Clients Hate Advertising, Part Two
by Mark Fenske, Professor, VCU Brandcenter
If clients don’t like advertising why do they come to ad agencies?
They want you to tell them what their story is.
Then they want you to tell that story to the public.
Until a client has a story they believe in you’re wasting your time trying to sell them ads.
They can get ads from their brother-in-law for an extra turkey wing passed under the table at Thanksgiving.
What’s hard to get is a good story.
What is a client’s story?
This is where advertising gets fun.
Story isn’t definable.
Story is different for each situation.
A client’s story is what the president of the company tells his kids when they ask him what his company does.
A client’s story is the accumulation of everything the 15 different product managers have forgotten since they read the founder’s bio on the HR pamphlet their first day of work.
A client’s story is what the public thinks of the client’s company minus two times their worst advertising.
A client’s story can’t be predicted, can’t be faked (or at least not for long) and both does and doesn’t work like this:
A client’s story is what the maintenance people who clean their offices could tell you about the company in one sentence, but the marketing director couldn’t find with both hands in a 5 page memo.
A client’s story is what Steve Jobs knows about Apple that whoever had his job when he was away making Pixar didn’t.
A client’s story can be a person who isn’t alive. (Orville Redenbacher)
A client’s story may be hidden from the people who run things at a company by people at the company who they haven’t treated well.
A client’s story may be in the past, the present or the future.
A client’s story may be so obvious you don’t think to feed it back to the client. A client can be as blind to their story as some beautiful women are to how beautiful they are. Conversely, there are clients so sure they know their story they resemble an ugly man convinced he is attractive who never hears he isn’t.
A client’s story may be a song no one remembers or a song no one has written yet, or a song no one relates to the company until you play it for them. It’s easy to think a song is a client’s story. It’s usually not.
A client’s story is easier to find than to tell. The high points of all good stories stand high. What does a good job of hiding is what exact part of the accumulated narrative to tell. Let jokes be your guide. The best jokes never contain any words or information that don’t contribute to the laugh.
A client’s story could have to do with the president of the company or the lowest paid employee on the salary list or with someone who never worked for the company.
A client’s story may be a surprise to the client, the public, and the ad agency. (Frank Perdue)
A client’s story is the one piece of creative an agency creative director can work on without pissing off the creatives in his group.
A client’s story does not have a format.
A client’s story doesn’t have a billable job number attached to it.
None of the best things in life do.