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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Anti-Kata No. 2

Anti Kata No 2 Top ten countdown: How to kill great creative ideas

Well it’s been a while since we had an anti-kata. Kata are like training routines for refining your technique. Anti-kata are the absolute antithesis. Have you ever used any of these comments to kill creative work? I canvassed the freelancers you’ll find on the people pages to find out their favourites. So much of what is below is down to them. Many thanks to Tessa C, Merry B, Jackie B, Peter F and Tas (the creative remix crew!). Killers are listed in the order in which they tend to be introduced. And remember the later you speak in the creative review meeting the more authoritative you will come across. You can also trash or appropriate what everyone else has said. Use these regularly and unstintingly and I guarantee you can kill ANYTHING (stone dead)

10. It’s so far away from the norm that no one will recognise it as an ad for a washing power/car insurance/whatever

A good opening gambit. I mean if no one can tell what the product is then you’re finished before you’ve started right? That’s the beauty of doing category advertising. Get some ideas that look like like every ad ever done before in the category then start rehearsing why THIS particular execution is original and has standout. Honestly. People do it for hours…

9. The clients will never buy that

Ah clients. Can’t live with ’em can’t live without ’em. Be careful though. Some one may ask which client in particular you are referring to and why they won’t buy it and perhaps whether we ought to ask them before pontificating on their behalf. The great thing about this gambit is that it establishes early on in the review meeting that the client is the ultimate target audience. Thereafter if you play your cards right none of the discussion will be about real people seeing real advertising and all about selling it to the client. Lethal if used well.

8. I thought the aim was to get people to like it.

Likeability. Essential. One of the main reasons for researching creative ideas is to check that the punters like the work and think that it would be effective given that it looks like most of the advertising they’ve already seen. If you need to turn up the heat any then try Prejudice “Isn’t Elton John um gay?”. That way you can ensure you don’t get alternative comedians presenting household products, naked orange men puncturing children’s ear drums and so on. Likeability is a great word because a turgid script always looks more likeable than a challenging one.

7. I think we need to dial up the reason to believe

Proposition and support (or should that be gusset?). Let’s face it no one ever got fired for presenting ads to clients that has acres of copy explaining why their product is so brilliant. More than 30 seconds of voice over? Best reason I know to push it out to 40 and the persuasion scores are bound to shoot up. Be careful though – you’ll always come across a bit spoddy using this one. Cool planners don’t use this one. Best leave it to the suits. This is also the point at which people used to point out that humour was inappropriate to the category. Never do this – no one will want to drink with you again.

6. I like to cover up the right hand side of a script and to see if the visual communicates the message on it’s own because people often don’t listen to ads

If rationality fails then you’ll have to settle for a piece of detailed analysis. Everyone knows that advertising is a highly sophisticated business which can be derailed at any number of points. So pick ’em off one by one. There are loads. You could always try the alternative “I like to cover up the left hand of a script to see if the audio communicates on it’s own because people are sometimes out of the room when the ads come on”. This year use low involvement processing. Try something like “Last week I went to a seminar showing that most people take in advertising ideas below threshold levels and well I really think the monkey is too startling and could get in the way of the core idea.” No one will have the faintest idea what you’re talking about but fortunately most of them will agree with you.

5. You don’t know who it’s for until right at the end

Branding. It’s terribly important. Now some people might get high faluting about brands and high involvement and so on. Branding is simple really. It’s people knowing who the ad is for. As soon as possible. There’s an easy way to do this. Put the client’s logo in the top right hand corner of the ad. All the way through. If anyone says that’s ridiculous remind them of all those hapless commercials submitted to a Millward Brown link test. The one where the graph line of consumer interest is plotted over the commercial when it plays back. Remind them how scary it gets when the line goes up all the way through the commercial then drops on the final logo and super. Remind them how embarassing it was when the first time you saw this was in the client’s board room. Never fails. Tell ’em what you’re going to say. Tell ’em. Then tell em again.

4. This reminds me of an ad one of our competitors did in 1983

Also known as the Jude the Obscure gambit. Never give a specific example. Screw up your face and pause – timing is very important. It’s just on the tip of your tongue – can’t quite place it. Very effective. Guarantees that the account exec will have to spend the whole night going through old D&AD annuals. Every time their enthusiasm flags just remember another agency who might have done it. Or another category. Stress that the agency’s creative reputation is at stake. Particularly useful within 24 hours of the presentation to the client. Which is when this one unfailingly comes up.


3. The chairman usually shows these to his gardener and he won’t know who M People are

Ah but will the customer understand it? Notice how late in the sequence this objection comes. It’s very important. Get into basic issues of comprehension too early and some one may accuse you of being elitist and patronising (not good). The other danger is that someone may tell a junior planner to voxpop the script with tourists in Oxford Street and you know how good their English is these days. The script is virtually approved from that point because it has now passed the crudest hence most challenging research test. No leave it till later on. Make sure you fix on long words that they won’t understand – celebrities they won’t have heard of and place names that the audience have never been to. I remember an ad featuring the West Country which was vetoed because the Scots didn’t know where it was and couldn’t relate to it. Take care that the audience on whose behalf you are arguing are a minority. That way you are being culturally sensitive. Housewives aren’t a minority. Sikhs are. Geddit?


2. Let’s see what Millward Brown think

Nearly there and if you haven’t killed the idea yet then it’s time to start fighting dirty. The MB word has been used to bludgeon many a fine ad into a shallow grave and not because the fine folks from Leamington Spa ever got their mitts on it either. Threats and insinuation are your watchword here. Then drop in that a quantitative pre test will cost a small fortune. “In fact you may as well brief media now to wipe the final month off the press schedule” and watch the room panic. That way the entire meeting concludes that a) the best idea can only be determined using research and b) research is prohibitively expensive. Game set and match.

1. That scares me shitless

My personal favourite. On the surface it looks like professional suicide and reveals you for the gutless craven political animal that you are. Actually it is a cunning feint prior to mounting a sincere and sorrowful attack on creative self indulgence and the kind of selfish careerism that goes for lunch at 11, won’t work on anything that doesn’t involved a shoot in Cape Town, insists on going to Cannes and threatens all our livelihoods. After you use this one, leave the meeting immediately protesting enormous volumes of work. Don’t worry, you won’t miss anything and no further decision will be taken without you in the room. The meeting is over – someone will call for a breathing space and will get the secretary to rearrange the diaries to which you as the person with the most integrity in the agency will be the first and most honoured invitee. And the creatives will have to stew in their own juices wondering if you have been on the phone to the creative director asking for a new team. Very effective. You won’t get a dangerous ad out of them.







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