New Advertising Secret – Strategy

  1. Ad Agencies – you’ve got to laugh…

    I’m with Holly Buchanan on this one.
    The CEO of Grey Worldwide outlining his plans for change thinks that putting more focus on strategy is important. – well duh!

  2. Dan Collins says:

    It is amazing to me when I meet with agencies and talk to them about what I do.
    I say three things:
    1) Account Management
    2) Strategy
    3) Business Development
    Their response tends to boil down to:
    “OK…of those, what do you want to focus on?” Apparently in the consulting world these are to be celebrated for the clients… in the agency world, it is a curse.
    Apparently having these disclipines separated is of paramount importance to most agencies — my question is “why the hell can’t they go hand-in-hand?”

  3. laco says:

    Take a look at the GoDaddy superbowl ads. I’ve been trying to figure out what the strategy is behind his playboy bunny type commercials. His business is domain name registration, a service used as much by women as by men.
    If you read the CEO’s blog you get a good idea of the kind of thinking behind the company. They don’t use outside ad agencies anymore, they set up their own production company. Basically Bob Parson’s philosophy seems to be “hey, she’s hot and the rest of you are uptight if you don’t agree.” He even tells women customers on his blog to “lighten up.”
    I can only guess that he doesn’t want the business of women, moms, and business owners.
    I’ve never seen a CEO chase away business like this. Who wants to be associated with him and his company? He seems to be trying to appeal to the pornographer-and-teenage-boy demographic. Ick.
    Some domain name registration company could make a lot of money right now by picking up the women and business people who are leaving GoDaddy and looking for a new home. Preferably one where the CEO isn’t drooling all over himself.

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  11. Asyiqin says:

    I think both of these folks (Rachel & Pat) are extreme spaekers using emotion (especially Pat) to share their view. I do agree that Rachel judges people by race. It’s convenient, popular and she articulates her view well. Pat is just as emotional about his view but articulates his view with race as well.In my view, at this moment in our countries time, intentional placement of non-white/females/over 40 people is appropriate. I’ve reviewed the hearings of Sotomayor and although this candidate is not among this countries best, this candidate is at the right place at the right time. This country seems to need to look at a person to deem them appropriate for the job. That’s just where we find ourselves today.In the end, Rachel is more correct than Pat but they both embarrass me as an American. Rachel with her comment The last 109 Supreme Court Justices were white, this one needs to be non-white view and Pat with his White men are discriminated against . Money use to drive extreme views now it’s ratings. I now understand why other countries believe America has lost its magic.

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