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Seven Things That Scare Ad Agency Creatives, Halloween Or Not.


Man in fear
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If you’re a creative working in an advertising agency, in house, a design firm, or anything else involving creative juices, you are not scared by werewolves, vampires and things that go bump in the night. Well, not as much as you are of the following seven things that most have us have encountered over the years.

Yes, they strike fear into the heart of any creative, they can turn copywriters as white as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and make art directors become as anxious as Edvard Munch’s Scream.

Don’t go reading this just before bed tonight, OK?

1: The Client’s Had A Change Of Heart.

Arrrghhhhh! You know what this means, right? It means the client who gave you the brief probably didn’t talk it over well enough with the person who pulls his or her strings. Or that perons saw it and hated it. Either way, the deadline is still looming and you’re going to have to cancel the weekend, work some late nights free of charge, and chow down on cold pizza and beer in the wee hours of the morning. Thanks client. You really do know just where to stick it in and break it off.

2: I Showed It To My (Family Member), They Didn’t Get It.

Oh, really? You mom didn’t get an ad aimed at hard-drinking bikers? Or your brother wasn’t too sure of a tagline aimed at poor octogenarians? Well knock me down with a feather. This happens often, and it’s as ridiculous as someone on trial for murder saying they don’t quite get the eloquent and watertight defense their lawyer has come up with. Please, if you’re going to ask for anyone’s opinion, please make sure they’re in the target audience.

3: We’d Like To See Those Two Ideas Combined.

You know what’s tasty? Peanuts. You know what else is tasty? Minty-fresh gum. But only a complete moron would pop the two in their mouth at the same time. And yet, it happens all the time, to great ideas from great agencies all around the world. The director of corporate communications likes idea A, but the managing director likes B. Instead of making the smart choice and going with one pure idea, they merge the two to create some horrendous Frankenstein’s monster. That way, everyone’s happy. Well, except for the customers, the sales people, the agency people and eventually, due to poor sales, the clients.

4: The Client Would Like To Do A Drive By, Tomorrow.

Many creative would prefer that to mean a drive by shooting, at least they won’t come in and mess with the work. Legitimate tissue sessions are fine, if they’re planned and prepared for by the agency and the team working on the account. But unexpected “pop ins” are incredibly annoying and usually destructive. If you saw a heart surgeon’s patient half way through the procedure, you’d pass out. Same thing with the creative process. Ideas are always being refined and developed. Sometimes, they take shape just a day before the presentation. If you’re a client, don’t do drive bys. All they do is make you appear important, but actually, appear like a control freak with trust issues.

5: It’s Just Too Risky For Us Right Now.

And safe is better? Oh that’s right, the safe ideas you’ve been plodding along with for decades have got you in this mess right now. You’re playing to the worst kind of emotion – fear. And by fearing change, and risk, you are ultimately playing right into the hands of the business eating machine. Safe does not get noticed. Safe does not make people talk. Safe does not win awards for the agency. Safe does nothing except take your money and recycle it into an unnoticeable campaign.

6: Can You Give Us Something Viral?

Two points. One, every ad agency wants advertising to go viral, in one way or another. Good advertising gets noticed, and these days, gets talked about, Tweeted, blogged, and so on. So to say that is irrelevant. But even if the client really does mean they want a version of Gangnam Style, they also mean “we’d like something absolutely fantastic on a shoestring budget.” And that is even more challenging, because it will involve risk. And risk, well, you read number 5.

7: The Client’s Had A Really Great Idea…

That’s the equivalent of the young girl’s head spinning around in The Exorcist. And it’s not because clients don’t have good ideas. It’s that they are coming to you, the ad agency, to solve a problem. It’s what the agency is paid to do, and good agencies do it very well. Imagine someone calling for an emergency plumber, and when he or she gets there, the problem has been made even worse by the “quick thinking” of the homeowner; someone who once read a DIY manual and owns a hacksaw and a pipe wrench. If the client does have suggestions, they should be put in the brief and treated as just that – suggestions. But usually, when the client’s had a great idea, designers, art directors and copywriters have to pound their heads against the walls trying to make those turns look golden. They rarely succeed.

Those are the top seven scary things said to agency creatives. Do you have more? And if it’s “make the logo bigger” we already know of its power to bring a department to its knees.

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