I’m one Australia’s most creative writers.
I’ve created millions of dollars of brand value with world-changing creative ideas and campaigns for Ford, Foxtel, Lexus, Orica, Porsche, SBS, Qantas and others.
While I help smart clients thrive with better communications, I’m certainly not for everyone.
‘Pay peanuts and you get monkeys.’ David Ogilvy
1. I’m not cheap. Low fees mean low-quality work. It’s false value and usually creates a slew of additional problems.
Cheap investments are rarely good investments. It pays to give most brands high-quality communications.
I’ve been conspicuously successful in doing this for ABC, Ford, Foxtel, Levi’s, Lexus, Nike, Porsche, Qantas, SBS and others.
If your written communications are low-quality, people will conclude that the brand is shoddy, and they’ll be less likely to buy it.
I produce high-quality communications that create significant additional value. As a general rule, we aim to multiply your investment by a minimum factor of 3.
So if you invest $1 million, I aim to return $3 million in brand equity, creative assets, customer retention and other applicable metrics.
I have a minimum level of engagement of $100,000 in annual fees. I understand that for some companies this may represent a sizeable investment.
Keep in mind my goal is to help my clients thrive with better communications. For new clients, this begins with an extensive communications review that allows us to research and fully understand their current situation and creative opportunities, and to make my strategic recommendations with confidence.
The communications plan is merely the outcome of that understanding and those recommendations. My clients find that an upfront investment of a small percentage of the total budget helps ensure the rest of the budget is invested wisely.
‘If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.’ Peter Drucker
2. I’m not lackey. Fawning executives and well-meaning committees do more harm than good.
I don’t do office politics. I don’t do spineless meetings. I don’t agree with everything my clients say.
I question accepted ‘truths’ because I typically find them littered with falsehoods. These self-imposed ‘beliefs’ are the reason many brands struggle to grow. They’re inadvertently limiting their own future.
I tell it like it is. Candor goes a long way. Candor and a commitment to correcting the situation can make effective communications.
As an outsider, I often come in and point out things that everyone inside seems willfully blind to. Most employees by definition don’t rock the boat, don’t ask the hard questions. They prefer the same old, same old.
New results cannot come from doing things the same old way.
‘The engineers of the future will be poets.’ Terence McKenna
3. I’m not part of a large group. We’re distinctly independent.
I’m not owned by WPP Group, Omnicom Group, Publicis Groupe, or Interpublic Group. I’ve worked with Dentsu in the past but are no longer affiliated with them.
I’m not about to be bought by PwC, Deloitte, EY or KPMG. I have no allegiances to anyone except my clients.
I don’t have to forward a percentage of my fees to a holding conglomerate overseas. I don’t have to markup and on-sell inventory from an associated media firm. I have no conflicts of interest.
Being completely independent means I put my clients’ best interest first.
It also means I’m independently minded. I don’t run with the pack, and I don’t follow trends. All my creative work aims for timeless appeal.
Over the years, I’ve built a fluid team of leading freelance researchers, writers, screenwriters, copywriters, art directors, designers, photographers, cinematographers. Even artists and poets.
A whole battalion of expert creatives I can mix and match to my clients’ advantage.
‘Too many people mistake tactics for strategy.’ Mark Ritson
4. I’m not big on one-off project work. Short-term tactical engagements all too often end in tears.
Typically they’re created in pressure cooker environments to meet reactive metrics. They take your eyes off the prize and damage your brand.
Smaller projects should serve a greater strategy and be part of a larger initiative. They should compound an existing campaign.
Communications are almost always a long-term proposition. If you regularly change campaigns, you end up confusing your audience. Be consistent.
Every piece of communications should contribute to the complex symbol which is the brand’s image. Unify your effort.
It pays to have a common thread in your communications with a BIG IDEA.
It takes a BIG IDEA to jolt people out of their indifference. To make them notice your communications, remember it and take action.
BIG IDEAS are usually simple ideas that fit the strategy to perfection. BIG SIMPLE IDEAS are not easy to come by. They require genius and midnight oil. A truly big one can change a company’s fortunes like Apple’s THINK DIFFERENT campaign.
When you find a big idea, stick with it. Few communications campaigns are continued long enough to have a chance to succeed. It takes at least two years before communications start to pay off.
5. I’m not into bidding. Request for Proposals (RFPs) bring the illusion of objectivity and transparency.
The reality is a bureaucratic selection process that devolves to the lowest (and generally cheapest) common denominator. It’s guaranteed to produce the lowest value.
Without a full communications review to understand the current situation and creative opportunities, any response will be superficial at best.
The results of your campaign depend less on how we create your communications than on how your brand is positioned. It follows that positioning should be decided before the communications are produced. Research can help. Look before you leap.
A promise is not a claim or a theme or a slogan. It’s a benefit, clear and simple. A benefit as a result of changed circumstances because of the brand.
It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive. And the brand must deliver the benefit you promise.
Most communications promise nothing. It’s doomed to fail in the marketplace.
‘Creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors.’ Bill Bernbach
6. I’m not going to give ideas away for free anymore. There’s a fine line that separates my ability to solve a client’s problem from actually beginning to solve it.
Sometimes a client asks me to step over the line with speculative creative or uncompensated strategic guidance. In the past, I used to cross the line without a second thought. I used to give my highest value product away for free.
Now I have a policy that I don’t begin to solve a client’s problems until I’m engaged. I understand why a client would ask us to come to them with some ideas - they’re simply looking for assurances that I’m right for the job.
But I’d have to send a non-disclosure agreement and an initial invoice before I could begin working on the engagement. When it’s a new client I haven’t worked with before, I explore other ways to determine if I’m a good fit.
Once in a while I’ll cross the line and offer insights into a new client’s situation without charge – usually by diagnosing challenges rather than prescribing solutions.
But before I do I’ll point out: A) the line exists, B) I’m going to step over the line, breaking one of my own rules, and then C) watch me quickly retreat back over the line once I’ve made my point and demonstrated my expertise.
It demonstrates a willingness on my part to work with a new client while clearly showing exactly where the line is.
7. I’m no longer comfortable working with bozos. Communications is an art, not a science.
People first make decisions emotionally which they then rationalise logically. Putting logic before emotions in any communications puts the cart before the horse.
Despite recent upheavals in media, people all over the world across every demographic want what they’ve always wanted - love, acceptance, beauty, health, nutrition, community, social status, relief from suffering, transcendence.
Everything is communications. Advertising, public relations, corporate affairs, marketing, branding, design, etc. Every way your brand interacts with people is an opportunity to communicate successfully. Or not.
Smart clients implicitly understand and appreciated this universal truth. They invest in a long-term, human-centred communications strategy that builds a sustainable competitive advantage. They don’t chop and change.
Unsophisticated clients know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They put tactics ahead of strategy without thinking, They don’t know where they’re going. They’re an accident waiting to happen.
I no longer work with bozos like that.