The Theatre Of The Absurd


For a lot of agencies and clients, the whole process of buying and selling advertising has turned into a circus.

The advertising business is staffed by a depressingly high percentage of clowns with endless “decks” [O Lord, how we despise that word] of PowerPoint slides often over-complicating things and banging on about issues only tangentially relevant to any proposed creative solution.

We’ve all endured and winced our way through unnecessary lengthy and painful presentations where it seems the main agenda is for the agency to showboat their zeitgeisty cleverness and irresistible charm to potential suitors.

To help them woo clients and create some faux differentiation amongst their equally homogenous competitors, often agencies will propagate a mystical and supposedly unique proprietary process for the development of creative work [Idea-Ideation NonsenseTM or somesuch bollocks].

The reality is that behind the glitzy curtain and cast of thousands of no-marks, the task of generating a big idea to help transform a brand’s fortunes invariably falls to a couple of talented people in a room together chatting through the problem and coming up with interesting possible solutions.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You can’t plan your way to a big idea, someone's actually got to have a big idea.

No matter how many fucking pages the brief runs to and how many fucking conversations about strategy you have, at the end of the day somebody needs to knuckle down to provide the inspiration and creative magic.

These days it feels like most agencies place way, way too much emphasis and importance on the song and dance of the whole shebang presentation almost at the expense of the creative work itself.

The situation is often exacerbated in times of new business by the whole charade of the pitch process, where everyone wants to show how frilly their knickers are by parading more charts, detail and information than those harvested by GCHQ as part of the Prism surveillance operation.

It’s almost as if agencies forget that the thing that clients are actually buying is the end product of a piece of advertising rather than a 120 page PowerPoint presentation.

Punters aren’t going to be exposed to a 120 page deck as part of a TV campaign so why put clients through the misery?

We’re proud to say we’ve never, ever done a Powerpoint presentation. And we never will.

Clearly it’s essential to be insightful, articulate and compelling when presenting clients with creative recommendations but we’ve found the old-fashioned trick of sitting down and talking face to face with clients works a treat.

Sometimes an approach with minimal props, minimal fuss, minimal diagrams, minimal charts, minimal preamble helps put the creative work, the thing that clients are actually buying, on a pedestal.

And if the advertising is really good enough and it’s bang on for what the client needs, it’s often best to let the creative work speak for itself.

The best clients know their shit. They know their brands inside-out. They know what the problems are. They just need an agency to help them fix them with some smart advertising.

What they don’t need is the hot air and filibustering foreplay of a PowerPoint marathon to distract them from the main event of getting to the point and showing them the bloody creative work.

In my experience, this is especially true of CEOs and senior marketing folk who think fast and work fast. They spend their whole business lives quickly grasping issues, getting to the heart of problems and making swift decisions.

It’s well worth remembering that in any presentation these types are always going to be impatiently thinking “I really hope they’re going to show me a great idea?” rather than “I really hope they’re going to show me lots of thinking purloined from Godin/Shirky/Gladwell, some pen portraits/smiley pictures of my target audience and a nice brand onion full of meaningless adjectives”.

I know it’s easy and lazy to cite Steve Jobs, but in this instance, I think his wisdom is so true and painfully applicable to the world of advertising.

In the Walter Isaacson biography, he’s quoted as saying “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint”.

Now, we can’t all be Steve Jobs. But if we all know what we’re talking about we can ditch the deck and get by without using PowerPoint.

Remember. It’s not the deck that people are going to remember. It’s the ads.

3 comments:

Ian said...

What this post needs to drive the point home is a really good mood film. Preferably backed by a Sigur Ros track.

Anonymous said...

I fucking love this post. It's no coincidence that the best most read advertising blog writers share the same view.

But these days agencies can make a lot of money out of doing little but selling planning decks.

Daniel said...

This, my admired friends of SELL! SELL!, should be mandatory reading in every agency and ad school.

Every chance I've had, I've done it that way, sharing the stage with my amazing Account Bro (I'm a writer). And we won. And the client loved it. Maybe we where lucky? Maybe.

However, I'm afraid that hordes of Managers (and a more than considerable bunch of CDs) wouldn't feel backed enough to present without a shitload of painfully honed slides/doc pages ("The Decks have to sell"... bollocks! WE sell the work). And money per hour invested seems more appealing, trustworthy and billable to them than the value/idea ratio.

Keep up the spirit and the smart and punchy work. You are not alone, we are legion.



PS: By the way, Mr. Jobs was an absolut whizz in mostly every aspect of business, but he wasn't always so eager to buy an Idea. Even such a great one: http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2011/12/14/the-real-story-behind-apples-think-different-campaign/