A stockpile of observations about people, and the business of advertising

Wednesday December 18, 2013

written by Denise Kohnke

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When you’re in this business for a long time, you note constants.  They’re validated nearly every day, which makes you think there is nothing new in behavior. People haven’t changed – only context has.

So here is what I know to be true:

People have the potential to be great. In fact, many are really good, just unrecognized. Unrecognized by supervisors, and by clients. This is the biggest barrier to career fulfillment and getting great work produced.

Ad agency people, if they’re good, have ideas. Lots of ideas. Ideas are laying about the halls of agencies, and they are kicked out of the way to walk. The issue is that people of influence don’t recognize the ideas to be worthy. “No” is easier than seeing the vision of what could be. Agencies need to move from a culture of “no, it won’t work” to “how it can be made better.”

We are not in the interesting business. We’re in the advertising business, which is the stock market business for clients.  Our job is to make clients money. Fortunately for us, the more interesting we make our work, the more money our clients make. Client understanding of that irony is what impedes success for us, and ultimately success for our clients. It’s the bravery paradox.

Good photos, the ones you pay a photographer for and retouch, outperform free or inexpensive photos, but the campaign results are rarely attributed to the photo. Or the art director on the shoot. Give credit where credit is due. Celebrate photographers and their art directors.

Great ideas poorly executed fail. Poor ideas poorly executed fail. Execution costs money and time, but it matters.

User generated content has lowered the public’s median for good. And clients’. And our own. We would all benefit from higher standards. Go back in time, study history, apply it to today and people will think you’re a genius. Hint: Whatever you concept and execute  will take more effort. Back in the day, ad people spent more time thinking and more time producing.

If clients don’t like your work, find out what they don’t like about it. If they can’t articulate what they don’t like, they don’t understand it. If they don’t understand it, you have to scrap it, because the public won’t understand it. If they understand it but don’t like it because of their own sensibilities, then learn another style, broaden your own value and make your client happy.

Leonardo and Michelangelo were commissioned artists. They had clients. Their clients told them what to do. We have clients. They tell us what to do. Collaboration is really commerce by another word. It can still be art.

Every day we are presented with 1000 ways to compromise whatever we’re doing to make it less good, or “good enough.” Understand the context of what you’re doing, and know where to invest your time. People who win wars do not fight every battle available to them. Same with ninjas. Be an ad ninja.

Never give up on being honest, going an extra ten miles to chase perfection when it matters, or learning the next thing to be learned. Despair happens when you break your promises. And those are the promises you make to yourself.

 

Denise Kohnke is the EVP of Strategy at Laughlin Constable.

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