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

Sound Twisted Logic …
September 1, 2011, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

The title of this post is something that I have been a huge advocate for years and years and years.

Taking something that, on first impression, sounds totally mad and then – with clear and concise explanation and information – appears a perfectly normal – even sensible – thing to say or do.

Of course I am not the only person to do this – there has been lots and lots of examples of this sort of approach from lots of lots of brands and agencies covering lots and lots of decades [ie: ‘Dirt Is Good’] – however as I’m fortunate to have been involved in quite a few of these ideas and I whore myself around the conference circuit more than some power-hungry politician, I often get asked by people how we got clients like SONY to agree to being about feelings rather than technology … or Diet Tango to be the antidote of weakness rather than the ambassador of health … or have Microsoft Advertising accept they could prosper from celebrating the dark side of human behaviour … and I always give the same answer – we proved the twisted was actually the logical.

There’s no magic formula or slight of hand, it was all about hard work, investigation and exploration – because we knew if we wanted to end up creating something interesting, exciting, meaningful and differentiated, we had to present our thinking in a way that ensured the client didn’t think we were a bunch of drunk idiots but a company that was commercially minded and had a deeper and stronger understanding of how society thinks/believes/acts/does than anyone else.

Actually, thinking about it, there was a magic formula – it was the fear that clients wouldn’t believe a word we said – so we would seek out as much evidence to prove our point as possible.

From getting Wes Craven to explain why people love horror movies for SONY through to asking marriage councilors to discuss the effects technology has had on infidelity … we’d explore any option that we thought would demonstrate how our proposed strategy was filled with powerful, meaningful and relevant insight and if it came from people that would be hard to argue against – whether engaged by us directly or indirectly – so be it.

We used to call this approach this ‘higher power advocacy’ but it didn’t just rely on getting ‘names’ to help us [we couldn’t afford it for a start, though you’d be amazed how many people are willing to help if you ask them nicely enough] it was simply about finding independent evidence – preferably totally unrelated to adland – that highlighted our points or views.

From car thieves and surgeons through to journalists and my beloved prostitutes [to name but a few] – we’d seek out any person whose professional view or experience could/would help convince our clients that what we were suggesting was ‘logical’ rather than ‘fanciful’.

But don’t think it was all about people’s commentary, we would also find data.

Lots and lots of data.

We’d scour annual reports, financial data, industry magazines … and while clients tended to remember the more ‘left field’ methods we’d adopted rather than the traditional, we knew that had we not put in the hard yards on the ‘classic’ research approaches, they’d never purely accept the words of some left field professional claiming to hold a key bit of information that would liberate their future.

Did it always work?

Did it bollocks … but we knew that if we didn’t find a way to make the ‘weird’ sound ‘logical’, we’d never get a chance to have a second meeting, let alone create the idea we had – which is why even as an old fucker whose done quite a bit in his 41 years, I still embrace the ‘higher power advocacy’ approach because while times may change, clients need to be intrigued and assured hasn’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we all would like to do crazy stuff, the key to achieving it is to make it sound as sensible as sensible can be and that means accepting nothing you can say will be as convincing as independent data and the words of individuals who always be respected more for their opinions and experiences than you.

30 Comments so far
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Where many agencies cover their fears and concerns with arrogance, we let it shape better decisions and choices. If agencies truly understood business, they’d realise the only people who want brave solutions are themselves. There’s no badge of honour awarded for going in to pitch with something aggressive, the trick is to make it sound the most sensible choice possible which can be achieved through an effective use of business data and external influence. Robert was the driving force behind this for us and it worked time and time again.

Comment by George

robert was the driving fucking force? are you on fucking drugs? have you forgotten the bills we had to pay for his adventures in making friends? fuck me george, you have been at happy central too long. get a fucking grip. i was the person who made it all work because i was the fucker that took these left field fuckwits comments and turned them in to something approaching interesting which basically means i ignored every fucking word they said and did what i knew what right because i am a fucking god, saint and anything else that is important.

Comment by andy@cynic

I did do it mainly to meet people I found interesting.

Sorry George. But thank you as well.

