Before we continue, I want to make sure I follow the health and safety regulations here at MediaPost. We take them very seriously, so I want to make sure you are sitting down when you read the following quote, per CMO.com: “Just 27% of agencies reported that clients provide clear assignment briefs. Meanwhile, 58% of clients think they are doing a good job.”
That's right, only about one in four agency representatives think their clients can articulate what they actually want that banner ad to say.
I know for a fact that Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, recycles this very same research document every year. The only thing Bob does is change the cover photo and the year in the title.
OK, that's actually not true. It is true that the briefing issue has been around for as long as there have been advertising agencies (the first-ever agency launched in 1786, says Wikipedia).
As Jon Steele explained in “Truth, Lies and Advertising”: “The brief is an ad to inspire the creative team.” In today’s communication chaos environment we can replace the word “creative” in that sentence with any other function in the communication mix.
Creating a good bit of advertising is very difficult to do -- probably even more difficult today than it was in the “Mad Men” era. Back then, it was David Ogilvy who stated, “Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.” Meanwhile, Leo Burnett said: “We want consumers to say, 'That's a hell of a product' instead of, 'That's a hell of an ad.'” Great communications work, and so the process must start with a great briefing.
Also per the study, only 36% of agencies find that their clients have a clear, helpful and timely approval process, whereas more than half of all advertisers (54%) think their approval process is fan-tas-tic.
Again, I am siding with the agencies. Fact is, many companies work with what I call the “socializing an idea” approach. This means that every person you present your strategy or campaign to will point to another person within the organization who also needs to have a say. My record is 27 different approvers.
One of the many problems with this approach is that out of the 27 people, about three or four will actually have some helpful feedback that leads to a revision of your original proposal. These changes mean that, unfortunately, you are now going back to “start,” and the whole approval circus begins all over again.
My recommendation for marketers and agencies is, just invest a little time and create a simple RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) grid that explains who should be involved and who has the last and final call on approval. That RACI should not have more than 10 names on it -- preferably fewer.
Try it. I guarantee you will spend much more time discussing the merits of the proposal -- and much less time saying “That’s a really interesting idea. Have you presented this to so-and-so, our VP of whatever?”