The well-crafted brief

If you haven’t seen it by now, you owe it to yourself to take a few minutes and watch Close to Home, the latest in the It Can Wait campaign from AT&T.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

As good as this piece is, for those of us in the ad world, the story behind it is even better.

Recently, Ad Age published The Story Behind AT&T’s Disturbing Phone-Safety Ad, Ann-Christine Diaz goes inside baseball on the film, how it was made, and the thinking behind it.

A few notable nuggets from the article:

AT&T research found that while the general audience, namely, consumers in their 30s, had agreed with messages from the previous ads, they were “rationalizing, giving reasons why they could [use their phones and drive] safely, whether it’s because they’re an experienced driver, or doing it at a stop sign,” among other things, said Ms. Kuckelman. Moreover, it showed that not just texting or email, but social media and other phone activities were contributing to accidents.

And this:

“The agency brief started with, ‘think of this not as an advertising campaign but an opportunity to save lives,'” Mr. Planchon said. “They wanted the tone to be raw and emotional.”

Take a few minutes and read the entire article. It’s worth it.

In the end, however, this a fact that we’ve seen over and over — in the right hands, a well-crafted creative brief provides the framework, and the opportunity, to do some amazing work.

If you’re on the creative side, insist on them. If you’re on the account side, write them. Then rewrite them. Make them better. Your client — and your agency — with thank you for it.

Doing things differently

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve heard so many people, companies, brands, etc. talk about how they ‘do things differently’ than anyone else. About their patented, trademarked, put-our-seal-and-watermark-on-it way of doing things.

But here’s the thing — when everyone is ‘doing things differently’ in their own way, no one really is. It’s a sentiment that was similarly echoed in David McCullough’s commencement speech to Wellesley High School recently (which you should really watch if you haven’t taken the time to yet).

So, the question I’ll pose to you dear reader is this: What can you do differently today? Does it have to be something earth-shattering? No. Take, for example, this recent piece for Coca-Cola:

In reality, there’s nothing spectacularly unique about the content. It came from security cameras that are everywhere you look. But by using that footage differently, Coca Cola found an entirely new source of content, all while maintaining – and in many cases reinforcing – their Happiness brand position.

What can you do differently today? Tomorrow? Next week? Think about it, and then go do it.

By hook or by crook, by book or by NOOK

Maybe it’s the bookworm in me, but the more I see the latest work from Barnes & Noble for their NOOK tablet, I more find myself liking it.

This spot is part of Barnes & Noble’s Read Forever™ campaign, billed as “a celebration of reading.”

And while this spot is specifically for the NOOK Color tablet, it doesn’t take away from the core of the company, the products they offer or what you do with those products.

In addition to the :30 version above, there’s also a :60 version:

Well done to everyone involved in creating this campaign.

And yes, dear readers, I know this is outside the typical realm of coverage on this site, but I felt it was too good not to share. Feel free to leave a comment and let others know what you think.

[disclosure]

Playing Around with a Crazy Idea

And I’m sure you’re thinking — yeah, like that’s anything new

But hear me out.

What is still one of the biggest issues facing agencies and marketing professionals today?  Talent.  Finding, recruiting and retaining talent.

More often than not, an agency’s future employees won’t just show up at the front door gift-wrapped and sporting a big red bow.  The shop has to go out and find the right person — that right fit for their agency, clients, type of business, etc.

Sure, you’ll get referrals from others from time to time, but in an age where good (if not great) talent is scarce, agency folks are much less likely to share with others in the business.

Sure, the mechanics of the marketing and advertising business can be taught in school, but there are nuances to the business that just don’t show up in a classroom environment.  And even those students who come out of a portfolio school such as Creative Circus or VCU Brandcenter may not be prepared for agency life — particularly in small agencies such as those here in Idaho.

So, how do we get around that?

One option — An intern “exchange program” similar to one that started in Portland a few years ago — COLABORATORY.  The Colaboratory program is designed to give interns a better understanding of the agency world, and specific disciplines within that environment, by spending time in three different agencies over the course of the program:

COLABORATORY takes place over 6 weeks in Portland, Oregon. 10 participants are selected and individually paired with 3 of the 10 agencies based on their strengths and interests. Interns spend 2 intensely focused weeks at each agency learning from all disciplines.

During the 6 weeks working at agencies across Portland, interns also form 2 competing teams to work on a real client project.

The 2 sides of COLABORATORY give interns a broad view of how agencies work, and at the same time let them learn how to collaborate.

A similar program could be established here in Idaho, and managed by the Boise Advertising Federation and / or Idaho Advertising Federation.

Another option — a professional exchange program of sorts.

