Bits & Pieces?
It’s finally is starting to feel like summer again, and that’s why we chose the theme “Green” for this weeks contest. Also, this week it just so happens to be a battle between our male photographers; Michael Prince, Nick Pipitone, Ben Halpin, and myself. Only one of us will make to defend our win against the ladies next week, and here are our photos.
Please share, and thanks for voting!
You guys chose my photo this week (thank you, thank you), which means next week I will defend my crown against all the men. I will face Ben Halpin, Nick Pipitone, and Michael Prince in Photo Showdown XV. The theme is Green.
See you next Monday.
I’ve been thinking about the Ben Folds’ song “Bastard” lately. The chorus goes, “Why you gotta act like you know when you don’t know? It’s ok if you don’t know everything.” Those lyrics come to my mind when I encounter someone that strikes me as a know-it-all – someone that is clearly forcing an answer into the space of question just because the space exists. And hey – it takes one to know one. I am this person on MANY occasions. It’s usually me reminding myself that it’s OK to just utter those three simple words: I don’t know. But I bet I’m not alone. I’m sure this is rooted in how we were brought up as students – a focus on the answer more so than the process of discovering it. Plus, there’s just that amazing feeling of being right.
But one of the things that makes us know-it-alls annoying, as well as harmful, is that we’re not always right – or there’s no way to prove whether we are or we aren’t. Yet we hop into the answer hole so fast, we often (unintentionally on my part at least) discourage others from seeking another (equally or even, gasp! more right) answer.
Now before you think this is just some personal rant, let me make a connection. In an earlier post on agile development I referenced the somewhat controversial statement out of 37 Signals as they contend that the planning process that is part of most traditional development cycles is simply guessing – and that guessing is dangerous. We also took a look at the difference between that traditional development cycle of Learn > Make > Test and the agile cycle of Make> Test> Learn.
In a traditional environment the learning is scheduled up front. A lot of good primary and secondary research is done and, when combined with our experience, produces valuable insights that then feed our strategy, design and execution. But these insights – much like the planning I believe 37 Signals had in mind – are really just (educated) guesses. And unfortunately, those guesses serve as the “answer” deliverable and that task of seeking answers is often considered closed after that inital phase.
An agile environment certainly is not void of upfront research and insights – but there is focus on getting to them fast and treating them as valuable, but temporary. We’re forced to leave the space of the question open for a while and that can be uncomfortable! And it’s uncomfortable for most clients too! No one wants to say, “We’re not sure, let’s just try it and see.” But we have to. It’s the best chance our next website/social campaign/”killer app” has. The agile agency must fight to be metrics-driven – meaning learning and acting based on measuring the first build. Not just collecting the data, but genuinely seeking answers that potentially prove our insights wrong – and having the time and budget allocated to be iterative.
Now back to the song. I don’t think Folds is on any sort of personal rant either. I think he just wants to say that there is something very special – whimsical yet substantial – about discovering life’s truths – the details of which can be largely missed if we rush into knowing. Which, strangely, has amazing relevance to our lives in an agile agency.
Those of us in the advertising business have invariably heard the term “Creative is king.” Coming from an industry known for developing some of the great pop-culture references of all time (think “Where’s the beef?” or “I want my MTV”) it’s no surprise that this is a common phrase in ad agencies across the land.
While being creative is definitely a very important part of advertising, and those that do it well can truly leave a mark on society, I’d argue that there is one phrase that might be more accurate: Common Sense is King.
I’m not trying to downplay the creativity required in advertising or those who come up with the ideas that leave people asking “Did you see that new (fill in the blank) commercial?” I’m just suggesting that common sense has a very important “checks & balances” role to play with creativity. I would argue that the three branches of good advertising are creativity, strategy and common sense. If any one of these is left out of the mix an advertisement has the potential to go terribly wrong.
Our industry prides itself on being creative but also digging into our clients’ business to completely understand their goals, missions, strategies, etc. And after hours of research and concepting there are still far too many ads like the one above that don’t pass the common sense test. If you want a laugh (or cry depending on your point-of-view) check out adfailure.com to see more.
It’s easy to understand how, when entire teams of advertising and marketing professionals are focused on making sure logos are correct and no typos exist, sometimes the bigger picture can get lost. But when a 13-year-old looks at your hard work and sees something you missed, consider that an epic fail.
So while creativity and strategy play very important roles in the development of all marketing elements, common sense plays the ultimate trump card. Long live the king.
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