If there is anything that I look back on as formative in my career, it’s the idea of being proactive for your clients.
I call it the +1 philosophy.
Yes, clients have assignments, objectives and briefs. They are the basis for the majority of the work that we do. But why stop there? In my experience, the truly magical work happens when you’re not inhibited by a finite assignment.
Because when advertising becomes invention, it’s unstoppable.
Typically, this kind of thought leadership is called “the big idea.” And today, more and more clients are looking for agencies to bring this level of value to their business. W+K did it recently for Sony. Instead of doing a compelling ad for the waterproof phone (which is table stakes by now anyways) they created a series of apps that activated when the phone was underwater. Essentially, they invented a product to showcase a product. Genius.
The beauty of these +1 concepts is that they don’t have to be airtight or defensible, which makes them inherently more bold. It gives a creative team permission to dream a little. Even if the idea never gets made, the agency still gets credit for going above and beyond, and for working for a client’s greater benefit, not just an estimate. Being a CMO is the hardest job in the industry today. There’s so much scrutiny on ROI that it’s increasingly difficult to take risks and be bold.
Years ago, we had a client who wanted us to do some FSI’s for their product—canned tomatoes. We did the research, wrote the brief and then did some of the most beautiful FSI’s that ever graced a newspaper.
But we knew there was still a residual skepticism around the idea that canned tomatoes were as good as fresh. And no matter how clever our headline was, it was hard to win that argument. So our team came up with an idea to paint a silo on a farm in Southern Indiana to look like a can of tomatoes. First it became a monument to the tomatoes and their origins. Later, it became a landmark.
That’s a classic +1 idea.
So the next time a brief comes across your desk, ask yourself, “what’s the +1?” It’s good business. And it’s good for the soul.