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

Great Ideas Are Everywhere, If You Look At The World Like A Business Person, Not An Ad Agency Person …
March 6, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

The ad community love to talk about being all about business.

They love saying how they’re committed to solving client problems.

The bang on about how they’re focused on effectiveness.

But it’s not true, is it … at least in the way most businesses want their problems solved.

As I’ve said before, even when agencies say they’re ‘media neutral’, it still implies their solution to every problem involves some sort of media.

Or said another way, stalk rather than attract.

That’s one of the reasons I believe the best people in the business are at the creative end of business, not the business end of creativity. They understand what’s really going on … what really needs to happen … and can develop ideas that solve that problem, regardless of the advertising. In fact, the role of any advertising they produce is there to amplify the solution to the masses rather than be the solution.

Of course it’s hard … especially when some marketers believe their role is more about producing communication rather than driving the broader business … but it can happen, it just doesn’t happen enough.

Now compare that to clients.

Adland loves to act like they’re better than many clients.

OK, in some cases, that’s absolutely true … but compared to many, we are slower, less innovative and less pragmatic than we like to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, I think adland – or should I say, some of the people in adland – are incredible, but my issue is that for all the talk we do about being instigators of commercial opportunity, I believe we see more commercially creative ideas from clients than we do adland.

Case in point, Spotify.

A while ago, they launched this:


Emotionally intriguing.

Commercially compelling.

What I love about it is that it works on so many levels:

+ It reinvigorates interest in their existing users.

+ It intrigues interest from none users.

+ It drives incremental usage and revenue for the brand.

+ It drives new revenue for artists who – until that point – had been ignored.

No digital centric, integrated campaign that takes users to a bunch of online ‘documentaries’ – after you’ve got past the pre-roll nightmares and a bunch of specially created – never downloaded – apps that are tied together with some pithy, snappy end line … just a real idea, that intrigues and interests a specific segment of society/culture that has a genuine commercial value for the company.

Of course, like all great ideas, it’s so simple you can’t work out why no one did it before – but that’s what great marketing is, the ability to see opportunities that have commercial and cultural value and then express it in a way that draws people in.

Then do awesome communication to inspire and seduce the masses.

In a World where too many in adland seems to think an idea is some sort of over-infalted, ultra-convoluted, complex range of executions and apps, the reality is there are an incredible amount of powerful, profitable, infectious and, crucially, simple ideas that are hidden in plain sight and the sooner we stop wanting to align with the latest shiny new thing [to make us feel good and look relevant] and get back to opening our eyes so we can see and understand what real commercial ideas are – and build off that in brilliant, creative ways – the quicker our industry will get back to where it belongs.

Of course for that to happen, clients need to get back to giving us business problems rather than pre-defined marketing decisions, but it also requires us to care about what they need, not just what we want them to need.

38 Comments so far
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They’d make even more money and satisfy even more users if they created something that guaranteed that Queen would never be played.

Comment by John

An excellent read Robert. Solutions before advertising. If only your peers understood the concept.

Comment by Lee Hill

I just want to point out I’m in a meeting and it’s 6am.

Don’t let anyone say I don’t do any work. Thank you.

Right, better get back to looking focused and awake.

Comment by Rob

But not working enough to resist from writing comments. Impressive Rob.

Comment by Bazza

Working? How does that feel?

Comment by DH

Horrible. I need a holiday.

Comment by Rob

Doesn’t this bring you back to the age-old problem of how clients would pay for these business ideas?

Comment by John

We achieved it by including a clearly defined royalty scheme within our remuneration plan. Not everyone went for it, but most did.
The problem major agencies have is that for them to do this, they would have to walk away from the areas that deliver the majority of their profit. It should also be noted we appealed to a particular sort of organisation, which meant they were far more open to this sort of arrangement than those who need a fixed fee structure to evaluate “value” from their agency partner.

Comment by George

Would that “particular sort of organisation” be characterised by having a certain type or size of marketing department? Or is it simply attitudinal?

Comment by John

I didn’t realise how forward thinking this was until I left. It helped our first client was an icon of maverick business practice and your close friend. But it was powerful because it put our money where our mouth was rather than asking client to take all the risk and pay us handsomely for it. Anomaly try to do a similar thing, but it’s not exactly the same because they have huge overhead to service.

Comment by Bazza

Both John, but especially the latter point. Which tends to dictate your former point.

