How Hard Do You Fight?

On paper, everyone wants the same thing – the most effective advertising possible. In reality, agencies and clients often have staggeringly different perspectives on what effective advertising means. We tear our hair out because we know, intuitively and empirically, that creative advertising sells better. Yet clients often prefer to stick within category conventions – they’ll choose wallpaper over “wacky”. We know that telling people exactly what we want them to think can have the exact opposite effect in terms of persuasion. Our clients worry too much subtlety is a luxury they can’t afford. We know that strategy means sacrifice and the more messages you cram into an Ad, the less messages will land. The client has five messages they want to convey, and don’t understand why they can’t convey them all.

So we find mutual frustration.

And it’s all very well the agency making their expert arguments, but clients aren’t living in a theoretical world. They’re juggling more than advertising effectiveness. They’re dealing with internal pressures, multiple stakeholders and financial accountability. When you realise the complexities driving client decisions, even those that you disagree with, you usually empathise and wonder whether you would behave any differently in their situation.

Except we’re not in their situation. We have a very specific job – if you’re a planner, your only important job is to make their advertising more effective. So the real question becomes: should we give clients what they need, rather than what they want? And how hard are we prepared to fight for the best possible work?

Because fighting gets exhausting. But as soon as we stop, we’ve given up. We’ve let our client down, even if they’re pleased we’ve stopped pushing. We’ll give them what they want, and it will be crap, and it will not sell anything for them. Then we’ll have even less credibility the next time around, when we try to convince them that advertising works.

In the end, we keep fighting the good fight.  We push hard, and we coax softly, and we convince slowly. We hope the effort is worth it and delivers results. And hopefully they’ll even thank us for it one day.

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  1. A fine segmentation can be a good answer, federating several arguments within a global comms idea.

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