This fall I had the pleasure of joining a client to attend Brand ManageCamp in Las Vegas. This led to many, many Brand Camp jokes, and two well-worth-it travel days as the conference had many great speakers who shared a lot of thought-provoking ideas.
But one speaker in particular caught my attention: Dustin Garis, founder of LifeProfit, who shared stories of his previous work at Procter & Gamble. His entire presentation was inspiring, but he intrigued me specifically when he said during his time at Procter & Gamble, he once was presented ad artwork for one of their brands, and the concept, when placed side by side against a competitor’s, was a mirror image, minus the logo.
His question to the agency: Why did you give us an ad that looks exactly like our competitor’s?
The agency’s response: Well, you’ve always purchased the ads that look like this.
Fair point, he admitted.
So he asked the agency to start approaching every project with three deliverables, by presenting:
1) The option you think we’ll buy based on the history of what we’ve bought
2) The option you want us to buy
3) The option you think you’ll get fired for presenting
With this new approach guiding the thought process on the work, nine times out of 10, Garis said they were selecting the work being presented in the “we might get fired for this” category.
One such example — Always #LikeAGirl video. Inspiring stuff.
How you can encourage your agency to ‘get fired’:
1) Set the expectation that different is desired. I’ve worked at agencies where the agency team members were “trained” to deliver the same style of product, time and again. What begins to happen is that, thinking they’re making the client happy, agencies will start self-editing concepts before client review based on previous client feedback: “No — they would never go for that,” or, “We presented something like that two years ago and they hated it.” Encourage a culture where different is embraced. It doesn’t have to be selected — but be careful of creating a template in which everything starts to look and feel the same, year after year after year. Even if those risky ideas aren’t selected, the fresh creativity that comes as a result of your encouraging freedom will be a benefit to your business.
2) Don’t prejudge — listen to the rationale. If your initial reaction to an idea is, “What were they thinking?” I encourage you to wait. Even when an agency is in “get fired” mode, they should be able to provide a rationale for their “get fired” idea. So, when they present the option, before voicing a gut reaction that might be, “What the heck were you thinking?” hear them out. They left this choice in for a reason. And, by not screaming, “No!” right away, again, you’re encouraging the minds working on your account to stay fresh by exploring new opportunities that can help inspire growth.
3) Ask. If your agency isn’t already pushing the envelope like this, ask them what it would look like if you changed the way you work moving forward (at least on bigger projects) to start seeing these three types of options. Be prepared to have conversations about what that might mean for budget, but the payoff when you open up more options — and especially the freedom of more creativity — could be a well-worth-it return.