Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Nightmare Propositions

Okay. Last day of Planner-bashing, I promise.

I'm thinking of starting my talk by showing the Planners a few examples of bad propositions, while playing the music from John Carpenter's 'Halloween'. Not only will this be a fun way to start, I reckon, but also it's sometimes easier to see what to do, by looking at what not to do.

The biggest nightmare of a proposition I remember was one I was given many years ago, on the brief for the UK launch of scratchcards. It was: "The exciting way to win lots of money instantly." As you can see, this 'single-minded proposition' is really an embedded triple - exciting, wealthgiving, quick.

So... help me out... what's the worst proposition you've ever seen on a brief?

Oh, I've remembered another one - "the car for the individual". I shit you not, I've actually seen that. I guess the thinking was that 'not many people are buying this car, therefore the people who are buying it must be happy to stand out from the crowd, therefore they are individuals, therefore this is the car for the individual." The only slight flaw is that, last time I checked, we were all individuals...


Anonymous said...

Another car one which I shit you not:
"This car makes you happy."

Anonymous said...

"Cheerios is real world goodness for the whole family"

Anonymous said...

"This phone will make you feel like a superhero"

Didn't get the CD approval but somehow made it onto our desks.

Anonymous said...

All individuals?

i'm not

George said...

"Yes, we are all individual"

Anonymous said...

RE 1:06

I'm surprised Fallon haven't used that as an endline.

Paul said...

Was the car for the individual a single seater?

dk said...

"last time I checked, we were all individuals..."

I'm not.

Robin said...

Ha. Sorry guys what you have pale by comparison.

Here are some.

For Philips, years ago.
They claimed that their DVD players were future-proof.
So, no matter how DVDs evolved, this one Philips machine was going to be able to handdle.

I mean, come on, who would believe such a silly claim?

Nexy - for a tyre.
It was a pitch.
And the planner insisted on 'Cooper Tyres. For people who want to be different.'

I've worked on Dunlop and other tyres.
And as far as I know, no one buys tyres to be different.
Cars, yes.

So I asked the planner, are the tyres a different shape?
Or colour?
Or een size.

No, they look like normal tyres.

Looks like bad planning isn't just in the UK.
I'm in the Far East.

Qwango Tackhammer said...

At our first agency, me and my partner got a brief that was asking us to say about 3/4 relatively complicated things in a 1/2 page press ad.

Just after she briefed us she said, without irony:

"wow, so it usually takes two years to get a job in creative? Boy, I don't fancy your job!"

Rich said...

My second worst proposition was "You and the new Ford Fiesta will enjoy a long and complicitous relationship together"

It had three teams scratching their heads and running for the dictionary.

In hindsight, the planner in question probably used the archaic, near obsolete word knowing full well that we'd have to leave the room to define it.

Had he used colloquial English, the brief would have read "The new Ford Fiesta will like a boyfriend / girlfriend to you" and he'd have been lynched.

The heinous part is that he'd already agreed the creative execution with the client, featuring a girl preferring her car to a boyfriend. They'd written a shockingly bad ad between them, before realizing it was shit and dragging us in at the last minute.

I can't remember the exact wording of my worst brief, but it was something like "Chocolate packed with pieces of almond". We found it printed word for word on the packaging.

This was a brief from the deputy head of planning. I'd like to believe she thought she'd get away with her laziness because it was concealed under the wrapper's flap and we creatives would have the guile to find it.

But in truth, she'd probably written it when she was pissed, which she was most afternoons.

Those were the days...

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

"We're all individuals..."
'I'm not."

Frankly most planners would agree that a proposition like that is terrible

Anonymous said...

I have seen some great ads get written with creative director and client on board only for some planner to stick the boot in because it didn't come from their strategy.

Anonymous said...

All this proposition talk reminds me why all those people on the last thread who said they just want a chat and a nice territory to play in were so right.....a chat and a nice leaping off point are what a brief should be...not some wanky proposition

Anonymous said...

i don't get it?

Anonymous said...

is it true that "it does what it says on the tin" and "4th emergency service" were written by planners, or is that a myth??

Anonymous said...

change the way you see..... travel/the world/washing liquids/healthcare/energy/the future/the past/the present/oatmeal/diet products/your car.

Actually the worst was a brief for a client sponsorship of a football championship: 'Europe's greatest football teams go head to head, to find out who is greatest, with [client's name].' So that'd just be a description of the competition then?

Anonymous said...

True story:

The brief: "Do an ad for (client's name)"

Anonymous said...

I didn't know people still did propositions. How very old-fashioned.

Anonymous said...

For an electronics company, the single-minded proposition simply read:


It was single-minded, i'll give them that one

Anonymous said...

'The most full on chocolate in the chocolate world' spouted the overpaid Kiwi senior planner well versed in producing drivel..

A year later came

'The most full on taste in the burger world.

The year after

'The most full on comfort in the panty liner world..'

A full on bullshit artist..

Anonymous said...

Best proposition I ever saw was on a Stella Artois TV brief.

I think it was the one that generated Doctor (BTAA Grand Prix Winner).

The brief was: "Another one please".

