The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

A[P]SOTW: The Art Of Persuasion.
March 18, 2009, 6:00 am
Filed under: Advertising [Planning] School On The Web

Despite much of adland claiming to be media agnostic [or some other equally as wank phrase] the reality is that in most cases, the solution they come up with for every client problem is an ad.

Worse … the solution most agencies come up with is an ad that promotes the problem, rather than amplifies a carefully developed solution.

What frustrates me most about this approach is that we all accept there’s always more than one way to overcome a problem, and yet 99% of the time we choose the easiest option available.

Now there’s loads of reasons for this … clients closed mind, agencies incompetence to know how to charge for something other than an ad, creatives inability to think in anything other than print or film … however I think there’s someone who is more to blame, and that is the planner.

Yep, I am slagging off my own … but the thing is, if you take planning to its lowest common denominator, it’s about making a brand ‘fit in’ rather than stand out so almost from the start we’re doomed in driving new thinking forward.

And the thing is, if we want to feel we are the ignition behind great ideas, then we have to take responsibility for giving our creative partners something fresh and focused to work off plus – and this is a critical element – getting any pedantic, small-minded, conservative clients to accept this fresh strategy/creative as sound business [and common] sense.

[Note: Planners need to stop just focusing on input and start judging their abilities on output. Planners who claim brilliance even though the work produced is generic cateory bollocks need to take a long hard look at themselves. You want the glory? Well take some of the responsibility … we’re in this together and having a departmentalised mentality is one of the reasons this industry is not as powerful – or as fun – anymore]

Which leads to the point of this A[P]SOTW assignment.

Unlike many out there, I believe the fundamental goal of marketing/advertising is to sell stuff.

That doesn’t mean executing hard sell bullshit like so much of the retail category do, but it is about finding ways that will motivate the masses to want to find out more …

[After that, the clients role and responsibility in the whole process really kicks up a gear because if they can’t offer a product/service/delivery/etc that meets people’s needs/wants, then the lack of sales is their fault, not ours – though these issues should have taken place way before a single idea was thought about, though I appreciate too often adland is excluded from this vital part of the process rather than actively embraced. I remind clients we’re called ADVERTISING, not SELLVERTISING – so if they want us to take more responsibility for our role [which I agree we should] then they have to let us have more influence throughout the process rather than just the last 10%]

Anyway, back to the post …

Photo: Madh

Where was I? Oh yes – motivating the masses to find out more.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, to achieve this goal is not about carefully crafting pieces of 30” CGI … nor is it using social networks or digital as a whole … it is about getting back to what great advertising has done for decades, persuade.

The power of persuasion seems to be a dying art in adland, and yet in a World of parity products and categories, it is possibly more important than ever before.

Whilst I appreciate to create a reasoned argument [based on fact] that encourages people to follow your point of view rather than a competitors is often quite dependent on having the right material [ie: the clients brand/product] to play with, the reality is that often it’s about creating magic with what you’ve got, rather than what you wish you had.

Maybe it’s because of my families background in law – however I’ve always regarded barristers as the epitome of persuasion pitching.

Their ability to work within a fixed framework and yet craft reasoned arguments that can change juries opinions/agendas/viewpoints/appreciation of ‘facts’ is amazing and I believe adland should take a closer look at how they operate [well, how the good ones operate] because it might help them understand how they can create even more powerful communication … communication that persuades and motivates the masses rather than tries to brainwash them or beat them into submission.

OK, I accept the rules that judge ‘success’ in law are very different to the rules that determine whether a client chooses your campaign over a competitors – however persuasion is a deadly weapon and as much as it has often been used in adland to get clients to buy ‘bland’, it can also be used to get clients to buy ‘new’.

One of the things we do internally is give our planners a brand and then randomly throw words at them to which they have to create a reasoned argument linking the brand to the word.

ie: SONY and Determination … or Microsoft and Mischievous

You’d be amazed how powerful this is in helping planners look beyond the blinkered paths our brains push us into …

Anyway all this leads to the A[P]SOTW challenge.

Your goal is to create a strategic argument why your particular country should adopt this flag as its new national emblem.

Photo: Gittsy Ruthie

Remember, a flag supposedly represents the essence of a country … it’s more than just visual symbolism, it is cultural and philosophical … so your response must convey this, it’s way beyond just iconography.

Now the rules.

1/ No more than 10 slides.

2/ Your argument must be based on facts [which must be verifiable or have evidence for]

3/ It must be true to your countries core values [you all have ’em 🙂 ]as well as relevant for their current state/situation.

4/ You must encapsulate your argument with a simple positioning statement – one that can clearly be understood by a fellow citizen and stranger alike.

That’s it …

Yes I know it’s very ambiguous … yes I know it looks like the kind of stuff I’m forever slagging off Landor … but this isn’t about design per se, it’s about making people believe, moving them into new territories rather than nurturing tired, old views, it’s about encouraging creative discovery rather than creative cliché … most of all, it’s about making us worth the money clients pay us again!

Because there is no way to ultimately judge a ‘winner’, the criteria we will be using for evaluating each entry will be things like flow of presentation, imagination, clarity and logic and to help in identifying this, I have enlisted the help of a number of people … people who are experts [professional or otherwise] who can judge cultural relevance, train of thought, logic and persuasive appeal and they
are …


Jill [tip-top designer]

Andy [underneath it all, quite talented creative]

Lauren [who I haven’t been able to ask yet, but I’m hoping she’ll say yes. Lauren?]

