All I have in this world is my word and my balls…
…and I don’t break ’em for no one”.
That infamous Scarface quote has been resounding with me recently, what with all the chat about revelations and where they sit in light of research companies (read the comments, they are fascinating). It reminds me of a client/other agency relationship version of brand swagger, which I wrote about a while ago.
When it comes to research, I still see the value of qual, but like Richard, would like research companies to surprise with proper insights – as I tweeted, the word insight is so horribly overused it’s not true.
In defence of research companies, the last lot I used for one of my clients did genuinely tell me things I didn’t know about my van driver target audience…such as the absolute necessity a van is, and how too premium a brand puts them off. Useful stuff when shaping a brief. But will I learn just as much by doing some on street qual, by reading trade magazines – these are just as likely to lead to plannerly awe (check out the Einstein quote on the last page) as anything else.
Research, in its many forms, should promote lateral thinking in the planner when he comes into contact with it, and inspire creative thought in all. This desire to hunt for the type of ‘plannerly awe’ should change a few things though.
No more should planners be quite so…passive when it comes to research. While i’m not advocating everyone attacking research companies (there’ll be blood on the streets of Ealing, in Mintel’s offices and around Synovate, if we’re not careful), I think planning has a horrible tendancy to sit back too much, even in all agency meetings.
Don’t be scared of being ballsy in them, of coming across as a little obnoxious – because, ultimately, it’s your responsibility to your client to make sure the work works, and is as applicable to the target audience as it can be.
The same applies to the tired old media laydowns that get dragged out when the direction of the work changes/with a new year. Why is there £5m in TV? What proof do we have that it works? Do we have any benchmarks (SEO ‘specialists’, i’m looking at you) – did they work for other brands in the sector? Why are our target audience based upon TGI (or worse, some sodding ‘proprietary’ tool that the agency has which they don’t understand or bother to explain)? It’s something which is deeply, deeply flawed in its sampling.
Why don’t the agencies use our experiences of the target and properly craft an audience? Surely this is far better than flicking more budget into stuff which didn’t really work last year but no-one got sacked, so it’s ok…
By being slightly more opinionated (not annoyingly so – media chaps and research folk are your friends in doing good comms), the work will get better. You’ll, to use that horrible, horrible phrase, ‘add value’.
Lazy thinking does us no favours – you have to want the work to work, and filter out all the needless, unbenchmarkable (is that a word? ah well..), non creative thoughts which are brought to bear.
My promise to clients is to always say that i’ll not bullshit them, nor will I hide if i’m not sure about something, or if the work didn’t work. Easy to type, not so easy to live up to. But it’s a good standard, and prevents my planning disappearing up its own bottom.
Christ, if we worked towards a feeling of awe for our comms, just think of how powerful they could be. They may never scale these giddy heights, but it’s better to aim for the stars than not.