“An agency is only ever as good as its clients.”
This is the sentiment of Ahmed Tilly, executive creative director at award winning creative agency, BRFC, and he has a strong message for marketers: “The responsibility for good marketing needs to shift from the agency’s delivery of good work to the client or marketer who makes the final decision. It’s simple; the future of advertising lies in the clients’ hands.”
Creating advertising that people think about and discuss relies on the instinct, bravery and confidence of the marketer. However, Tilly cautions that it is never a science; you can’t simply tick the boxes. You have to know and understand your brand, but you also need to follow your gut.As hard as it is to accept, either you have it or you don’t.
While instinct is something that can never really be learned, there are some things that can be. This is Tilly’s advice on creating impactful marketing:
A creative agency is only as good as its clients
It’s the responsibility of the client to demand work that is not just on brief or objective but is evocative and stands out. “Whilst the agency can create this kind of work, it’s up to the client to ask for it and the responsibility of the client to buy it,” Tilly says. If you’re not getting this calibre of work, you have the wrong agency partner.
The consumer is a person
The target market is often referred to as “they” or “them”. Take a look around you – chances are at least one person you know falls into this category, or knows someone who is. Even if this is not the case, your target market is still a person who also has dreams, ambitions, fears, hopes, a sense of humour and very similar needs to you.
You will never please everyone
It’s ok to upset people… as long as they fall outside of your target market. Here’s the truth; it is not possible to please everyone.If the work you’re signing off does, it’s probably dull and uninspiring. If your audience doesn’t notice it, you have just wasted millions of rands.
The customer doesn’t care about your product like you do
“Marketers tend to become over-confident about their product because they live and breathe their brand,” explains Tilly. “At the end of the day, your brand is just another brand to your audience. Unfortunately, they’re not dying to see your ad like you are.”
He/she wants to be entertained
“In the 40s and 50s advertising wassimplyabout providinginformation. Products had USPs. Not anymore. And to make life even more difficult, today your ad has to compete with Ryan Gosling’s six pack, Lance Armstrong’s scandalous lies and news headlines that are more sensational than an episode of Carte Blanche,” says Tilly.“So, your 30 seconds on TV or your full page full colour ad had better entertain, inspire or at least raise an eyebrow if you’re going to stop your audience. You are competing with Hollywood, not with a competitor brand in your category.”
You hired creative agencies because you can’t do it yourself
“When marketers have a sense of the creative process, they falsely think they can do it themselves,” explains Tilly. “You wouldn’t tell a mechanic how to fix your car, or a plumber how to fix your drains. Yes, what you do for a living requires more collaboration but remember why you hired your agency in the first place. Agencies’ livelihood depends on their craft. These guys have chosen to dedicate their lives to creative thinking, to writing copy and shooting ads. Give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making creative calls.”
Don’t expect brave work if you’re not brave enough to buy it
Stop making excuses for not doing brave work. “If you keep killing great ideas, don’t expect them to return from the dead. Buy the exciting work, believe in it, see it through, take accountability for it and enjoy the credit that comes from it.”
If the work surprises you, it will your customer
If your agency presents something you never saw coming, others will have the same experience. Tilly explains,“The problem is, so many marketers like the idea and then they analyse it. If you analyse anything, you will find small problems or risk. Consumers generally don’t analyse. If it’s good content, they will instinctively enjoy it.”
If the idea makes you uncomfortable, you’re on to something
If it’s comfortable, it’s ordinary. If it makes you a little uncomfortable it’s worth considering further.
Never give up
Sometimes your entire organisation is doing the opposite of what you believe in. “When, internally, you have the whole company opposing you, be ready for the long haul. Perseverance, patience and belief will get you there,” assures Tilly.
The agency is your friend
If you chose the right agency, they’ll be part of your extended family. They will have greater empathy for what you have to deal with and will be more inclined to help you. “A good relationship opens the floor for good discussions – people are relaxed so they can get good work done.”
Aim for greatness
While you’re doing good work, your competitors are doing great work. Leapfrogging them requires a bold, big step, so aim higher. “If youplay catch upwith your competitors, you’ll always be one step behind,” he says.“You have to leapfrog them so they’re catching up…. and it’s not impossible.”
Allow failures to happen and be sure to learn from them. “If you fear failure, you’ll be mediocre,” explains Tilly. “One of the most recognised principles of business is that there is no such thing as low risk, high reward – why would this not apply to marketing?”
Pre-testing is a sign of weakness
Pre-testing has become a trend internationally that Tilly hopesSouth Africa will avoid. “It kills spontaneity. Trust your gut, it will lead you to the best work you’ve ever done,” says Tilly.If you have the experience and the intuition, you’re right person for the job, not a focus group.
Do it differently or don’t do it at all
The middle ground is the safest option. It’s also where most brands sit. If you want your brand to be loved, not liked, go where no one else would dare to.
“Marketers are custodians of their brands, and that comes with a huge responsibility. It’s time marketers realise the power they hold. Whilst agencies will help create the work, it is the client and only the client that decides whether the idea lives or dies. The future of advertising depends on you, the marketer. So don’t fuck it up,” concludes Tilly.