Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is selling creative without the bullshit possible?

It was close to midnight. The agency was abuzz with frenetic activity for an important presentation in the morning. The client was a large MNC with an extremely tough marketing head. The agency had failed couple of times before in trying to sell their campaign ideas. The agency team was at their wits end. My boss had rounded up the entire team to discuss the presentation strategy. He was trying to develop a ‘rationale’ for each of the creative idea in front of us. Being the junior-most at that time, I was perplexed at the contrived explanations that the team members were coming up with. It was a whole lot of bull-crap. I was not alone in thinking that way.
The consequences suffered at the presentation could have been a little less painful had we carried a jar of Vaseline. We paid the price of bullshit overshadowing the creative and therefore becoming the point of debate. It is critical not to fall into this trap and important to sell the creative, not the bullshit. This is the problem with ‘rationale’. It is a logical or process driven explanation of a product (creative) that triggers an asymmetric, non-linear process within the mind. One is on a slippery and dangerous ground with it as clients can easily identify with logic.
Sometimes I wonder what Michelangelo’s pitch to the Vatican was when he shared his idea for the Sistine Chapel. Or for that matter that of the architect of Taj Mahal. Did he, for instance, tell the Emperor that the four minarets represented the eternal hard-on he had for his beloved?  
I suspect there has always been an element of bullshit that is used to sell creative. It will always be that way. Eminent designer Michael Bierut in this brilliant and candid post explains why. The post has its LoL moments one of which I have copied below. 

Every once in a while, however, there is satisfaction to be had when design bullshit attains the level of art. I remember working years ago with a challenging client who kept rejecting brochure designs for a Francophile real estate development because they "weren't French enough." I had no idea what French graphic design was supposed to look like but came up with an approach using Empire, a typeface designed by Milwaukee-born Morris Fuller Benton in 1937, and showed it to my boss, Massimo Vignelli. "That will work," he said, his eyes narrowing.
At the presentation, Massimo unveiled the new font choice with a flourish. "As you see," he said, "in this new design, we're using a typeface called Ahm-peere."
I was about to correct him when I realized he was using the French pronunciation of Empire.
The client bought it.
Now is the time for the million dollar question. What if the bullshit becomes the creative, which is the case most of the time?

(Image courtesy: Haags Uitburo)

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