Anonymous said...

"Our gum contains ingredients"

I think that one got him fired

Anonymous said...

Single word proposition for a car about ten years ago.



Anonymous said...

Nightmare proposition......the 'big lass' in finance once asked me to put in her botty.

Anonymous said...

At least some of you guys get a proposition. Some agencies don't know what one is

gareth said...

the first brief i ever saw: harvey nichols is the ultimate fashion department store.

to be fair, 'the' was in bold and underlined

Unknown said...

Simon, have you read Jeremy Bullmore's book "Behind the Scenes in Advertising"? There's a chapter near the end called something like "What is an Account Planner?" It's actually a speech he gave to planners. Encourage you to read it in preparation for your talk.

As a strategist/planner, it pains me a little to feed the fire, but here's one. I can't give away the client name, unfortunately, but the worst line on a brief I ever heard was for AcmeCo, and was simply "Think AcmeCo." Seriously.

Anonymous said...

the proposition for the VW Golf 'Night Drive' campaign was "The Golf is a great drive"...

Anonymous said...

"Because Every Runner Is Different"
- Adidas Running

It's got the triple-whammy of starting with "Because", being about non-conformity (yawn) and actually becoming the fucking endline.

Savour the awfulness.

Also, can we just play this clip each time rebel/don't conform/be unique propositions land on our desks?

Anonymous said...


They're usually the same 7, just rewritten in different ways. We've never made a campaign off a planner's proposition. We've only justified the work with it. Any creative worth their salt can handle the strategy.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, theses days clients like to get all excited about a brief - in order to 'buy' it and justify to their bosses what a good job they are doing with their agencies. This forces planners to try to be creatives and solve it brief before its written. That's why there are so many shite end-lines masquerading as propositions on briefs these days.

Usually the most boring propositions yield the best ideas. If only planners tried to be clear rather than clever.

Anonymous said...

(x product) can change a child's life.

no shit. italicised for emphasis. IT CAN. FFS. DON'T MAKE ME THINK

The worst one are the ones written like campaigns.

Just do it - would be a proposition these days.

Jimmy Salt said...

You should see the propositions in integrated agencies.


planning in those agencies is the easiest job going. You swan around talking shit. Take up the agency's primadonna quota. Take five months to write a brief and then give creatives two days to answer it.

Biggest cocks in the industry? BTL brand planners by a country mile. They will die having made nothing but money.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, anthing written by a Canadian. I've experienced a few and they are all fucking awful. Must be the insipid country they hail from.

Anonymous said...

best brief ever. for a a beer.

create the most popular advertising in the world.

Qwango Tackhammer said...

Re: 2.59

The point is she gave us an impossible brief and couldn't understand why it was sometimes difficult to crack the briefs and get a job in creative advertising. i.e: it would help if she didn't keep sending us here, there and everywhere on every one of her shite briefs.


Anonymouse said...

Mr/Ms 4.22pm

Mr Beattie came to our college many years ago and said a fashion brand had approached him to 'do an ad for our brand'. off the back of the inspired 'check out Eva Herzigova's norks' campaign, as i remember.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5.58

Fuck me the poor bastards. A VW brief with a simple proposition you can take anywhere. What a nightmare. Not like those lucky bastards who get to work on Hyundai, Ford, Kia or any other crap client who think their cars are the most beautiful things in the world.

Dave said...

At my last agency it was either indulge, invigorate, freshen, express individuality, do better, encourage expression, upgrade, or begin again. It's all the bloody same meaningless planning bullocks, just rephrased to fit another brief.

neil christie said...

When discussing 'planners go wild' Tony D always refers to the proposition he encountered in a past life: "a celebration of mayonnaise'. As a result, this has become Wieden + Kennedy shorthand for a shit brief. As in, "How are we expected to do a great Nike/Honda/Nokia/Wales/Guardian/whatever idea to this brief? It's a fucking celebration of mayonnaise!'

Anonymous said...

Another car one:
"Feel special"

Thanks, fuckwit.

Anonymous said...

I was working on a website brief for a new product, and saw that the brief was shit and had no single minded proposition. I pointed that fact out to the CD and he said, 'No, it doesn't need one, it's a website.'

Yes, I work somewhere shit.

Anonymous said...

The best in its category. I've seen AEs coming up with this wonder too many times. When I ask back, "do you think I'm the best Copywriter in the world?"..they go, "Of course you're not"...the same goes for the product too. So this is it "THE BEST IN ITS CATEGORY."....AMEN!!!

Tom Morton said...

Following the recent spate of planner-hating on the board, I thought I'd share a nightmare client brief to show where planners add some value.

The client brief was from Scottish and Newcastle. Their brief for John Smith's said: "Increase volume share by 2.5 pts. Increased forced choice preference to 60% vs nearest competitor."

The proposition that went in to the creative department was: "The no nonsense attitude always wins through."

That's what planners do. Go through the mud to find the bits of gold.

Tom Morton said...


