Thursday, November 10, 2011

The perfect, the near perfect, and the cheesy.

          I'm always pushing creative people to work hard and improve the potential of their work. After one pep talk with me, a writer accused me of making the perfect the enemy of the good.

          He said because we'll never be perfect, why don't I accept his good, professional output. I couldn't. Not because I expect his work to be perfect, but because there was a lot of ground to cover on the way to perfect. I would certainly settle for great.

          I doubt if any advertising or marketing will ever be perfect. In the '70s, the VW Beetle ads were mind-changing. The advertising for the little $1,700 car from Germany challenged the long, futuristic, over-finned brands being cranked out here in America. The VW ads attacked our car culture and such ideas as annual model change, car shows, depreciation, questionable quality control, built-in obsolescence, and everything else. People loved the ads that turned quirky into cute and simple into sensible. Yet even with all this, we weren't all buying Beetles. The ads were perfect in positioning the product, and for selling more cars than anyone thought possible. But nobody claimed it was perfect.

          I've always resented it when a creative team showed me work that was cute and clever, but not clear.  Or when it was so different that most prospective customers wouldn't get it. Or when it appealed to the writer's and art director's sophisticated friends, but they would be the last people to be in the market for the product.

         I've resented it because I felt they were cheating the client, and cheating me. I had faith in them to come up with something that met the requirements, and they brought in something perhaps amazing, but totally off the mark.

         Sometimes it's easy to sell a client an idea that isn't right for them. Like all of us, clients like to be considered hip and up to date, with-it and wonderful. Sometimes our enthusiasm for the idea can pull the client off course. You have to be careful.

        In advertising and marketing, you have to know what to be creative about. What the target market cares about, what problems they have, what they aspire to. And if you can meet these needs while tripping up competitors, so much the better. That's what strategies and tactics are for.

        Try for perfect, settle for great, but never settle for good. Your competition can do that.

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