Conversation Is Golden
“Every ad agency is like a chain. It’s like going into Starbucks – you’re going to go into it and get exactly what you deserve, which is overpriced crap.”
Agencies must build up the confidence to be brave enough to turn work down that doesn’t fit with them. To stop promising impactful work to everyone, and have conversations with the audiences they are trying to reach.
Creating work without conversation is no longer an option-the risk of disconnect with the audience is too great. People want to be understood, and they want meaningful connections. It’s time to stop relying on the safe option of ‘processes’, stop with labels and categories based on our own experience and judgements, and stop creating for audiences that may not even exist outside of our own minds. The conversation is where it should begin and end.
Independent agencies like Sail are set up to have an impact over growth. We love being small and have no intention to grow to a team of 20+. Small gives the opportunity to have a conversation, to disrupt familiarity with unknown paths that lead to bold ideas, to immerse ourselves in projects, and contribute to positive change. A conversational and collaborative way of working gets unexpected and impactful results, as well as building strong partnerships.
An open and empathetic journey with clients uncovers more than just good design. Conversation and questions uncover ‘aha’ moments and heated debate (sometimes uncomfortably so) to bring to the surface the conversation and objectives that really matter for the organisation. It means brave and challenging work, that we and the client care about.
Martin Wiegel’s (of Wiegel and Kennedy) ‘Escape from Fantasy’ is worth a read for those looking to authentically connect to their audience (which everyone should strive for, or risk being drowned out by those creating movements that people care about). Wiegel references that many big agencies do not have the time or resource to speak to audiences, missing genuine connection and opportunities. ‘We have a generation of planners who simply do not have the skills to facilitate group discussions – and if they are talking to real people in the real world it’s invariably of the ‘quick and dirty’ kind for pitches or to prove some creative wheeze the client isn’t buying.’ Conversation over presentations, always.
At Sail, we vouch to always let go of what has gone before, stretching beyond assumptions and biases, and to get out, have real conversations and co-create work with teams and communities. We will always work from the inside out, engage with people, be observant, and learn from people and culture.
Branding and campaign work is very often based on bias or perception without a real understanding of the bigger picture. And the conversation will not solve every problem, but it’s a start. Take inspiration from those telling real stories: journalists and documentary makers.
‘Journalists, documentary makers, those embedded within communities we wish to understand, artists…. they all offer us new eyes, new perspectives, and new ways of experiencing the reality of our audiences.’ Martin Weigel
Be bold, be idealistic, be challenging. Create work that matters. Make people care. Make them feel part of something, or better: make them part of something.
Never underestimate the power of conversation. It is golden.