All Killers No Fillers

How to present creative ideas to clients
Image: Thomas Uhlemann

While recording for the hugely acclaimed album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen spent twelve long months in the studio. In that time, he wrote a staggering 70 songs and recorded over 50. But when the album was finally released it featured only 10. 

Now I’m sure he could have released a very good triple album out of that lot. Or even a cracking double. But for The Boss, only 10 were right. Only 10 truly possessed the feeling and mood he was aiming for.

10 may be about the right number for launching an album but not for launching an advertising campaign. For an ad campaign, the number is always the same – one. So why do so many agencies present more than one idea to clients?

It now seems to be the norm to present three routes, sometimes even more. I admit it’s a formula I normally stick to, but is it really the right one?

It appears to stem from a number of factors; making the clients feel at ease, using one idea to help sell in another, showing value for money etc. But clients pay agencies to create their advertising for one simple reason – they can’t do it themselves. They need an expert in advertising to do that.

So, if ad agencies are the experts, shouldn’t they behave like one and only show the idea they know is the right answer? Think of the benefits. If you only went in with one, you could devote more time to it. More time to craft. More time to show its strength in other channels. More time to make it bulletproof.

We often think we’re impressing clients by presenting more ideas but sometimes it’s the complete opposite. A Marketing Director I know once told me about a big creative meeting she was having with her ad agency. They presented several ideas and asked her which one she thought was the strongest, to which she replied, “aren’t you supposed to be telling me?”.  She uses a different agency now.

It’s important to build healthy relationships with clients but it’s also important to build healthy sales for their business. If we focus on selling only the most effective work, we could end up achieving both.

Stunning version of Something in the Night ’09.


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