Sincerity, an advertising man and columnist not a million pages from here was once quoted as saying, is everything. Learn how to fake that, and you've got it made. He couldn't have been more wrong.
Great advertising (yes, it exists!), indeed, great communication of any kind, rarely springs perfectly formed from the mind of its creator. The most convincing and compelling commercial writing begins not when the copywriter's fingers hit the keyboard, but long before that, when metal strikes metal in some workshop, or never before combined ingredients first meet in a mixing bowl, or a better way to do things pops into some politician's head.
For a product, service, or idea to make it all the way to an advertising agency, for someone to bother with writing a brief, booking some media and writing a big fat cheque to pay for it all, someone had to be inspired to invent something worth buying. For an idea, the road to existence isn't easy. To get to market, someone had to believe in it enough to overcome obstacle after obstacle. They had to believe, and they had to be inspired.
And it's the job of everyone entrusted to help sell that idea, I reckon, to find that inspiration, to grab onto it and do everything they can to become infected by it.
Like sincerity, inspiration isn't something you can just pluck from the air. It's a chain that stretches all the way back to the dreamer, the inventor, the creator of whatever it is we're tasked to sell.
So it's a marketing manager's job to get to know the product team, and understand what it is that makes this new widget better/stronger/faster than last year's model.
And if the product team doesn't know, to get on the phone to design, or engineering or procurement. And to keep on digging until they find someone with that unfakeable gleam of inspiration in their eyes.
The same goes for the advertising agency. It can be easy to confuse paper shuffling with creative briefing. Filling out a form isn't the same as filling someone with inspiration.
Assuming, just for a moment, that the chain of inspiration stretches all the way to the marketing department, the surest way
to break it is to reduce the briefing process to box-ticking.
Yes, the written word can inspire, but it's a pale reflection of speaking out loud. Martin Luther King's speeches impressed me on paper. But played out loud, on the cassette deck of a rented Oldsmobile, pulled to the side of an impossible-to-drive road in a magnificent Atlanta midsummer thunderstorm, they moved me to my core. The words came to life. His dream became mine.
Your widget might not be as world-changing as Dr King's vision of racial equality. But it still matters. So get inspired, and when you do, pass that inspiration on in person. Look them in the eyeballs.
Let them hear your voice and smell your breath. Take them up a tall building, or down to the edge of the sea. Engage every sense and leave them in no doubt that you, and the person who briefed you, and the person who had the balls to invent the rare and precious thing you're privileged to introduce to the customer are deeply, sincerely and unshakeably inspired.
- Vaughn Davis is creative director and owner of The Goat Farm, creative director at Pluk and a social media commentator/evangelist.
- This story originally featured in the Jan/Fed edition of Idealog.