I’ve always been a less-is-more type when it comes to putting my thoughts on paper. In my first few years as a Planner in the early 2000’s, I was fortunate that back then agency clients were generally happy with half a dozen slides of ‘show your thinking’ with a few cited insight sources. By the time I could have written a dissertation for each pitch, I’d realised that…I didn’t need to.
All I need to do was give clients confidence that my proposed strategy was robust, rooted in insight and well through-out. Very few clients want to sit through forty slides of strategy before they get to the creative and in a pitch presentation there simply isn’t time anyway.
I read somewhere (and annoyingly now can’t find it, but this study covered by the New York Times back in 2001 is similar) that senior leaders tend to write shorter emails using simpler language – they’re busy people who don’t want to leave room for ambiguity and don’t have to prove their worth any more. Of course my emailing and powerpointing will always be a work in progress and there comes a point where ‘less’ becomes ‘too little’, but I think I’m on the path to simplicity.
The only exception to this is where a client will be presenting the work upwards internally and believes that using big words, industry jargon and lots of slides will make them look good, so I oblige. Telling a client that they shouldn’t need to prove themselves and to drop the jargon is rarely a good idea.
I also have a major bee in my bonnet about simplicity and brevity in creative brief writing. I’ve delivered a LOT of creative brief writing over the last couple of years and have seen some howlers, from seven-page briefs to cutting and pasting the client brief while skipping the proposition box entirely. In training I always, always stress that you’re writing a creative brief for someone you work with, not the client. There’s no need to show off all the industry jargon you know, include a mini essay on the efficacy of your chosen mechanic or paste in the entire brand book (yes, I’ve seen all those done before too). And of course a clear, straightforward brief usually results in better creative work.
I’ve been asked by an agency to develop a new training topic around ‘clarity, brevity and storytelling’, so if your team might need a few pointers in that direction, please give me a shout.