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Preparing Your Client for the Zombie Apocalypse


Brothers & Sisters' Juliet Haygarth's surival guide for high risk campaigns

Preparing Your Client for the Zombie Apocalypse

Last week at Eurobest, Brothers and Sisters MD Juliet Haygarth laid down a survival guide to protect brave ideas from the walking dead. Here, she breaks out the chainsaw and practices her headshots...

Why aren’t there more creatively brave campaigns out there?


I don’t believe it’s because the industry is short of talent or ambition.  The best thing about working in advertising is the brilliant people you meet along the way.  No one I’ve ever worked with has knowingly set out to develop a lackluster piece of work.

There are two sides to creative bravery.  Having the creatively brave idea in the first place and nurturing and developing that idea so it sees the light of day with its original DNA intact.  

There is a massive difference between having a brave idea and making that idea happen.  A brave idea happens because of all the often overlooked bits of the agency spring into action like a well-oiled machine.  Everything from recruitment, to operations, process, project management and account management can make or break a brave idea.

When I first started out, making brave ideas happen was easier than it is now.  There were just two media channels, TV and Print.  Clients came to agencies maybe once a year to commission a glossy campaign.  They weren’t the experts in broadcasting message, we were.  This gave an agency its authority and a mystique that was immediately respected.  

Nowadays, clients are media owners and content providers.  They are managing conversations with their audience day in day out.  The rate of change is stupendously fast and they’re balancing the needs of brand and ROI, data and metrics in their heads at all times.  It takes real balls for a client, or an agency, to make a leap of faith in this climate.

The world has changed and at least some of the techniques of getting a brave idea out of the door need to change with them.  As an industry we could do with a full debate on how agencies might maximize their strike rate of making brave ideas happen.  In the meantime, here are some thoughts to get us started:

No phonies, zeros or bastards
David Ogilvy’s words not mine.  Making a brave campaign is a team game and involves every discipline in the agency. You need authentic people who understand how to work together. Once you’ve got the right people, empower them to do their thing.  Don’t be tempted to micro manage, you will only knacker everyone’s confidence.

Create a shared agenda, internally and externally
Define what you’re looking to do up front – if a client feels you are pursuing creative bravery for your own fame and fortune they won’t come with you.  If they feel that a brave idea is an effective way to unlock their knotty business problem, you have a fighting chance.  Understand where the brief fits into the commercial landscape, how the idea will be approved and your client’s attitude to risk.

Be a ‘professional radical’
A lot can be learnt form HHCL’s positioning of ‘professional radical.’  Even though the agency is consigned to the advertising history books, their back catalogue of brilliant work stands the test of time.  They understood that to do radical work, the professionalism needed to be second to none.  Why should the client take a big creative leap with you if you aren’t good on the day-to-day? 

Collaboration doesn’t have to be a dirty word
It can’t be ‘us and them’ anymore.  You are more likely to make brave work as a partner, than a supplier or a distant expert who stays entirely on the high ground with a ‘we know best’ approach.

Collaborating doesn’t mean you have to let go of your expertise or agree with everything the client says.  It means having authentic relationships that stand the test of time.  It means listening well, being open, giving your honest opinion and knowing when to make a stand. 

Don’t hide anyone in the backroom
In the olden days it was often left to Account Management to act as a filter for all conversations and information.  Everyone from creatives to production experts were hidden from view because they were considered incapable of holding a polite conversation, or they were viewed as special creatures that ought to be protected from clients at all cost (lest it sully the purity of their vision).  This is stupid and patronizing.

Account Management should act as a conductor of an orchestra, knowing when to field which member of the team.  There is nothing more compelling than a creative talking passionately about their idea; there is nothing more reassuring than a production expert talking a client through how a new technique might be achieved.  

Be careful how you present brave ideas
You need to figure out a way to present a creatively brave idea so it feels like a reasonable business decision rather than a one off rush of blood to the head.  Don’t go into old-fashioned ‘sell’ mode. No one enjoys being sold to. A brave idea shouldn’t come out of nowhere, your client should have a sensed of where you’re headed before the meeting.

With creatively brave work, the launch day is a start point not an end point. Brave work is usually polarizing and gets people talking.  Given the power of social media, managing this conversation is an inherent part of the brief.  It involves a lot of up front preparation and scenario planning.  If you fail to do this, you can be 100% certain that something will bite you and the client on the arse.  Once that’s happened the chances that client will make a big creative leap again are minimal.

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Brothers & Sisters, Tue, 10 Dec 2013 12:04:31 GMT