We all know that our ideas have to be On Brief; we understand and accept that however great an idea is, it will rarely get presented to client - let alone bought - unless it's On Brief.
But our understanding of On Tone (and Off Tone) is at a lower level.
Ideas routinely get as far as being presented to client, only to be rejected because they're "not right for the brand."
Partly this is excusable because the client will invariably have a better understanding of their own brand than the agency does, since they are the brand owners.
But some of it is the agency's fault. Planners and Account Handlers can be vague about the required tone (how over-used is the word 'Witty' on a brief?) But mostly, it's Creatives that just get it wrong. This is a failing that's well worth eradicating, since any idea you spend time on but which doesn't end up getting bought, is a waste of your time. And anything that helps you get more of your ideas bought and made, makes you more successful.
I think the fault arises because there is a tone of voice that the typical creative (male, aged 22 to 35) is drawn to. You know the tone I mean. Clever, funny, and maybe slightly daring and modern. Like this.
If the client wants this sort of ad, great. It's just the kind of ad creatives love to write. But what if the brand is something else? What if it's serious, traditional, feminine or businessy? Then Creatives often lose their way, and keep on presenting ideas that are clever, funny, modern and daring. Ideas that don't get bought.
Tone of Voice is the last box on the brief, and often the last thing Creatives think about.
I'd suggest it's worth thinking about it a bit more. Making sure you've got a thorough understanding of the tonal territory before you begin concepting.
And the easiest way to find that territory, is with a map.
Making the map is very easy, and takes just a minute or two. All you need to do is pick three adjectives that, together, define the brand.
That's all it takes - three adjectives.
Because the fantastic thing about cartography is that you can define any point in the universe with only three coordinates.
Once you have your three adjectives (work with the Planner on this), the point at which they intersect is the right tone.
Sometimes, because I'm pretty much a geek, I literally do a drawing - either a Venn diagram with three circles, or a triangle with three sides. The bit in the middle is your tonal territory.
If you're thinking that this approach could be creatively limiting...
But it hopefully limits you to ideas that have a good chance of getting bought.