Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Calculus 101

When I tell people I used to work at Chiat/Day they always want to know what it was like to present work to Lee Clow. They presume the experience to be intimidating and nerve-wracking. And to some extent, it was.

But I always found that was more self-induced.

When it came to judging work and whether that work had any merit to move forward, Lee was always surprisingly brief. "Yes." "No." "No." "Yes." "No.""No." "Definitely No."(OK, I'm being generous, there was one Yes for every 20 No's.)

The work that passed the yes/no test was always followed with, "That could be funny", "That could be cool", "That could be interesting." Meaning, this has promise, but a lot more work had to be done.

What I find interesting is how the judging criteria has changed over the years.

You see, I rarely hear those type of phrases anymore.
Today, work gets held up to a different measuring stick: the check list.

"This spot has plenty of innovation, but not enough humanity."

"This talks about our features, but not enough about the benefits."

"This speaks about our heritage, but not enough about our future."

If you work in the Creative Department of an ad agency you know exactly what I'm talking about. A brief may have one single communications message, but a good planner knows how to utilize every inch of white space on a page. So that one overriding message will be buttressed with further requests.

These are cleverly disguised as Tone, Copy Support, or the very threatening, Mandatories.

And just because they're at the bottom of the page doesn't make them any less important.
They're all important.

In the end, a spot that was designed to convey X, must also include mentions of Y and Z, while at the same time implying leadership, innovation, customer service and dependability. The spot may be humorous, but not funny.

When it's all said and done, the brief looks less like a strategy for success and more like a recipe for something you'd never want to eat.

Please bake a cake with following ingredients:

2 lbs. white flour
1/2 lbs. ground beef
4 ounces of milk chocolate
3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper
3 ounces 10W-40 motor oil
8 stalks of celery
A dash of curry
A sprinkling of saffron
A smidgeon of Kosher Salt
A pinch of Plutonium

And we need it by 4 PM.

1 comment:

edkishinevsky said...

Like the post. As a planner, I take your words to heed. My goal when briefing is to get you - the creative - truly the idea that will launch your creative development.
I'm a big idea planner, and I like to have you open to make good work, not constrict with details. some guideposts that I think are relevant and helpful could be included.
I'm on the creative side, and I believe working together and supporting each other.
Keep the Faith,