Judy [ex-CEO of Lonely Planet]

Stephen [cynic – and Nick Leeson’s – legal counsel]

My Mum

Entries to be sent to this address by midnight GMT, April 15th

Any problems/questions/issues – drop me a line, but most of all enjoy it – take our minds on a journey of discovery and adventure but make sure your twisted logic ends up being sound because in business it only counts if they sign on the line, and that tends to only happen* if it makes business sense, not just emotional.

Oh, and whilst I said this assignment was to help planners develop and sell better work, it is not limited to them … infact I encourage anyone who wants to have a go to enter, because not only is there no ‘wrong answer’ [so you don’t have to worry about looking silly, which you wouldn’t anyway] the fact is there are many situations in life where having the ability to persuade someone to think your way would be useful – especially where debt collectors are concerned, ha!

* Pepsi obviously are the exception to this rule, ha!

25 Comments so far
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The UK to adopt cuddly pigeons? Next up selling life insurance to cancer patients!

Kidding though, thanks for this 😀 Will have a go while on holiday I think. Consider yourself lucky to be so far away from London and the pigeons there. They have signs up in some stations saying ‘do not feed the pigeons, we’re trying to convince them life is better elsewhere’

Comment by Andrea

And no I haven’t been refreshing this page just so you know

Comment by Andrea

like fuck you havent been pressing refresh. i have time zones as my excuse, what the fuck is yours.

this assignment also works learning post rationalisation for those times creatives ignore what youve said on the grounds of it being uninteresting shit.

good one campbell. you let lauren down but its good all the same

Comment by andy@cynic

Interesting task Robert and an inspired decision to get Stephen as a judge, he’s wanted to step up to that position for years.

Comment by Lee Hill

campbells going to be fucking broke because my fee makes stephens look like pocket money

Comment by andy@cynic

Really interesting… I agree with Andy, this does feel like an exercise in post rationalization so i guess one of the challenges is trying not to sound like too much of a Landor abstract wanker and convincing people why you’re right. Nice (evil) work Rob, especially since I’m in Australia and knowing your views on Australian’s this is gonna be harder than it looks!

Comment by Age

I’m guessing Arnell squirls are not an acceptable justification Robert?

Evil assignment. Lovely.

Comment by Pete

Whilst this assignment is not about improving your post rationalisation skills, if it means it helps you help your creatives develop and sell better, more imaginative work, then that’s fine by me.

[acknowledging the ultimate goal is to be able to develop an idea that gets your creatives and clients energy and anticipation levels high from the very start]

Comment by Rob

Can I enter? I need some lab rats to test my new design theories on.

Comment by Peter Arnell

Is there any specific format we have to send our presentations in?

Comment by Dom Li

Any format you like Dom, but no more than 10 slides/pages/24 foot posters, ha!

And Mr Arnell, it’s so good to hear from you – I would love to be exposed to the evolution of your oval spiral bollocks.

What is it this time? Squares? 🙂

Comment by Rob

you know how i know that you wrote this a few days ago – i said yes on my blog yesterday, you crazy bugger… and now that i’ve seen this wacky assignment, it’s hammer time 🙂

and while it’s not strictly evil, it’s so wickedly absurd and fantastically right-on that i’m happy. evil will have to wait ’til the next one.

Comment by lauren

I’ll be watching this closely to get some tips for handling Mr Ive. 🙂

Was I seeing things or was there a post with some weird cat duck on here a moment ago?

Comment by Bazza

No Bazza, you’re not going mad – it was the result of a man not knowing what todays date is!

[You’ll see it again tomorrow 😉 ]

And Lauren, I’m glad you like it … and I hope I didn’t disappoint you as much as Andy thought I would by not making it suitably evil!

Comment by Rob

A wonderful project Robert and getting Stephen and your Mother to be additional judges is inspired.

Imagination and bravery can grab attention and interest but without facts and relevance to back everything up you may find clients reluctant to give the ultimate approval which for a creatively hungry, commercial operation is the key challenge and goal.

A very devious assignment but a very valuable one for a multitude of reasons. Welcome to the real World ladies and gentlemen, I will follow this closely.

Comment by George

Great point George and I can honestly say their involvement was done intentionally because I want to stop people [planners and researchers especially] speaking in an attempt to impress eachoterh rather than excite and inspire those around them … be it ad colleagues, clients or top end barristers and 76 year old Mum’s.

That doesn’t mean dumb down – it means common sense up 🙂

Comment by Rob

Love it.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

It sounds great. I won’t promise to take part and then never talk about it again. But I might give it a go. Would have been so much easier with sausages and Hitler for me.

Comment by Seb

Does anyone know if there is a list that exists of past assignments and entries?

Comment by Jacob

Sent you an email with details …

Comment by Rob

Looks like fun. I’m from Australia, but live in Canada. Given the comments by Age, maybe I’ll focus on Canada.

Comment by martin

remind me when the deadline is/was for these?

Comment by lauren

ugh. forget that… i just saw it there. no really, i’m fine. 🙂

Comment by lauren

The future of all countries involves desertification and scavengers. Who needs ten slides?

Comment by John

[…] result in some great entries and even get some new talent exposure. For reference, check out the last assignment and see the feedback judges […]

Pingback by new assignment: account planning school of the web at M!

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