Sunday, February 16, 2014

Expectations And Reality

So you may have seen this meme going around - pretty funny, no?

I guess it has spread across the internet because the underlying thought must be relevant to many different industries - "client has high expectations, but not the money needed to realise them."

However, the truth in our industry is a bit different, and in fact strangely toxic. 

In my experience, Clients actually do have a fairly accurate understanding of what their budget will buy. Where they could be accused of unrealistic expectations is over how much time things will take. Especially in the digital sphere. (One of the ironies of digital is that virtual things seem to take longer to make than non-virtual things).

But leaving that aside, the big gap between expectations and reality in our industry is not between client expectations and client money, but between the style and shape of what is initially briefed for, and the final outcome.

And that's not the Client's fault. Or the Agency's. It's actually a kind of weird collusion between the two.

At the beginning of the project, both sides agree that they are going to create something revolutionary, multi-faceted, and futuristic. And what ends up running is a TV ad.

Since I too have the Impact font on my cheap image-manipulation software, I have created my own crappy meme-style comp on the theme, above.

The image on the left represents the first presentation. The Client is really excited about the project, since this product is 'a revolution' in the field of home entertainment/ chickenburgers/ toilet paper. They want something really different this time around. The Agency takes that with a pinch of salt, but is excited to have an opportunity to create a truly modern, integrated campaign. So that's what they present.

But as the process continues, everyone realises that they don't have the time to build that, and it's also too complicated, and some elements of it are risky (because untried), so both sides fall back on the tried and trusted - and familiar and straightforward - a TV ad.

Now, I have nothing against TV ads. Many are great.

But I do find it perplexing, and indeed a little annoying, that so much time is wasted presenting a city of the future, which never gets built. And please note, I'm not blaming either side. Like I said, it's a collusion.

No one starts by presenting a poster for a coffee brand that just says 'Best beans, best taste'. But somehow we end up there.



Anonymous said...

because agencies have lost the ability to say no to the stupid changes and waterdowns demanded by clients.

Charles Edward Frith said...

“A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
― Dave Meurer

Anonymous said...

CDs used to know how to sell. Heck, even account managers knew how to sell. And they'd be given a cardboard box if they didn't.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first comment, Agencies (of all types) of all types says yes to anything, that also goes for production companies, post houses etc..

I think one of the issues here is that Vendor (Agencies, production and post companies) are driven by art but the client and consumer want to see product and price.

Hence opposite ends of the sit collide in a mess.

As the article states said...

.....But as the process continues, everyone realises that they don't have the time to build that, and it's also too complicated, and some elements of it are risky (because untried),......

Maybe work should not be presented that ultimately can not be produced on time, with certainty and within budget.

Doesn't someone say it can be achieved before going to Client??? Maybe time to start checking this small point.

Scamp said...

Yes. 'Small' but indeed rather crucial point.

Old CD Guy said...

The simple and rather depressing answer Simon, is that with most people in the chain determined not to rock the boat by trying anything genuinely new, and having very limited imagination or courage for anything truly original, mediocrity must rule. It's true of almost every field of human endeavour. Must I elaborate?

Groucho said...

"How much" asked my client.
"$100,000" replied the CD, "if you want a 100% result"
"How much would 90% cost?" asked the client.
"$70,000" replied the creative director.
"I'll take" it said the client, and never paid a silly price again.

Nobody noticed the 10% difference, not even the CD.
People rarely do.

Scamp said...

Chaps, I don't quite see it the same way.

Old CD Guy - I think people in the chain, both Client and Agency, DO want to do something new and great. And they delude themselves (or each other) into thinking this will happen. Why it doesn't - the gap between what everybody wants and what ends up running - is the part I don't understand.

Groucho - I'd contend that the extra 10% makes all the difference. Obsessive perfectionism has really paid off for the likes of Apple...

Groucho said...

@scamp perfectionism can pay - it is an admirable quality in an airline Captain for example - but I'm talking about an everyday local example not a US one with an unlimited budget.

Anonymous said...

Here's a revolutionary idea - start with a budget.
Prepare a tight brief
Give the creatives all the relevant criteria - including the BUDGET
If there's some astonishing idea that may increase the budget - prepare a rationale, and Account service should be able to sell it in.
Set some KPI's on the delivery for the client.
Otherwise just cut your cloth according to your pattern. And WORK TO THE BUDGET.

Anonymous said...

Client budgets and creative concepts usually go hand in hand. Where the financial battle is lost - and hence the creative - is with the bean counters. First at account management level, taking their cut for "servicing" - whatever that is. And then agency production + production company, both seeking to justify their existence and bill handsomely for it. In terms of the idea, this group takes the term creative execution quite literally.

Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, tight budgets can improve the final outcome.

Recent Australian example – Doug Pitt, aka Brad Pitt's brother.

I'm sure it wasn't cheap, but a hell of a lot cheaper than Brad's Chanel NÂș 5 flop. And I'm sure the creatives knew the constraints of the budget before they came up with the idea.