The first client-agency meeting after the pitch, the "kickoff" meeting, is an interesting emotional combination of beginning and ending. It's the start of the official working relationship, but it's often the end of the unofficial playing relationship.
During the pitch, client and agency are both playacting to some degree, which isn't a bad thing. In trying to make an impression and be attractive, we can take on the role of our best selves: bold, collegial, curious. It's one of those situations (like talking to a cab driver in an unfamiliar city) where taking on a role can make us more free. Unfortunately, many kickoff meetings are like going backstage for the first time where, instead of debating strategy with Henry V, you're suddenly listening to Kenneth Branagh complain about the broken lightbulb in his dressing room.
But kickoff doesn't have to mean end of play as I was recently reminded. The meeting began with the clients' list of reasons why our pitch idea was good. Always nice to hear. But after 45 minutes x 12 clients worth of discussion, the list of "reasons why not" was twice as long. So I had to ask, "Why did you choose us?" There was a pause, and then a couple of people began to speak and what they said was so lovely and unexpected, I'm still a little verklempt:
"You all seemed to be visibly struggling with what you were saying...Most agencies act like they already had the answer years ago or they want to impose something on you that doesn't fit, but you were uncertain. You were still thinking very hard...We thought, you know, this actually is hard and we'll be struggling along with it for awhile, so who do we want struggling along next to us?"
It's too long for a t-shirt, so I'm having it set to music.
At the risk of blaspheming the father, the son and the holy ghosts, I was disappointed by the "new" Beatles album, Love. Maybe it's not surprising given that it was built primarily as a Cirque du Soleil backing track rather than a self-standing album, but the mixes are so conservative that, with a few lovely and promising exceptions (like "Sun King" played backward fading into the intro of "Something") there's nothing revelatory or insightful about it, which is what a great remix should be. Love just feels less interesting than it ought to given the interestingness of the elements the Martins had to work with. It's as if they were asked to dj rather than produce. (Admittedly a vanishingly fine line these days.)
But maybe the richness of the elements was actually part of the problem. So many Beatles songs, even individual parts from songs, are so familiar and interesting that you can't help hearing echoes of the original version, and all those echoes mixed together may make a mess in the mind of the listener. At a certain point, interesting + interesting ≠ more interesting, but confusion. (Kind of like what happened to the show Lost.)
But why not try it yourself and see? A demo version of Live, the best music-mixing-mashing-making software in the world, is available here for free. You can spend months digging into its creative possibilities, but you can also start making interesting mixes of your own pretty quickly. Of course, Live won't make you a great composer/producer/arranger/musician like Sirs George, Paul et al., but it can help you to become a more creative dj. And we're all dj's now.
He defines insight in terms of its effect rather than its inherent qualities. An insight is creatively generative, it leads people to think in a new way about something, to see a whole new field of effective possibilities that had been invisible. And in order to be evocative in this way, it has to be kind of allusive. It must "avoid the direct and the explicit".
This last part is what makes the article truly (and recursively) insightful for me. An insight has to be interesting. It can't just be a statement of fact that is then made interesting through creative interpretation. It has to be based in fact, but have gaps to be filled in, that beg to be filled in, by the reader.
I used to think that we had to come up with a catchy summary of each brief so that the client and agency would have a quick and attractive "elevator shorthand" to communicate and sell the idea internally. Over the past few years, I've come to see that the elevator phrase, truncated, alliterated and, strictly speaking, inaccurate though it may be, is usually a better, more insightful, brief.
Planners are often asked to deliver insights. Some even say that "finding insights" is what planners are for and what defines planning. But now, after years of pretending to be a planner, I'm finally prepared to admit that I've never really understood what an insight is.
My impression is that people are asking for a new piece of information about the way an audience interacts with a brand, product or category. I imagine the gold standard for this kind of insight is something like, "Hip German mothers are meeting on particular subway lines in the middle of night for impromptu diaper changing parties." Then we put up ads in the coolest U-bahn stations, branded changing tables on selected trains, start a Windelbahn group on MyVideo and Bob ist Ihr Onkel.
Is it novelty that transmutes plain old information into insight? And to whom must it be new? It's presumably the audience whose reaction matters most, but they already knew what they were doing. In fact, it's the reaction of the creative team and most importantly, the client, that usually determines whether a fact is an insight and the seed of a campaign. And if they say, "Diaper trains! Wow! I never would have guessed! That's interesting!" it would take a particularly masochistic planner to question whether their interest will be matched by that of the Windelbahnmutter herself.
Maybe an insight isn't a new piece of information, but a new way of interpreting existing information. The effect is not so much "I never knew that" as "I never thought of it that way before". Which implies that the insight, as the thing that changes minds, needs to be communicated to the audience, not simply used as a way to get to them or prove that the brand somehow "knows" them.
I'm not sure. I do feel that the Tyranny of The Insight, like the Tyranny of the Big Idea, is an increasingly obsolete way of thinking about both branding and planning. At the same time, I can't help thinking that having insights, whatever they are, is better than not. So, what's your definition of an insight?