Monday, May 03, 2010

Time, Time, Time..

The title of the post allows me a spot of Waits. Good stuff.

How long is too long? Does it really take weeks and months to write a thoughtful piece of creative work? What would happen if we tightened the screws and made it days and weeks? Why do some people need years to summon up the courage to tell someone they love them?

Flipping it - when does quality begin to suffer with not enough time? Coming up with a decent creative solution shouldn't be like keeping battery hens and expecting a golden egg every time.

I'd think that this would vary depending on who you asked, like the Tom Waits song of the same name. Account handlers would always like more time. They are those who are often placed in battery hen situations, and it's nice when you have a select few who can rise above it and see the blue skies. I think the reverse happens to planners, in truth. We don't often have particularly concrete deadlines for our work (save pitches and big bits of client scheduling).

And, as the Fast Strategy conferences touched upon, there may be some merit in speeding up the whole planning process now and then. You can have too long to think about something. I bring this up because, well, PR planning has a lot less time than Advertising. You get a month to pitch? We get two weeks. When faced with this sort of thing, it's easy to understand why there's a historical divide between the two disciplines.

Personally, i've always been an advocate of it taking as long as it takes. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly woolly, but to assume that you can come up with anything more than a semi-decent strategy in a day is fallacious. I think the bosses i've ever worked for have understood this - you can come up with a piece of thinking on Sunday that's infinitely better than a week's worth of work when you're obviously trying to think about it.

Strategic thinking's not a linear process, and any job which is actively engaged with the creative process should recognise this. It's not a simple matter of hot housing ideas or thinking. It's about doing stuff to take your mind of it, often. Cwoffee is an extension of this, or even something like my banal twitter account. The aim of both is almost to take my mind off the day job, so I can allow my unconscious mind to chug along to a more interesting solution.

It's also why it's so heartening to realise that most marketeers are beginning to reject the notion of a straightforward purchase funnel. Real life isn't like this, so why the hell should a 'buying process' really exist? It's comforting, but it's damned wrong. It's why the idea of lining up or organising your organisation like a client troubles me; we're The Agency. We are the people who should surprise, shock or delight their clients. Not mirror them. If clients can mildly ape what we can with some talented staff writers and Mac-ites, then proper lateral thinking is the best weapon we have. To foster that, we need to not be tied to being a little sub-client doing factory which you find in many of the agency client relationships around the world.

And when this comes to media, as discussed before, it really puts a lot of the big buying shops under the microscope. Why would you bulk buy media packages? Why wouldn't you be more reactive and creative? To buy even a series of TV spots around a certain type of programming ever more looks like you're spunking money up the wall. Find out where people are inspired and reactively buy. This jars horrendously with the big meeja agency shop's principle of having largely junior staff to fill in spreadsheets and bulk buy, with a smattering of senior staff overseeing the process. Why wouldn't you entrust where the message goes to those who come up with the creative messaging, and actually have RESEARCHED the audience, rather than some limp and out of date dataset which tells you nothing more than what people who like filling in research said, at best, six months ago?

With all of that said, I don't think being thoughtful and being fast are as oil and water as many seem to think they are. To have a set of base principles which inform upon action, which are flexible enough to allow new discoveries to change things (in much the same way Nokia changed its focus from engineering to mobiles many moons ago) seems to be the way to go. To rely on a silo to ensure business success has never seemed so inapt.
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