David Cameron’s lesson in Advertising

On the 23rd of June 2016, David Cameron got a very real lesson in advertising. After years of pressure from opposition parties, Cameron decided to have a referendum to see if the British people wanted to stay with, or leave the EU. At the time, it was done as a low-risk ploy to keep the peace among the Tories before the 2015 general election. I doubt that any of his advisors thought there was a chance that people would actually vote to leave. Obviously, this was a mistake. Without getting into the politics, of which I am really not qualified to comment, there is something that we can learn: Never present an idea that you don’t believe in.

Now we’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a 6 o clock review and just presented an idea that the Art Director, Copywriter and Creative Director love… but others in the room are less enthusiastic about. The suggestion is to present the idea that we all love, but also take in a ‘safer’ option so that the client doesn’t think we’ve completely lost our minds, or worse yet, make us lose our retainer. So against our better judgement, we prep the other idea as well as the one we love. We don’t put as much thought into it, it’s not as well executed and it really does become the ugly step child, but that’s okay because ‘don’t worry guys – they’ll never go for it anyway. It’s just a safety net’.

And then you walk into your meeting. You stand up and present the work you love and low and behold, they love it too. Everyone is laughing (if it’s funny), ideas start shooting around the table, and you’ve done your job – you’ve inspired people to see what’s possible. Even the people on your team who were not as sure about the idea, now see the light… or at least, they see the delight on their client’s faces and that’s the same thing. And that’s where the presentation should end. But it doesn’t. You then click the arrow key on your keyboard and instead of saying ‘Thank you’, it says ‘Route 2’.

Now, in order to show the client that you’re not presenting them something that you don’t believe in, you try and put in the same presentation prowess as you did the first time round. The thing is that by this stage, they love you. They think you’re a creative genius. So anything you show them is going to have the Emperor’s New Clothing effect on them. If they don’t like it, it will almost be admitting that they don’t ‘get it’. Something that people are very unlikely to do. What they do see is that it is safe. And that it will probably speak to people who are ‘less sophisticated’ than them and therefore, it might not be that bad.

Before you know it, you’re representing a lemon; something you don’t like. Something that you are trying to ‘unsell’ because you know that it’s never going to work and in years to come, people are going to question what you were thinking. So don’t be David Cameron. And don’t go in with ideas you don’t believe just to keep everyone happy.

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