advertising has long been seen as the sugar-coating to deliver a brand or product message.
this is not only the theory oft peddled by research organisations, it is also embedded in how advertising agencies actually see themselves and clients relate to them:
historically, advertising takes a parity product or brand and turns it into something appealing by attaching a ‘creative’ idea to it.
clients (sometimes reluctantly) do a deal with the creative devil to add the finishing touch to months or years of product and brand development work.
it leads to either over-inflated claims of glory - as if advertising alone led to the success of the brand, or an over-inflated excuse for disaster - if it weren’t for the advertising scoring amber instead of green on the tracker sales targets would have been hit.
no matter how often clients and agencies declare that they’re partners, this situation arises because advertising creativity is applied to a brand from the outside in and almost always, too late in the process:
the brand and product strategy have mostly been developed in isolation, with minimal consultation with the agency - so they’re literally left to apply creative gloss to something that may not have been best conceived - especially in fast moving markets.
advertising agencies often take cultural associations from outside the brand, claiming empathy with the target audience and then they attach them, often risking masking the real brand truth in the process.
we believe this ‘outside-in’ or sugar-coating approach is an unnecessary problem.
it leads to constantly changing ideas which lack the kind of consistency that luminaries such as byron sharp or robert heath claim is pivotal to the success of advertising.
it leads to ideas that find it difficult to operate with equal power across markets and product lines (witness the issues dirt is good and dove real women encountered in markets outside the affluent west)
it leads to ideas that companies don’t ‘live’: there’s often a stark contrast with what the advertising promises and what the brand or company really delivers.
and often these ideas work well in one media format (often tv still), but imperfectly across others.
at the assembly, we believe the key to great, effective creativity is taking the truth of a brand and representing it in an unexpected way.
that way, creative ideas are consistent yet intriguing: and that intrigue leads to ‘curiosity’ in your brand: the worm on the hook that draws interest.
to find the truth of a brand means an agency has to pay much more attention to the culture of the organisation it is working for, developing ideas from the inside out: from the very heart of the brand and truth of its culture.
the foundation of this inside out approach is what we call an ‘organising idea’: an insightful, intriguing, consumer-orientated take on the cultural truth of the clients we work for. we deliver it via highly experienced, creative people who take the time to embed themselves in the culture of our clients, rather than waiting in their glass and steel offices for a brief to be slipped under the door.
for ey, it meant our chief creative officer, steve dunn, spending valuable time with clients at all levels, to listen and understand their concerns and get under the skin of a unique organisation. ultimately it led to the realisation and encapsulation of their unique questioning culture in the idea ‘the better the question. the better the answer. the better the world works.
it led to creative work that has been produced in every conceivable channel across the globe, for every possible purpose; from internal manifestos to acutely targeted sector advertising and for every internal and external piece of communication: all within the ‘ better questions’ framework.
most importantly, it has become the fundamental guide to how EY employees feel, behave and talk about themselves: it is not just a message, but a behaviour.
the result is the consistency, cross-line international adaptability, multimedia flexibility, budget agnosticism and commonality with the brand experience that advertising produced the traditional way lacks.
so yes, whilst we’ve won international awards for our work and have achieved record engagement scores on linkedin and twitter among the C-suite, for us, it is the conviction that our idea was directly borne from the epicentre of our client’s brand personality and experience, and is comprehensively embedded within ey’s culture, that makes us most proud.
goodbye sugar-coating, hello sweet substance.
how creative ideas need to work from the inside out.