How to “drill down” to make sure your ad agency knows what you REALLY need.

InsightAt MO Partners we have just instituted a new way of “interrogating” briefs from our customers – especially new customers. We call it, appropriately, “Magnum Discovery”.

“Discovery”, of course, is a legal term. It means making sure both sides in a trial know the same amount of information. It’s also used by accountants doing forensic audits.

In our world, it’s all about “drilling down” to make sure that both we and our client have thought hard enough about their marketing opportunity to ensure that their brief is not only accurate, but that it will elicit a great response from the agency.

Some customers are surprised to find the agency being so questioning, but in our experience its only by doing the hard yards to look at a brief from every angle – and not just the advertising angle – that the client can be assured of a good result.

As we often say to people, you need a “trusted advisor”, not an echo chamber.

The Discovery process asks the questions that we have found over the years to be utterly vital in the creation of a great marketing campaign. Here they are:

  • If you could only say one thing about your product or service, what is it?
  • What are you prepared to not say in order to be sure you get that one thing across?
  • What is your primary distribution channel for this product or service?
  • How good is your distribution?
  • Who are you sure knows about your product or service now? How are you sure?
  • Is that enough people? Too few?
  • Are they the right people?
  • Do you have any real life practical problems you need to tell us about – eg a product or service weakness, stronger competitor, lack of budget, lack of distribution? Is the problem big enough to kill the campaign even if it’s really good?
  • What have you done in the past that really worked? Do you know why?
  • If you had to devote 90% of your marketing effort to a similar idea, what is your reaction to that?
  • Similarly, what marketing efforts didn’t work, and why?

If a client answers these questions truthfully, and with due thoughtfulness, we think they are pretty much guaranteed to get a great result from any ad agency worth their salt. Certainly from us.

MOPBut why don’t we hide these questions away behind a wall of Intellectual Property protection and produce them with a dramatic flourish as our “point of difference” at the first client briefing?

Simple. Firstly, and rather sadly, most ad agencies don’t go to the effort to ask questions like this, preferring to jump “straight to execution”, proferring their very best creative idea without checking it from all angles to see if it works not only creatively but also practically. There are enough agencies around like that for us not to have to worry about Magnum Discovery being nicked.

Secondly, really good ad agencies (which do exist, even if they are vastly outnumbered by mediocre ones) will already have a strategic process like this, so they won’t need to purloin ours.

And thirdly, it’s not just having the process that matters. It’s having the smarts to interpret the answers, and come up with insights.

And you know how we simply love insights.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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