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September 8, 2009
Don’t Give Clients What They Want...

Give Them What They Never Dreamed Possible

“Isn’t that why they hire us in the first place?” I remember it like it was yesterday. My first real mentor, Steve Turner, showed me a creative philosophy that he wrote after leaving his 20-year post at Leo Burnet to head up a small creative shop in Texas. His philosophy had ten simple ideas about how to run a healthy creative department. This was one that really stuck with me. It also forced me to ask this question at least a thousand times through the years in this fantastic, frustrating, exhausting and exhilarating business. "Why are we so quick to give a client good when great is out there waiting to be found?"

Believe me I understand that the process we go through is harder than ever before. Focus groups continue to make decisions for us. Moderators are always trying to adjust our work so that everyone likes it. The only problem in doing so is that nobody will love it. Budgets are being cut daily, making breakthrough work that can also move the needle necessary, not optional. Creativity and accountability are alive and kicking.

So how do we surprise our clients and prove that we’re worth our shrinking agency fees? I believe the answer is simple. Stop trying to just solve advertising problems and start solving business problems. At Euro RSCG we call them “creative business ideas” or “CBIs.” We cut to the chase to find out what the real problems are with our clients' businesses. What keeps them up at night? What are they not getting from their other strategic partners? We stop trying to write the next TV spot, and instead help them understand how to transform their business. Ironically, most of the time, a great TV spot comes out of it. Or maybe it’s a direct mail piece. Or an interactive solution. Maybe it’s PR, print, an event or word of mouth. When all is right in the ad world, all of these things are working together.

A great example of this is the Droga5 “Tap” campaign. They were faced with the problem of raising money for UNICEF to provide clean water to water-deprived nations. Droga5 didn’t do an award-worthy TV spot, which they are very capable of doing. They had a much more impactful business idea. They convinced restaurants across the country to charge $1 to their patrons to drink tap water. The money would go to starving nations that needed clean water so desperately. They created interactive components and posters to help create a grassroots movement. People were happy to give a little to a cause that helps a lot. Charging people for tap water is not a big advertising idea--it’s a huge business idea! That's not the future of what hope to do, it's what we should be doing today. Solving business problems. Thinking beyond the medium. Do that and you’ll make a difference for your clients, and undoubtedly, you'll also move the needle. And in the end, isn’t that why they hire us in the first place?

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Blake Ebel oversees the creative direction of some of Euro RSCG’s most distinctive, brand-building campaigns, including Barilla, Wasa Crispbread, EFFEN Vodka, PowerShares, and Citigroup. Prior to joining Euro, Blake spent time at Young & Rubicam where he worked on Sears, Jim Beam, Orbitz.com, and The Great Indoors.
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