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Advertising lessons from the bush

I was fortunate to visit the bush a lot as a kid. My parents and family instilled in me a passion for the outdoors. A passion I explored after school by completing a course in game ranging and lodge management and working at Makalali, a private reserve near Hoedspruit.
Bjorn Annegarn
Bjorn Annegarn
We would often have Italian groups that would arrive on a Sunday by bus and leave on the Tuesday. Generally they would be large groups and would take most of the camps in the lodge.The busload of guests would be split amongst the waiting Land Rovers at Main Gate and we would drive off into the reserve on their first game drive.

Two nights or four game drives is not really enough time to experience the bush. Thus began the slippery slope. You would show your guests some of the smaller creatures in the beginning of the drive, antelope etc. But ultimately the drive would only be considered a success if the guests had seen one of the BIG mammals so often seen on the Discovery channel. “When are we going to see the BIG animals, the Elefante, Rinoceronte and Leone.” The pressure from the guests would become immense and eventually you would end off on a 'Ferrari safari' as you tore around the reserve chasing sightings called-in on the radio.

At the end of the guests’ stay they are happy to have ticked the right boxes and they think they had a great time. They saw the Elephant, Rhino and Lion, but sadly they completely missed the amazing essence of the bush. And it is that essence that’s arguably what keeps one going back again. The essence I felt I should be showing them when guiding them in the bush never ended up being part of their experience.

If I had only stuck to MY plan, relying on my skill as a guide and exposing them to nature and all its fauna and flora and not done a Ferrari safari they would probably have left having had a richer and more fulfilling experience and importantly yearned to return.

Having been in the advertising industry for five years now, I am increasingly finding advertising agencies caught in a similar trap. The agency embarks on a rigorous and detailed process, honed through education and experience. The client gets frustrated and so the process is moulded and massaged to suit the client’s needs and work flow. Sometimes the client gets what they want but ultimately they are left with a bad taste in their mouth and with no perspective of the value in the agency that they have worked with. Clients very quickly become reluctant to pay for things they don't see any value in. The agency would argue that they have given the client what they wanted; they have added value. How could the client not see the value they have added? Surely the client should be happy, but in fact the opposite has been achieved.

Although I speak from the advertising agency perspective, the same issue would likely be encountered by the consultant, architect or interior designer. As professionals who sell their services we need to stick to our process and follow our own work flow. Don’t be afraid to say no to a client. We should be confident in our ability and the fact that we know better. At the end of the process our clients will be happier for it, even if they haven’t seen the Elefante, Rinoceronte, Leone…

About Bjorn Annegarn

Bjorn Annegarn is a director at Creative Zoo Advertising. After having developed his expert client liaison skills as a field guide and his general management ability whilst running some of Africa's best game lodges, he joined the advertising industry. Self-confessed Star Wars nut, Bjorn's range of weird vocal noises are rivalled only by those of C-3P0.
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