Not many brands—or their ad agencies—take enough risks. After all, why would a brand with thousands or millions—even billions—of dollars at stake veer off the beaten path that got them there in the first place?
Why be audacious? To me, creating memorable, effective advertising is an exercise in audacity, a notion that’s often misunderstood. Most people think audacity is being shocking, irreverent, or disrespectful. I prefer “daring” and “original,” both entirely different words. For my money, audacity is daring to be more simple, direct, and pithy than any other advertiser. It’s speaking softly when the rest of the world ends every sentence with !!!!!
I’ve been lucky enough to have run my own advertising agency in Ann Arbor for the last 25 years. Some of our greatest successes have come within the last few years, after decades of trial and error, and our fair share of truly un-audacious work. The brands we’ve built for Walsh College, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Bank of Ann Arbor, and Miles of Golf in particular have gotten plenty of notice and recognition.
What’s common to all four? Two things: 1) audacity and 2) trust.
When considering being audacious, keep in mind the following truths about being audacious.
Great brands are honest, interesting, real, and never hide their truth. Most advertising is, frankly, wretched. It gets that way not always because of how it looks. It’s bad because it speaks to the consumer in forked tongues. Great brands, however, reveal their authentic selves in order to attract customers for the right reasons, and ultimately retain them for the long haul. Telling the simple truth is a bold move but one that gets noticed for the right reasons.
Our best client relationships—and our best work—are cemented by trust. If you don’t believe your agency can make great decisions on your behalf, the relationship should be severed. Our most productive partnerships—including the four I mentioned above—are like the relationships many have with their plumber, an expert paid to solve a problem few people are able to solve themselves. You trust them to do it right and for a fair price. The same goes for ad agencies. Clients who consider their ad agency a vendor rather than a partner are sadly misguided. When clients secondguess their agencies, confidence is sapped to the detriment of both parties, and the work suffers. It’s bland and uninspired. All our best clients have told us, at one time or another, “I pay you to figure it out. So go figure it out.” As experts in our field, we usually do. Not always, but usually. Talk about wanting to please!
It’s not about where, it’s about what. In this, the era of expanded media, there are so many places to build a brand: the Internet, of course, and now mobile devices, apps, and social media. But a brand isn’t defined by channels, it’s defined by its message. The right message can be communicated anywhere. You must get the message right first—simple, vivid, audacious. Then, it can be executed wherever you need it to be. Viral videos are a prime example. They show the power of an idea will propel a message forward, because people will be excited about sharing it.