The Ultimate Fashion Department Store is a damn good brief for Harvey Nicks. It's single minded and clears the way for creatives to have fun with the word of high fashion. It clears the way for the brilliant catwalk ad for the food hall and puts Wallace and Gromit in designer gear for the Bristol store launch. Do you think Jeremy Craigen and the teams at DDB saw it as a nightmare proposition? More like great opportunity.

Unemployed said...

After reading this i think i could be an amzing Planner, how does one become one please?

Anonymous said...

on a pitch at saatchis for Yakult

Because you have the right to feel more than alright.

They didn't win the business, can't se why.

Anonymous said...

No proposition.

"No we don't do them any more"...
"There's a few thought starters attached to the back page..."

I shit you not.

So there we have it. Money for nothing achieved.

Anonymous said...

"NIVEA sun kids coloured spray is easy to use, a fun colour, and protects you against the sun's harmful rays"

and the bloke who wrote it was affectionately known as the 'time rapist'

Anonymous said...

No joke, we got this proposition for a Cheese:

"The only way to a life less ordinary"

brake dollinge said...

'as good a place as any to buy your music'.

it was the way it strode in with a confident swagger, like jimmy fucking dean.

Ratto said...

Anything with the word 'Passion' in it.

I do remember being handed a brief for a crate company (nice) and the proposition read "The crate that does more."

For fuck's sake...

Anonymous said...

Planners don't make good ads. Creatives don't make good ads.
Directors don't make good ads.
Clients make good ads.
VW, honda, Harvey Nicks - they can come to me with the biggest bullshit me too strategy and I'll still know that there's going to be a good ad at the end of it.

Graham Funk said...

hey scamp, check out this ad.

bloody great.

Anonymous said...

I once got a sixteen-page brief on a liquor account. they had just taken a bunch of marketing copy and thrown in text blocks from other liquor briefs we had been working on that year. in some cases they had even forgotten to change the brand names.

when we complained a major shitstorm came upon us. we didn't value "all the hard work and late nights" they had put into the brief.

a second and a third brief came, the campaign was shit.

Anonymous said...

"Surprisingly accessible"

Anonymous said...

what about this horror for Babybel

Babybell, fun all round

Anonymous said...

Our 'planners' usually just give us the client brief, which is fine. Just not quite sure why we need them. They don't hamper us. They don't do anything.

My old agency briefs always used to claim 'product X is for street smart people who are in the know.' Terrible.

mm said...

"Innovation Exploration".

Anonymous said...

The brief for a government account - "we don't want anything meaningful, we just want to be seen to be doing something" you can guess the rest!

john p woods said...

Ok scamp, my schizo drugline wasn't believable then? Amsterdam-based AkzoNobel, a powerhouse in the global production and distribution of decorative paints, performance coatings, and specialty chemicals has 'Tomorrow's Answers Today'. There is a whole host of brands with derivatives of the same theme, although off the top of my head I can't think of any.

Anonymous said...

For a surprisingly spacious car: "a new dimension in space".

A new dimension in anything doesn't really mean anything. I've had the "a new dimension in..." brief since, but now I know it's a dud right away.

JP said...

I'd love it if Sir Alan looked at some of these propositions. That'd be worth watching.

Anonymous said...

I was recently asked to write a headline for a mobile phone company.

The brief was 'simple':

"Write a headline that makes consumers cancel their current contract and switch to (brand x)"

In one headline?

I think they were after some sort of brainwashing line.

I couldn't deliver.

Anonymous said...

the babybell is okay. except the fucking poor attempt at copywriting.

babybell: fun

is a better job of it

Anonymous said...

believe it or not I got this on my desk 3 months ago.
for retailer:
"you get the best quality for the best price."

no kidding.

Anonymous said...

scamp, i think you should do a top ten, what's you worst that you've seen out of these lot?

Anonymous said...

our planner started a pitch brief with

"well, we all know no one likes to wash..."

when we laughed in his face he said

"yeah alright i did make that up"

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of becoming a planner. But I don't have any shit clothes.

Anonymous said...

planners just copy and paste briefs. these are the only two SMP's that exist in my agency:

The *insert product/service* that understands you.


The *insert product/service* that fits into your life.

Rob said...

Just wrote a post about the broader question of why planners and strategists are needed in the first place (I am a strategist, so watch out for bias). In other words, what's the most useful advice/info you've ever gotten from a planner? Feel free to weigh in on that debate here:

Anonymous said...

For the game Wipeout 'Credible Prescience' I seem to remember it being voted 'proposition of the week' on the creative floor.
That said the resulting poster was born of it and picked up a few

Anonymous said...

John W -How about Toyota? (Today Tomorrow Toyota)

Anonymous said...

Windows Live Search: Connect with the dynamic of the moment.


Anonymous said...

Wow, some real howlers here. Now how about the really good ones? Loving "Another one please" for Stella: simple, single-minded, interesting way of relating to the product and a good launching point for creatives. Any more?

bob hoffman said...

Honest to god:

"Fresh pineapple is better because it's fresh."

Anonymous said...

....... solutions to suit your.......needs.

Seen it in the service sector a hundred times, but you could apply it to anything in the world:

Biscuit solutions to suit your afternoon tea needs.

So generic. Utterly powerless.