Monday, January 05, 2015

How To Win Every Argument You Will Have In 2015

Ad folk are a passionate bunch of people, working in an industry that is rife with subjectivity.

Result: lots of arguments.

So, here's how you can win them. Or at least more of them.

First of all, you need to stop thinking like a Creative.

Unfortunately, Creatives aren't particularly trusted in our industry. (We've partly brought this on ourselves: a story for another time).

Contrast that with the respect accorded to creative people in the world's most successful creative companies, such as HBO. David Chase, executive producer of 'The Sopranos', says "the secret to HBO's success is really very simple. They trust the people they have doing their shows.'

I also love this quote about Dino Patti, the CEO of games company Playdead, who made the successful and award-winning Limbo. "Playdead chose to ignore outside advice from investors and critics during development. According to Patti, Playdead felt these changes would break the integrity of game director Arnt Jensen's original vision."

We don't have that.

No Client is going to be persuaded to drop a requested change because 'it would break the integrity of the creative team's vision'. In fact if you said those words, the Client would probably laugh out loud.

So what can you say? 
I'm going to pass on something I learned from Nigel Bogle. (I worked with Nigel a bit at BBH - awesome guy).

I was once in a meeting where a Client was questioning some aspect of a TV ad we were doing for them. I don't even remember what the debate concerned now - perhaps a piece of casting, or a location.

I patiently explained why, creatively, I preferred the direction we were proposing over the Client's suggestion. The Client harrumphed. I had failed to persuade him.

Then Nigel stepped in. "It's actually not a creative issue, it's a strategic issue," he stated. And he then went on to detail why the direction we were proposing was more 'on-strategy'. And it worked.

Well, maybe it partially worked because it was Nigel Bogle saying it.

But also I think there's some truth to my theory that Clients (and indeed almost everyone in the industry) are simply more persuaded by strategic rationale than by creative rationale.

In fact we can expand this theory. I reckon that the secret to winning the inevitable arguments that occur during the cut-and-thrust of advertising is to ELEVATE.

If you're in an argument about execution, elevate it to why your point of view is right for the idea.

If you're in an argument about ideas, elevate it to why your point of view is right strategically.

If you're in an argument about strategy, elevate it to why your point of view is right for the business problem.

In short, elevate.

Have a great year, everyone! (And if you have any tips for winning arguments, please do leave them in the comments. Share the knowledge, share the love).


Anonymous said...

Seeking to 'win every argument' is a recipe for disaster.
I have worked on both the creative and client side for 20+ years and have a different and perhaps radical, perspective.
Try listening to the client.
NOT to do what they suggest but to understand where the objection is coming from. It may (often) be valid and the creative needs adjusting - ultimately this is not art, its business.
If you have a client coming up with solution - have you done your job meeting the brief as well as you might have? Perhaps not.
Where I do agree is the post is absolutely correct in saying elevate the discussion to strategy - but if you treat it as a competition - its a short path to becoming irrelevant.

Scamp said...

Ah. I agree with you. I guess I was hoping that was a given. Of course listen. Of course understand where the objection is coming from. But after that, if you still feel your proposed solution is better, elevate.

copyranter said...

Good advice Scamp.

Anonymous said...

Be the most senior person in the room and just insist you are right.
Or keep talking. Never stop. Ever. People have lives and they start to realise that you will never, ever give up and if they are to be able to live fulfilling lives they must give in to you.

Old CD Guy said...

I find it helps to look clients straight in the eye when you're arguing with them. Sometimes that's hard, particularly if the client is taller than you. That's when I'm grateful for my elevator shoes, which I wear to every meeting. If I need to be a few inches taller to engage the client on his level, I reach for the elevator button on my elevator shoes and press 'Elevate'.

Not that old CD guy said...

It's not about winning arguments.
It's all about winning the client's trust.
They must trust that the only agenda you have for every recommendation you make is to solve the marketing problem at hand.
One's track record is vital.
Once they suspect you have a personal agenda or are creating work to make yourself famous, you're screwed.
No matter who and how you elevate the topic.

Scamp said...

Agree. Except... don't forget, my story was based on Nigel Bogle. He is probably the most trusted man in advertising. He also has quite the track record. And yet still, he often finds himself needing to argue his point of view. Because what we do is so subjective.

Here for an argument said...

No it isn't.

Not that old CD guy said...

You are so spot on. I guess we need find better role models.
Of late, they seem to be in short supply.
I've had the good fortunate of working with a few of them in my lifetime.
These living legends have four things in common.
1-Clients paid attention whenever they spoke even if the medicine they prescribed were bitter, expensive and took time to work its magic.
2- These old timers invested in building relationships with seniors and even juniors at the clients side.
3- They were all eventually replaced with younger and brasher CDs who talked a better game than they played.
4- The agencies who chose flash over substance all lost their respective businesses.