Source: Canva (Pexels), Credit: cottonbro

Ditch the Script

How have we forgotten it has to start with an idea first?

I’ve just got back from the US. Great to be back on the road, but less great to be back in the airports. At the mercy of the mask-less masses trying to remember how to navigate departure halls…

Big case, medium case, carry on. All look exactly the same, just different sizes. A riot of matching luggage.

Terrifyingly (awkward lumpy gear change sorry) ‘matching luggage’ is how ‘integrated’ campaigns used to get delivered. More terrifyingly. A fair few still are. Or at least enough to make one of the first questions our clients ask us be ’you won't just give us a script will you’.

Sadly, even today, when you brief a lot of agencies, what you get back is a 30-second script. Not an idea. A script which is, in time, forcefully re-shaped, re-sized, blown up or cut down to fit whatever hole the media plan requires. Whether it actually works in that medium or not doesn't seem to matter. This is why you’ll usually end up with a squashed down banner ad or an enlarged 48 sheet that looks exactly like a film. Matching luggage.

You can't ‘open on a sunkissed desert island’ anymore. Although when I ran Grey EMEA, many certainly tried. But that's from a different era. When media was simpler and lunches were longer. 

You’ve got to separate the idea from the execution.

And you’d be truly shocked how hard so many find this. An idea that can then evolve into whatever you need it to be. Because it needs to behave differently in a plethora of channels. Dwell time, permission, personal space, context, ‘the messenger’ all affect the shape it will take… and that can be vastly different while the core idea remains a constant. You know this, don't you! I almost feel embarrassed saying it… but we all still see expensive examples of how not to do it.

One reason I guess this keeps happening is that there is a powerful muscle memory in legacy agencies. Put another way, if I go to a factory that makes Wire and Plastic Products, I’d be an idiot to expect to get anything that isn't made out of wire and plastic. Common sense right. When we’re under pressure (and we all have more work than hours in the day, don't we) we all revert to default. And the ‘30’ is that default for an awful lot of agencies. 

Another, slightly more commercial reason might be that they all have huge ‘TV departments’ to feed… So whatever the question is, TV will be the answer. Surprise!! And while they don't make a lot of money out of creatives actually having ideas anymore, they can still make it up in production. It’s a dark art, isn't it? Funny how the production estimate always matches the budget. It’s never less, is it? When did a budget become a target?

Anyway. All this is why we developed a process in which sprint one is purely the idea. Nothing else will fit into it. Then sprint two is the execution as a t-shirt or a fly-poster or a social stream or whatever is needed. Sometimes a script. 

And all those places you can still buy matching luggage. Well, they’re our new business machine. So. Erm. Thanks.