« mail problems | Main | darth strategist »


That's brilliant. Not incoherent at all.

Your idea velocity is riding high. Again.

Interesting, but you are still talking about putting highly polished campaigns out into the marketplace, right? These days I wonder if people are more interested in things they can finish off themselves.

Post of the month.

helpul and interesting. I'm learning lots.

james - absolutely. The best communications always leave room for the audience to do something. In their head or in the world. That's why simplification and reductionism is often so stifling.

That is brilliant, thanks so much for sharing it Russell.

Makes me feel better about my wanting to get to a "ballpark" too, so I can have that fun with strategy and execution merging, rather than necessarily always a pointy pointy creative brief.

I know this is a super naff question, but: how do you get your hand writing onto the slides?

Is it an Apple thing?

It works for me!

Paul, don't you use hand writing on your blog?

No. I use a scrawl that I do with a mouse in photoshop.

Super post.
The point you make about strategy/execution is completely true for other communication as well (music for instance), and so easy to overlook in my opinion.
The digital - analogic split is a very helpful way to explain it.

James: by "finishing it off by themselves", do you mean that literally, as in submitting an ad, or actually producing something, or more theoretically/abstractly, like in their mind? Isn't good advertising or creative communication dialogical in a way that allows people to finish it off by themselves simply by leaving part of the meaning construction to their own imagination or creativity?

This is brilliantly put, and very interesting. I've been in planning for all of 3 months, interning with an agency in New York.

2 days in, my boss sat me down and showed me a diagram (that we show clients) that looked exactly like the slide you have of the model most agencies try to sell.

I know you're a fan of complexity - are there agencies with this in their DNA, do you think, or is this very much your own schtick?

I think the diagram that most agencies try to sell their clients is just that: a diagram, a sign that has been designed to express something complex in simple semiotic terms. Just like the signs for male and female toilets. However the problem is that we have forgotten that it is a sign and take it as a literal descriptor of the process.
And the other thing of course is the fear of chaos that stops a lot people accepting the truth about any kind of change or development.

Your point about idea generation is indisputably accurate. And I will personally inflict bodily pain to planners, agency heads and brand consultants who dispute this view.

The problem with the ‘conventional model’ [illustration 1] is that perfect logic and the subsequent narrowing down of strategic possibilities will drive everybody to exactly the same spot, given that the everyone’s data is typically extremely similar to begin with. Creativity as an integral part of strategy development is therefore critical in order to generate ideas that not only differentiate from the competition, but can also engage and entertain people so that want to find out more (consideration).

One of planning’s challenges to get interesting ideas to gain traction in [some] clients’ minds is to package and sell the ‘unstructured’ process [illustration 1] as a the ‘structured’ process [illustration 2]. I am currently working on pitch where one of the critical success factors will be exactly this. Validating the insights for our pitch idea will require some rather left field methods. We need to be able to package this in line with ‘illustration 1’ and link it all to the client’s own research to stand a chance.

By the way, how much would you charge me for your artistic impressions of the idea generating processes with a couple of decent frames to go along with them?

Absolutely. Brilliant. Stuff.

I don't agree with every word (I think simplicity can work well, for example) but the level of insight and force of argument is stunning.

The slide with all the car print ads is in itself sheer genius. Incidentally, one could argue that this slide is the fault of the creatives? Who knows - maybe the planner in each case gave them a brilliant strategy, and the creative could only come up with a plodding execution.

Although to be fair to my own breed, showing the car normally comes as a client mandate.

Genius. I had a similar conversation about how the ad agency filters 25 great messages down into one really great message but leaves the other 24 on the scrap heap with a client recently. I told them it was why they should start blogging in earnest - get the messages out there. Similarly, we're working on a pitch at the mo, and didn't have the foggiest idea about the target audience. So we sent a planner and suit out every night for 2 weeks, and then we told the creatives what we found. No proposition, no brief, just a load of info (and videos and pictures). They loved it, and came back with some great work.

Very stimulant discussion that is specially interesting to me, a beginner account planner in an advertising agency in Brazil.

paul - I use a tablet pc and just write on the screen. It's a great thing. It means you can do it at the last minute, or during the presentation.

Great post Russell! Thanks for this thoughtflow. One of the my favorite posts on here actually. I remember the tennis ball bit at the APC in chicago a couple years back. The whole execution is strategic and tennis ball bit is so astutely clarifying.

Design Observer's Michael Beirut had a post a couple weeks back about 'process':


He likens the process for creating great work to that of a software development firm or a theater company:

"The product, a play executes again and again with great precision, incorporating significant innovations every time, but finishing within 30 seconds of the same length every time." They are careful to identify the defining characteristics of this kind of work: allowing solutions to emerge in a process of iteration, rather than trying to get everything right the first time; accepting the lack of control in the process, and letting the improvisation engendered by uncertainty help drive the process; and creating a work environment that sets clear enough limits that people can play securely within them. They call this artful making: in short, 'any activity that involves creating something entirely new.'"

And they say that there is no such thing as a free lunch! Russell, you have given us all something to chew on for some time.

thank you for all this. It's already a couple of years I was struggling to understand you tennis ball metaphore. And I guess I've been tedious enough odeo-ing you about it asking explanations.

Getting to the strategy/execution point, I think there's something you said that brings the whole thing to another level:
"A good strategist involves the executers as soon and as often as possible".

I think it may happen planners lock themself into a room with tons of papers, articles, researches, blogs and whatever else we may need and forget to share with creatives until sometimes very late. And this happens for the fear of giving them a far-to-broad brief. And the fear of creatives taking a bad route.

We should keep in mind that post-rationalization isn't a crime. Like skateboarding.

I'm not trolling for my blog (don't come, you'll hate it!) but in case Maurice Saatchi doesn't get around to posting a rebuttal of his own, I have put a counter-argument to Russell's presentation on my blog.

I must stress it's written from love and respect.

I just think it's good to hear the other point of view sometimes.

Indeed, in the words of Argyris and Schon (full text via the 'theories in use' link near the top of Russell's presentation), learning is more effective if "the basic assumptions behind views are confronted, hypotheses are tested publicly, and processes are disconfirmable, not self-sealing."

Basically, i'm a creative, and if I can stop one planner from valuing complexity over simplicity then that will be good. More than one would be great.

Scamp, I think the point is that the single creative idea can be simple, while the brand itself is complex.

This is why I don't believe in the "one word thing" or the single brand proposition or other stuff like this.

A brand to me is more like a molecule, a value connector. And different single ideas make it a complex reality.

Does it makes any sense?

Yes, what you are saying makes sense - that brands are complex.

Not sure I agree though. A lot of brands seem quite simple to me. Just a property, and a tone of voice. E.g. the property of Axe is that it will get you laid, and the tone of voice is laddish humour.

But I actually wasn't talking about brands. Maybe they are complex. I dont know. Not an expert.

I was talking about ads, and briefs.

My contention is that good ads are simple.

And in my experience, good briefs are simple.

And the one leads to the other.

I don't like complex processes, wasted time, or lots of words.

My plea to planners is just use a few words, but make them really good ones.

Certainly one word only for the proposition.

The comments to this entry are closed.