Monday, October 1, 2007

Industrial quantities of Shazoom

Last weekend I enjoyed a video called Razzle Dazzle. In it, Mr Jonathan, a children’s’ dance instructor, decides the only way to win the big dance competition is with ‘industrial quantities of shazoom.’ His phrase was amusing and yet familiar, like some of the briefs and debriefs I’ve received overs the years.

Other unhelpful instructions have included, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” “We want to ‘out Coke’ Coke.” and “I hate orange.”

To quote Melinda Eskell, one of the world’s best agency suits now working for Heineken, “Creatives want specifics.” Her 3 word statement is almost military in it’s directness and brevity. But it sums up perfectly what we need to do our jobs well.

Defining specifics is hard work but someone has to do it to start writing ads. If you leave it to the creatives we’ll wander all over the place. We might go to the right place but probably not. No, this tough job should be dealt with by the client.

As regular readers will know, I am a big believer in giving the specific of budget. Some clients keep this a secret. Much time wasting and heartache usually follows. AND they don’t save any money!

Concrete specifics like media, size and timing are usually not too hard. If logos are needed, supply them. If reference would help, supply it. You want your creatives answering the brief, not searching for an ad your company did in the US ‘a while ago’.

More abstract specifics might include, ‘Who are we advertising to … really’ I spent years advertising Philips products to consumers. Over a beer with the client I discovered the real target was the sales staff in the stores!

Debriefing is no less demanding. “It’s just not there yet.” is a very lazy way to respond to initial creative work. This sort of phrase fools no one. The speaker is usually out of his or her depth. If so, they should admit it and ask for help from their agency. They’ll get more respect, do a better job and be more knowledgeable next time.

Go through the brief to see that it has been answered. If the work is off brief it is wrong. Either change the brief or ask (a second time) for the work to be ON brief. End of discussion.

Sometimes creative work IS on brief but is still not exciting or interesting. If so, be specific about what doesn’t work. Don’t say, ‘it needs to be more surprising.’ You’ll get Eskimos fighting Aliens next time round. Be specific. For example you could say, ‘A mother cooking dinner in her kitchen is a bit familiar. Can she be preparing the meal somewhere else? A boat, a beach house, a friend’s house?’ Being specific gets you involved in the process rather than sitting in judgement. And it gives your creatives some direction.

So get specific and get great work. Or cross your fingers and ask for industrial quantities of shazoom.