Investing in the creative when the brief is the problem

Bud's written some good thoughts and complaints about advertising. And while we all know that most of it advertising absolute dreck, I thought this bit about the marketing on the web was especially poignant:

I am truly disappointed in how the advertising industry has largely approached the web. (I’m disappointed in publishers, too)

We’ve taken a technology that’s led to an explosion in participatory culture, and we’ve recreated the billboard and :30 spot.

We’ve earned consumer’s apathy. We’ve conditioned it through our own laziness and sheer lack of creativity.

Like anything, the top 1% of advertising is brilliant. It’s inspiring and effective.

Some call the other 99% landfill marketing. I consider it to be the biggest waste of money, creativity, and talent in the history of the world. Full stop.

I can't help but think that this is a direct result of the marketing or advertising department being far removed from the actual running of the business. This might be a completely naive assessment, but it often times feels like the advertising teams of large companies are handed media buckets to fill with product proof points rather than playing any actual business role. To Rob's point, it's often about briefs being full of "executional wants rather than commercial needs." 

One of the things I always find interesting to observe is how people approach problems.

In my experience, they tend to fall into 2 distinct areas:

1. Jump right in with ideas.
2. Think [& discuss] the brief … then get on with coming up with ideas.

The basic problem with both of these approaches is that you assume the brief is correct.

I’m not suggesting someone has given you wrong information on purpose, however I have seem way too many briefs that talk about executional wants rather than commercial needs.

One is like going to the DR, telling him what is wrong with you and then ordering him what to prescribe whereas the other is like going to a specialist, explaining your situation and then having them diagnose your problem and offer advice on how to make you well.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons for these 2 possible outcomes, however one that is entirely our fault is our reluctance to investigate the brief.

I don’t mean asking a few questions about the audience or highlighting a few issues about timing or budget … I mean genuinely understanding what the brand/product/business actually needs to achieve and then evaluating that with what has been given to you.

Bud's point is largely focused on the output whereas Rob's is focused on the input, but they are really dealing with the same problem. If the brief isn't good, the idea people and their ideas are at a huge disadvantage.

If you look at where agencies are investing in training and in hiring right now, it seems to be largely about digital thinking…coming up with digital ideas and then sailing off into the brave new world and Cannes. But I think that focusing on digital is focusing on the wrong thing. It's like focusing on "viral" or on getting a million likes. It's an output. I think the biggest problem with advertising right now is that the input is broken. Account and planning need to be working with clients to get to the bottom of what actually needs to be achieved rather than on what needs to be made. Even the slightest tweak upfront can mean a huge difference in where things end up.  

Purpose is the mother of great ideas.