Saturday, March 31, 2012

The agony of deciding.

          Alan King, the comedian, was asked the secret of his long and happy marriage. King answered that he and his wife agreed to share decision making.  "She makes the small decisions, and I make the big ones", he said. His friend asked what the small decisions are. King said, "Where we live, whether to have kids, and so on". The friend asked what the big decisions are. King replied, "Whether to send men to the moon again, whether to attack a rogue nation..."

           In advertising and marketing, there are always a million decisions, big and small. If you don't like decisions, don't become a top executive, because decisions are what you're paid for.

           I think my good friend Marty Puris had to make one of the toughest decisions in business. Marty's agency created the BMW "ultimate driving machine" campaign. It was an incredible success and put BMW right up there with Mercedes.

           When new BMW management came in, they decided it would be prudent to hear presentations from other ad agencies. To Marty, it was a slap in the face to his people, some of the very best in the business. Marty decided not to present, for the good of his company.

            Marketers and advertising people are in the business of decisions.

            Every advertising copywriter has to decide whether her ideas are big enough; whether she's expressing them in the most powerful way; whether the ad is persuasive, the commercial compelling.

            Every art director has to decide what kind of visual is needed to get the most attention; what kind of layout best tells the story. Should we visualize the problem or the solution? Should the product be heroic or small; should the logo be prominent or should the name come as a surprise?

            Strategic marketing decisions can even be bigger. Should we raise the price in order to be perceived as more valuable, or lower it to be competitive? If we come out with a line extension will that dilute our reputation as the experts? If we come out with a flanker product will it cannibalize our business?

             I believe that problem-solving, like advertising itself, is an art. It's a big part of the fun of being in the business. There are constantly new problems to solve, new puzzles to figure out.

             If you don't have problems, you're out of business.

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