Monday, May 30, 2011

Day-um it's been a long time

(To the 2 or 3 of you who actually read Juggling in the Dark, my apologies for not posting anything since April 19. I've been too slack and lazy and occupied with other things.

That's my argument for social media overkill -- takes so much time to do the blog, Facebook and Twitter. But that's for another day.)


There are a couple of very good pieces in Ads Age Daily recently about creative briefs (Briefs. Get it, huh? Get it? Oh never mind, I'm sorry.). One point of view is that clients need to give their agencies better briefs and one that follows comes from the school of "the agency should go get a better brief".

Here they both are:
The first one.
The other one.

Both of them spurred interesting comments and online "discussion". I think I tend to come down on the side of "go get the brief", since we've always figured that initiation of the brief is our responsibility, not the client's. That said, I think clients do have a responsibility to give us as much direction as they can when they have an assignment - and, if not, we have to insist on asking lots of questions - questions with answers to which we're entitled.

I'm not talking necessarily about major new campaigns here necessarily, as a Small Agency, a lot of our work is projects. But whether it's a small assignment like a single promotion ad or a new campaign, I think that the client has an obligation - to itself if nobody else - to think it out before they pick up the phone and call the agency.

And even then, the agency may have to force a bit of thinking.

I think all of us have had the experience of being handed an assignment that may rest on no other reason for being than the fact that somebody got a bonus insertion or wants to try a new media outlet. And, I think many of us have been guilty of going ahead on, say a new campaign with an existing client without really probing to find out what they want to accomplish. It's just to easy to assume that you know the client and you know their positioning and you know the objectives.

Honestly, "we need an ad tomorrow, here are the specs" isn't enough to go on.

But on the flip side, I've been down that road where the client approves the brief - and maybe even makes some comments and/or changes on it - only to come back when you present creative that follows the brief laid out in the strategy with a different point of view. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you get the feeling that they aren't really focused on it. Like it or not, there are folks out there who, like art and porn, don't know what it is but assume they will know it when they see it when it comes to creative that is on strategy.

And that not only can make for a lot of extra work for the agency, but also (and more important) it can result in an ill-focused bit of work for the client.

So I guess both of the guys mentioned above have good points. (Can't say the same for one commenter who said : "The creative brief is a dead as Lindsay Lohan's career. Today what is needed is not a document such as a creative brief but in a relationship where agency and brand marketers are connected via constant communication and Intranet sites." Sorry, but what a total doofus.)

If you're a client, think it through before you get anybody started on anything. Or at least get your agency to think it through with you.

And if you're an agency, don't be lulled into thinking you can bang ahead on a project without any form of brief or clear thought from your clients. Even if you have to pry it out of them.

Bottom line, I suppose, is that if it's going to help us to better work, it's up to us to get it.