What do you do when your clients want to do what they’ve always done?

When the Big Thinkers in AdLand talk about clients I think they must be thinking about the kind of clients that have enormous budgets and even bigger creative parameters.  Want to roll balls down a hill to illustrate our colour telly?  Great!  Babies rollerblading to communicate refreshment?  Where do I sign?

Then there are the kind of clients I spend the majority of my time dealing with.  These are blokes with job titles like Commercial Director or Head of Sales and Marketing who look after a couple of hundred furniture shops, have a challenger brand in the fast moving world of garden maintenance or are one of the country’s leading providers of build-by-numbers housing.

In their mind, advertising is about telling people who you are and what you sell – and then waiting for people to turn up at the retail park/garden center/showhome.

Sometimes this works.  If you catch someone at the exact point when they are wanting to buy a kitchen, packet of weedkiller or family home and state your case clearly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t sneak into their consideration set.  And from these client’s point of view, a raft of offers, promotions and a nice big SALE is just going to help that process along.

Except that the world has changed.  And what worked OK even a few years ago is getting less and less effective.  One way and another I’ve been doing quite a lot of groups looking at communications with what you could call your ordinary, average shoppers recently and it seems that TV and press advertising is becoming pretty much wallpaper.  Recall is rubbish and brand affinity even worse.

Apart from the characters.  If I had a quid for everytime someone talked about Meerkats in my groups I’d be on a beach now, not at a computer.  Add in the price comparison sites, tea drinking monkeys and so on and I could buy the blumin beach.

pic from here

With so much pre-shopping research now being done online, from store location to range evaluation and price comparison, if your brand name isn’t front of mind you don’t get googled.  So the battle is for brand recall at that crucial moment.  And the successful recipe seems to be:

brand character (engagement)

+ catchy/annoying tune or audio thingy (memorable)

+ massive TV spend and/or shareability (visible)

In the unlikely event that your risk-averse, middling-budget client asks for an engaging, memorable, visible campaign for their brand (”I’d like one like that Meerkat fellow”) you’re going to have to either come up with something so brilliant and edgy that it multiplies it’s budget many times over via sharing, or a good-ish idea and a budget many times bigger to spread it about.  With my commercially savvy and conservative clients neither of these things are probably going to be possible.

And anyway, there’s only room for so many Meerkats in a year.  If there were tons of ideas like that around, they’d cease to stand out.

So what do you do?  The best you can with the client’s ‘here we are, we sell this’ brief?  Try and make their Sales a bit more believable?  Make the press ads look like less of a tram smash?  Get some synergy between what the ads say and what the brand delivers?  Or start again with a fresh sheet of paper?

I’m still trying to work it out…

2 thoughts on “What do you do when your clients want to do what they’ve always done?

  1. Excellent post. The more we show mid-size clients that the old ways are not working anymore the better we will all be… hopefully!

  2. “And the successful recipe seems to be:

    brand character (engagement)
    + catchy/annoying tune or audio thingy (memorable)
    + massive TV spend and/or shareability (visible)”

    And you say the world has changed? Those are the old ways! PG Tips had big-spend monkey TV ads long before Johnny Vegas…

    It is different when you’re talking to a smaller client, but a lot of the time it’s because they know that the size of ad budget that lets you ‘do branding’ is way out of their reach. To be honest, I think they’re usually right.

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