“Those are all great ideas, but we need something in market fast.”
It’s the toughest part of the conversation, when you’re in the marketing agency business. It’s not a question of quality ideas over time, it’s the erosion of the relationship and the business opportunity that this one sentence fosters. Candidly, when lines like this start being thrown around in conversations, it is the beginning of the end. And, how it affects the quality of the work is only the beginning. Being fast is important. Being fast is smart.
Still, being fast can be a lot worse than good. And the two are not diametrically opposed.
When work is done with this type of direction, a marketing agency simply can’t win. The client is pushing something through due to internal pressures. The process then becomes strained. The conversations and work is not looked at in terms of market efficacy, but rather how quickly it can get reviewed and approved internally. The agency might get lucky. The work might take. More often than not, it fails. Then, on the brand side, management wants to know what happened, and the agency is blamed for sub-par work. That’s the internal business side. Externally, more bad work is in market, and the work doesn’t help the brand sell more goods and services. The internal brand team will lay blame on the agency output of the work, and not on the process that drove it. In the end, it’s bad… all around.
Fast doesn’t have to be “me too.”
One of the key lessons that I have seen – time and time again – after close to two decades in the agency business is that the preliminary ideas are, typically, “me too” ideas. Brands are trying to keep pace – or be seen in the same vein – as their competitors, so they are responding (speed) with something (not an original idea). This “let’s just get it done and figure out how to improve on it later on,” may “feel” right in the moment, but it never takes. It never takes, because the speed of the “me too” campaign doesn’t work, and nobody wants to throw good money after bad money. It’s bad business. And, someone needs to take the fall for the failure (that’s usually the agency partner).
Quality and speed don’t have to collide.
The other issue, is that there is often an misconception that one idea might take longer to manifest and execute on. This is particularly true when one side already has a loosely thought-out idea in place (i.e.: “let’s do what Nike did, but our way.”). There are so many moving parts in the brand and agency relationship. It’s easy to make statements like the one above with broad strokes. Of course, this isn’t always the case. Of course, there are many more instances of great and mutually respecting partnerships. Still, this idea of doing something simply and quickly (a lesson that has been driven by senior leadership after studying the way of Silicon Valley) may not realistically apply to the marketing industry. Yes, the idea of a MVP (minimal viable product) can help ideas move from prototype to marketplace with amazing speed. Yes, this idea can help brands get a sense of market acceptance, consumer needs and the general excitement about a new product or service. Still, I’m willing to question that methodology when it’s applied to a marketing platform and campaign. Consumers won’t – necessarily – be able to get beyond a bad brand impression or brand experience with the thinking that the execution was a MVP, and it will improve on the next go-around. Too many brand leaders confuse a marketing campaign with a new product or service. They are not the same thing.
Do things fast. Do things well. Don’t sacrifice one for the other.