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Spot the strategy!

Is creativity clouding the issue...? When I studied at university and at IMM for a marketing manager course, etc it was always a task for students to define the target market and strategy that the brand was following of a particular campaign/commercial. At the risk of sounding like John Farquhar (whom I admire) I find creativity is clouding the issue.
We in the industry are all aware of many free TV, radio, print ads being made by agencies as clients do not wish to put money behind them. Agencies want it flighted/placed, as they want to enter it into the Loeries. Clearly the client is not willing to put money behind the particular commercial, as he does not believe it is right for his brand, yet his agency believes that creativity would work in the brand's favour. Surely, it's not about how fantastically creative the ad is, but more about what the ad is saying about the brand?

You have to have a strategy - before you start

In 1988, the Advertising Age creative workshop was held for the first time and termed "The Big Idea". The judges were the renowned Al Ries and Jack Trout, who were famous for the marketing warfare books, etc. The team I was in won, and the reason that the learned gentleman gave for our team winning, was that we were the only ones out of the 400 delegates that actually wrote a strategy. I have often seen strategies written after the creative work was done, so as to ensure that the two fit. Surely extensive time should be spent on studying research and competitors' communication to determine the best strategy for a brand or service.

Please tell me that I've been in the industry too long, because a lot of the advertisements in all media that I consume, I have trouble defining who they are trying to reach and particularly what positioning they are striving for. Let me mention one brand that at least is honest and clear about what they are attempting to do, namely Nando's. They make it very clear that they want to be edgy, controversial, and so on, so as to make their advertising and communication stand out. They are honest in their portrayal and their website spells it out. This is not so for many other brands where creativity is of a high standard, but it lacks substance as to what they are trying to achieve/position themselves as.

Nice ad, but who was it for? What was it for?

We have all been to the dinner parties where advertising is often discussed, as we are in the industry. The old cliché of "have you seen this great ad," which they can describe perfectly, but when asked which brand it was advertising, there is no answer. Even if you ask them which category the product, service, etc. it is in, they don't know. Good advertising? I don't think so!

I am by no means knocking creative advertising, as I'm not knocking Nando's. All I'm asking is, how many of the advertisements on TV, radio and print, can my learned colleagues identify the target market or what the brand is trying to achieve? Your comments will be appreciated, because maybe I'm the one in the dark.

About Rolf Akermann

Passionate Marketing / Brand Strategist with substantial industry experience - Thrives on building and growing successful brands...
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