How award winning ads get to see the light of day

Every graduate of art school that joins the ad industry dreams of winning creative awards and when they join the ad agency they watch their dreams getting crushed by spineless ad executives who only care about their personal fortunes.

Bertrand Russell said that the love for power is all one needs to be influential but this power is diminished by other loves which include the love of ease, the love of pleasure and the love of approval.

So it goes that the flip flopping executives have killed millions of award winning ads because they couldn’t stand their ground when high paying clients didn’t understand the concepts. When Client doesn’t like what the creative team churns out, it puts the account, and that pay rise, in jeopardy.

It takes a firm and resolute character to bounce between tough clients and a stubborn art department, so grow a backbone and take control of the process. The first thing that you need to manage the system and sell award winning campaigns is to understand the client’s bandwidth. There are some clients who operate firmly within the proverbial box, while others are ready to throw away said box, and caution to the wind while they are at it.

The telltale signs of the cautious client is a cut-and-paste creative brief that’s all over the place like a feline on catnip, a holier than thou attitude in relation their product, and if one of the members of the pitching committee walks in wearing a clerical collar. If you spot any of these, do the right thing and pick out one of the proven-through-time strategies from the box.

If instead a carefully crafted brief is circulated along with handouts full of customer insights, as well as transcripts from brainstorming sessions on the brand positioning, take that blank cheque and cash it for all its worth. If you have a creative team that can match the challenge then you’ll be standing on stage in the bright lights next to them when the Grand Prix award is handed over by the judges.

Timing is critically important because you don’t want to be selling ice to Eskimos or arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, both of which are an utter waste of time. Instead ensure that you save your outlandish ideas for that special occasion, such as a plummeting stock price, or countrywide demolitions targeting your store locations, or both. Cutting edge ideas tend to sink in when there’s a major catastrophe looming or when pending threats come alive.

Finally, dare to be different. Yes, you are not one of those creative minds that rather lick sandpaper all day than conform to grooming and social standards, but rather you are a ‘Suit’. A Suit’s existence is banished to a life of conformity because your entire image is meant to make people around you comfortable, so that you can sell your ideas (if you have any). So, make sure that those ideas, be they your own or from the creative team, have an edge or a spark that will change the way people think about stuff.

When writing your submission for the APA Creative Awards ask yourself whether your client had the bandwidth, and if the time was right for you to make a daring move.

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About Joe Otin

CEO of The Collective interactive ad agency, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya, and Rotary Governor Elect of District 9212 covering Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea & South Sudan.

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