This would be a bigger effort than a shared internship program such as COLABORATORY.  It would involve many agencies in several different markets, but could be managed by agency network organizations such as Worldwide Partners, Second Wind, MAGNET Global, Pinnacle Worldwide, etc.

Here’s roughly how I imagine it working:

  • The agency network handles initial recruiting and screening of potential candidates
  • Finalists interview in person at nearest partner agencies
  • Selected participants spend 6 months with an individual agency, learning about the business and individual roles / responsibilities, while working for the agency and it’s clients.
  • Upon completion of the 6 months, the participant is able to move to another partner agency, in a different location, and continue learning about the jobs, how different agencies function, etc.
  • Program could last up to two years (4 agencies) — at any time, the current agency has the option to offer the participant a full-time permanent position.

These would be paid positions, of course, and all participating agencies would agree on common salary amounts throughout the course of the program.

In a lot of ways, this would be an apprentice program of sorts.

It would probably be best suited for those just out of school, new to the business, or otherwise able to be relatively mobile over the course of a couple of years (think moving to a different city every six months or so).  Also, it could be best suited for account service, client service, planning or related “client-facing” types of jobs — those where the skills aren’t (or can’t) be easily taught in a classroom environment.

But if it were successful, candidates would have the ability to learn from some of the best and brightest, and apply that functional knowledge wherever they go.  And this type of program has the ability to produce some of the most well-rounded and talented employees available for years to come.

Logistically, is it simple? No.

But, it’s just crazy enough that it might work.

Predictions and Trends

Its that time of year again.

The time when everyone and their dog, cat and goldfish makes their predictions about what the biggest trends will be in the coming year.  And, like every year, its a shot in the dark.  Sometimes those predictions are right, sometimes they’re horribly wrong.

That being said, this year I say we crowdsource the whole prediction thing.  I’d like to know what you, dear readers, think will be the big trends in 2010, and any predictions you’d like to make.

Comment away.

Why I Don’t Write About Layoffs Anymore

For the past several months, you may have noticed that news of layoffs has been absent from the Idaho Ad Agencies blog.  And it’s not an accident.

Several months ago, I made a conscious decision to stop writing about “layoffs, downsizing, staff reductions” or whatever other name you want to call it.  Why?  A few different reasons.

There’s enough layoff news going around already.  For the past year (and more), news of layoffs has been everywhere.  Name the medium, name the industry — it was there.  And that sort of news gets old.  Quick.

It puts a spotlight on those who have been affected, whether they’re ready for it or not.

And, quite frankly, it’s draining.  In many cases, these are friends and colleagues, and it’s hard not to let it get to you.

So there you have it.  If you’re looking for the latest layoff news, I’m afraid to say this isn’t the place you’re going to find it.

Is it Better to be Bad than Good?

That is the second half of a question that’s been bouncing around in the back of my head for some time now (we’ll get to the rest of it in a moment).  Allow me to explain…

When it comes to marketing and advertising, good is just that — it’s good.  It meets the client’s objectives.  It pays the bills and keeps the lights on.  Good work breeds good work.

But is it memorable?

Bad work certainly is.

Let’s play a little game called recall.  The topic: Advertising for local car dealerships.  Television spots, specifically.  Glamorous, I know, but it serves the point.

When I mention the following Treasure Valley dealerships, do you remember what their recent spots looked like?

Meridian Ford
Dennis Dillon
Edmark Superstore
Team Mazda Subaru
Lithia of Boise

Of the five examples above, which garnered the most immediate or strongest response?  I would be willing to bet that it was Team Mazda Subaru.  You know the spots.  You’ve seen them.  Thanks to some effective media buying they’re hard to miss.  And that leads to the rest of the question:

If you’re not willing to be great, is it better to be bad than good?

Bad, in most cases, is just that.  It makes people cringe.  It elicits a strong reaction.  But it’s also memorable.  Despite your best intentions, I’m sure you can rattle off at least a half-dozen examples of bad advertising that you’ve seen over the years.  And in each case, I’d bet you can remember exactly who the ad was for, and what it was about.  Try as we might, bad ads are unforgettable.

But so are great ones.

The great ones do more than just meet the client’s objectives.  They influence an industry.  They change a culture.  As those who study this business come to realize, it’s the great ads that set, and in many cases reset, the bar by which others are judged.

Lest you think this discussion is limited only to television, it isn’t — it applies to all mediums.  The Bad / Good / Great distinction can take place anywhere.  In broadcast, online, direct, even face to face.

In all cases, Bad is just bad — memorable, but bad.  Good is effective and meets expectations.  Great is a game-changer.

So how do you define the difference between good and great?  What are you doing on a daily basis to push your own work from good to great?  Does it matter to you?