Many years ago I was fortunate enough to sit in a training course in Ogilvy Singapore conducted by then Global Creative Director Neil French. He was trying to educate a bunch of suits on what Great Advertising is – not just good…but GREAT. His method was interesting. He showed a reel of Award Winning TVC’s from previous years award shows. So all were winners, and one could argue were already Great. He then instructed us to vote on a 10 point scale. Of course after the first few ads had been played – and we’d all given those spots a 7 or an 8 (pretty good) - he told us we could only use the numbers under 5 or a 9 or 10. So they were either great. Or they weren’t.
Given Neil’s personality, use of profanity and general fear that he instilled in most junior suits it was quite a memorable way of forcing you to question whether something is GREAT – or just kind of OK. Most of us were comfortable with 6’s 7’s or 8’s.
But are we setting our standards high enough? Given the number of average ads on TV , let alone great ones maybe our standards aren’t high enough.
Now I am in the world of media I know we aren’t striving for GREAT.
I have heard too many times the phrase “at least they are doing something…” Usually in the context of new media. Or Search. Or Social Media activity. The fact that a client is doing something is seen as good – as doing something is seen as better than doing nothing.
Now call me old fashioned – but I tend to disagree. It’s a bit like giving a ten year old a violin and asking them to play something. Any sound they make is better than nothing ?? No it’s not. Silence would be better than hearing a sound that resembles fingers on a black board.
Getting a client to ‘do’ Search or Social just so they’ve ticked a box is responsible for users seeing crap on their Facebook pages or spending money on paid ads when their organic rankings are already going to get them the visibility they crave.
The difference between Great Search or great Social – or Great Media in general is huge – in terms of value, impact, relevance and engagement. But why do we settle for good… or even encourage poor just to get a client into a new medium?
Maybe we need more Neil French’s in our side of the industry – bullying and cajoling media teams as well as clients into a more binary view of our business – make it great or keep your money in your pocket!
At Maxus we have banned the expression “at least they are doing something…” or else my ten year old will visit with her violin.
As to an example of great work - I think what Dell is doing (not our client) with their Direct2Dell initiative has turned around a very closed and combative organisation who had failed to embrace the blogging community into a very open and collaborative organisation... Some brilliant work for Axe in Japan (not our client) in the mobile application space is another example of not just doing something in the mobile marketing space - just to give it a go - but doing something that really uses the potential of the medium, a real insight - Japanese guys use their mobiles as an alarm clock - and integrates the brand perfectly into the medium.
The author is Neil Stewart, CEO for Maxus in Asia Pacific.