Comment by Rob

told you you were a fucking mug to believe him auntie.

Comment by andy@cynic

Higher power advocacy?

Is that the posh way to say blackmail and manipulation?

Comment by Billy Whizz

its campbells italian mafia roots.

Comment by andy@cynic

The best ones were when we got that high class madam to talk to us about porsche wanker drivers (except you Andy) and got those personal trainers to pitch for us at adidas. That was funny.

Comment by Billy Whizz

What about the police interrogator? I thought that was devious genius.

Comment by Pete

If the Vegas get together is going to turn into one giant reminisce session, I’m not coming.

Comment by DH

Great, I’ll have your chips. You won’t be missed.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It still won’t impress Jemma.

Comment by DH

I didn’t know you’d been invited Billy. I need to have words with Kat.

Comment by Rob

I remember the time I told you about an idea I thought would take a brave client to buy and you said, make it a bold idea or we’re not presenting it. At the time I thought you meant weaken the concept then I realised you meant strengthen the justification. Best bit of practical advice I had in my career.

Great post and George’s comment is wonderful.

Comment by Pete

The first thing they said to me was I was a genius. Best bit of practical advice I’ve had in my career as well.

Comment by Billy Whizz

i have it on good fucking authority that sex is a big fucking influencer and motivator so why the fuck did you keep turning down my request to get porn stars as our special fucking advisors? i was willing to share. you could have the blokes.

Comment by andy@cynic

Two words: Potent_Flix

Comment by Rob

one word: gofuckyourselfyousmugmotherfucker.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve just had an email from Mr Dodds enquiring whether I’m suggesting you create the illusion of business validity rather than explain to clients that your idea is the most valid course of action they can take.

I am absolutely not suggesting you should do anything slight-of-hand or immoral, all I’m saying is that to get clients to buy something that – on first impression – may appear mad, you need to provide them with as much evidence as possible to explain why what you are suggesting is the most sensible choice they can make … and in my experience, getting someone they respect involved in the explanation is more effective than thinking they will blindly accept whatever you say.

If I’ve given the wrong impression, I’m sorry – that’s not the case – I am simply suggesting that to sell ‘brave’, you can’t go in with that attitude, you have to make it sound [via evidence] the most practical decision of their lives and using ‘celebrity’ helps because the audience listen to what they’re saying with a different attitude than they do when in “business mode”, especially in a pitch situation.

Comment by Rob

well done doddsy. make campbell backtrack like an italian even if the fucker isnt backtracking at all.

Comment by andy@cynic

Was just seeking clarification re George’s assertion that

“the trick is to make it sound the most sensible choice possible which can be achieved”

and knew Rob would be less busy and able to respond to an email than George.

Comment by john

When he said “the trick is …” he should have said “the requirement is to demonstrate …” but he meant that.

Or should I say, he better have meant that.

Comment by Rob

I’ve always favored the BCG Perspectives model. An important part of planning is knowledge creation.

A lot of the intellectual side of planning has traditionally been haphazard and client-focused, and tends to dissipate into the ether, when it should really be recorded, and built upon, and sector focused instead of client focused.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s left-brain knowledge or right-brain, what’s important is that it provide a compelling and brutally clear schematic of the dynamics within a market. Which serves as a great opening into prospective clients / moving upstream within existing clients, because then you can go up to them and say, you know what, I think you’ve got a problem, and here’s five reasons why.

As for how to solve them, let’s talk business.

Comment by Aditya

[Should point out here that this approach has allowed me to restructure one clients’ portfolio, work on revamping product design language with another, completely alter the approach to sustainability of a third, and so on…]

Comment by Aditya

i dont understand a fucking word youre saying but it sounds very fucking clever so if its working for you its alright by me.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Aditya

I feel used.

Comment by Lee Hill

you should feel manipulated.

Comment by andy@cynic

Best comment of the day!

Comment by Rob

This is a brilliantly crazy idea, now here’s why it will make you money…

Or to put it another way – ‘That’s so mental it just might work’

Comment by Rob Mortimer

In a parallel universe clients may say that, but sadly never in mine, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

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