In advertising, speed helps — sometimes
In one of my first advertising jobs, I primarily worked on what’s known as a retail account: Ads were in constant motion and production — newspaper, radio, direct mail, etc. We did a volume business. In a lot of cases, we had a template to follow so when a request came in by 10am, we could get it produced and out the door by that evening. So for the most part, I wasn’t reinventing the wheel with my writing, just making sure the car left with the right set of tires.
Looking back, it was good training. The job sharpened me up and taught me the difference between an assignment that really needed my prioritized attention and others that were false fire drills.
These days, it seems with most account and clients, there’s always a sense of urgency and shortened timelines. With such time crunches, are we shortchanging ourselves and our business? Or are we simply keeping pace with the rest of the hyperfast business world? Is there such a thing as the “good, cheap and fast” holy trinity of advertising?
Despite the nature of the ad industry today, being quick to produce ideas isn’t always a virtue. The aforementioned job I had conditioned me to tackle everything with an eye on the deadline and a predilection to get things off my desk. So in other assignments, jobs wouldn’t be as deeply thought out as they could be. It got to where I didn’t expect or plan to have time to explore ideas. Looking back, it’s hard not to think it affected the way I work all the time, even when I did have extra time to go deeper.
And let’s face it: Not everything needs to be a rush job. Inefficiencies are found throughout the system. Nothing slays me more than seeing weeks spent laboring over a creative brief, only to result in an assignment that needs to be done in 3-4 days. Or when something’s done urgently and then the client sits on it for weeks. Or when a piece of work goes through eight rounds of revisions because it wasn’t properly thought through in the first place.
Advertising has certainly embraced quantity. Even if you have a big, overarching idea, it often gets chopped up into 1,000 executions. There are banner ads in dozens of sizes. Social media ads in a half-dozen different platforms, all with their unique design and copy specs. Usually there’s enough work to keep designers and programmers continually busy. There’s even a new term for much of this output: “Snackable content.” Which is appropriate, because it’s often half-baked and not nutritious.
Much of what we’re doing, of course, is simply keeping up with the times. Business happens at lightning fast speed, no matter what industry you work in. It’s both a blessing and a curse of our information age. But I don’t think our physiological makeup allows us, as humans, to properly handle the current always-on state, where marketing, business, politics, and life give us a non-stop flow of information. The constant drive to do more work, faster, is going to eventually catch up to us in more ways than one. The ROI simply isn’t sustainable — financially, emotionally, or creatively.
The pace, however, won’t be stopping anytime soon. Ideas, even in gestational form, can be floated, uploaded, and seen worldwide in minutes. And the reaction among other marketers and consumers is just as swift. The sad part to this is that no matter how fast we seemingly work, there’s always someone willing to do it faster. And cheaper. If urgency and immediacy remain priorities, then advertising and marketing people have to take extra measures to show and prove how working slower, or thinking things through, pays off.
Is there data to support the notion that taking a little extra time results in ideas that make more money for clients?
I have no idea. I’m too busy meeting a deadline to check.
Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small.
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