Maybe you need to let go.

Have you ever been caught in a really uncomfortable moment that you were responsible for? Knocking over a shelf of pottery in an antiques store; Getting caught looking at another attractive person while with your significant other; Asking a woman when the baby is due only to find out she isn’t pregnant. As a creator of content there is another equally awkward situation that can occur when you challenge/question a “creative” or “funny” idea from a non-creative person who is in a position of authority. That’s exactly where I found myself this week while working with a client and fortunately I knew how to get out of it.

The non-creative person was the owner of a long-established local chain of higher-end restaurants in my area and she was a brand new client. As soon as we sat down to discuss strategy and direction of her advertising campaign I could tell that she already had an idea. If she was a puppy her tail would be wagging so hard that she would have fallen over. Needless to say she was very proud of her “creative” idea. Unfortunately it didn’t line up with the goals she had tasked us and just wouldn’t work. Even more unfortunate was the fact that I had to point it out and “call the baby ugly.”

As you would expect, she didn’t like that I was rejecting the idea she had worked so hard on. After a little bit of back and forth she asked me why I wouldn’t give her what she wanted especially as she was the one paying for the advertising. The best way through these awkward situations is to use the same skills critical to creating effective and resonating advertising: introduce empathy and help the person relate to your position.

What I followed up with can be used with any business category. I asked her to allow me to turn the tables and imagine that one of her best clients came in and asked for a special order. Instead of the usual steak that he enjoyed, tonight he was requesting that the chef replace it with a filleted shoe that was grilled with butter and herbs and cooked to perfection. The owner began to see where I was coming from and acknowledged that, of course, she would never serve a grilled shoe in place of a steak. So I took it one step further and asked, “Even if the client demanded that he should get what he wants because he’s paying for it?”

That‘s when I asked her to “Let go. Please.” Just as she would never serve up a filleted and grilled shoe to a paying customer I cannot allow her to force the advertising campaign down the wrong path due to an ineffective idea. I had to point out that if were it allowed it to happen she would ultimately fire me from her account for wasting money on advertising that didn’t work.

A “grilled and filleted shoe” will never pass for a delicious steak. At the same time, a “funny” or “creative” idea may work on it’s own but if it doesn’t honestly and emotionally connect with the potential customers, no matter how much you try to improve it with gimmicks or copywriting tricks (a.k.a. butter and herbs), it will ultimately fail.

Does your advertising serving up grilled steak or is it trying to force feed filleted shoe on your targeted audience? More importantly do you think your customers will know the difference? They will. They always will.

Drop me a line if you feel that you may need to let go and have an honest conversation about the direction of your advertising!