Comment by George

I assure you Baz, we have only ever partnered with companies who make us better. Our commercial relationships have nothing to do with personal relationships.

Comment by Lee Hill

So how does Rob get all those upgrades then Lee?

Comment by DH


Comment by Billy Whizz

Behaviour is all about incentives after all.

Comment by John

You’re working? At 6am? The year of the horse has really made an impact on you Robert.
Great post, though it is disappointing you have to make this sort of comment in this day and age.

Comment by George

Reblogged this on onecrustycanuck and commented:
Finally! … Some Great words of wisdom!
We “The People” have the technology, ability and means to bring this about to again have “People represented in Government” through “INDEPENDENT” Representation i.e.; as an “Independent MLA or MP”

Comment by onecrustycanuck

There’s no wisdom on this blog.

Comment by DH

OK! … my mistake! so sad … to bad too … here I thought you might be a kindred soul …

Comment by onecrustycanuck

No one has a soul on here.

Comment by DH

Again sorry to hear you think that about yourself … some of us know different … only disappointed at short sightedness … as sad as it sounds for you.

Comment by onecrustycanuck

Hello onecrustycanuck … nice to have you pop by and sorry for the ‘welcome’. Don’t take it personally, they treat everyone with the same level of distain, ha.

Comment by Rob

You’re absolutely right, Rob, when you say clients ought to get back to briefing us on business problems.

But all too often they’re not aware of what these ‘problems’ really are, or their significance. (Because ‘Marketing’ doesn’t really understand the actual dynamics of the business).

Or, to flip the perspective, they have trouble spotting ‘opportunities’ such as your Spotify example. The most interesting and important issues and opportunities are often buried somewhere in the ‘big data’ that no-one’s really looking at.

Agencies ought to be delving into the client’s data to discover this sort of stuff for themselves. But these days, sadly, few have the inclination to want to, and even fewer clients are inclined to trust the agency to do it. We simply don’t have the credibility any more. We just ‘do the ads’.

Planning was created (by King and Pollitt) do do exactly this kind of deep analysis and to develop creative solutions to real business problems. All too often now, it’s just shallow trend-spotting and chasing fashion.

Comment by Ian Gee

I still remember how you summed up how you wanted me to do my job when I joined you guys. Be at the creative end of business not the business end of creativity. Great advice.

Comment by Pete

The spotify idea is great.

Comment by Pete

Rob stole it from someone else. I don’t know who, but he must have.

Comment by DH

Nice work Roberto.

Comment by Wayne Green

Amen. Look what we’ve done with ‘content.’ Custom publishing has over a century of history as a business behind it, with dollars coming out both sides. Greatest trick the ad world always pulls – sell the paint color not the house. Never seen a publication with a content strategist.

Comment by Brian J Dell (@itsbdell)

Lovely post post lovely idea. Makes me feel something and immediately makes me able to do something about it.
Funny what happens when you ask what could help the business rather than what could make a great ad
Which is usually where great ads come from anyway
I bet spotify don’t worry overly about their millward brown pyramid

Comment by Northern

Thank you. That’s also how you can spot a great ‘creative’ … they want to know the problem. They want to know what’s driving the problem and then they want to directly affect it. The ones who just want to do ‘the ad’ are the impostors – at least in my mind.

Comment by Rob

“+ It drives incremental usage and revenue for the brand.”

No it doesn’t. It drives incremental usage and revenue for the business. That was the point of this post, wasn’t it?

The brand word is at the heart of all the mediocrity and charlatanism in this sphere. Why don’t we just get rid of it?

Comment by John

That’s a bloody good point. Yes, business … definitely business. I can’t believe I made such an obvious error.

(That doesn’t mean I want to get rid of the word brand because I also don’t think it equates to mediocrity, but in the context of where you corrected me, you are 1,000% right. Unfortunately)

Comment by Rob

1) I didn’t say it equates to mediocrity, just that it’s used to justify it.

2) Even I can’t be 1000% right. But, I am 100% right.

Comment by John

Unrelated question. Will your warc talk be available to hear at a later date?

Comment by Pete

Hi Pete. Yes you can view it now at Thanks for the interest.


Comment by David (from Warc)

Thanks David. Did you have to bleep him?

Comment by Pete

No, but we did issue a warning at the beginning in case we had any sensitive listeners.

Comment by David (from Warc)

Hearing his voice again unravelled all the work the psychologist had done for me. Who do I sue?

Comment by DH

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