In­spi­ra­tion is ev­ery­thing, writes Vaughn Davis, and you can’t fake it

Idealog - - Contents - VAUGHN DAVIS @vaugh­n­davis

SIN­CER­ITY, AN AD­VER­TIS­ING man and colum­nist not a mil­lion pages from here was once quoted as say­ing, is ev­ery­thing. Learn how to fake that, and you’ve got it made. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Great ad­ver­tis­ing ( yes, it ex­ists!), in­deed, great com­mu­ni­ca­tion of any kind, rarely springs per­fectly formed from the mind of its cre­ator. The most con­vinc­ing and com­pelling com­mer­cial writ­ing be­gins not when the copy­writer’s fin­gers hit the key­board, but long be­fore that, when metal strikes metal in some workshop, or never be­fore com­bined in­gre­di­ents first meet in a mix­ing bowl, or a bet­ter way to do things pops into some politi­cian’s head.

For a prod­uct, ser­vice, or idea to make it all the way to an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, for some­one to bother with writ­ing a brief, book­ing some me­dia and writ­ing a big fat cheque to pay for it all, some­one had to be in­spired to in­vent some­thing worth buy­ing. For an idea, the road to ex­is­tence isn’t easy. To get to mar­ket, some­one had to be­lieve in it enough to over­come ob­sta­cle af­ter ob­sta­cle. They had to be­lieve, and they had to be in­spired.

And it’s the job of ev­ery­one en­trusted to help sell that idea, I reckon, to find that in­spi­ra­tion, to grab onto it and do ev­ery­thing they can to be­come in­fected by it.

Like sin­cer­ity, in­spi­ra­tion isn’t some­thing you can just pluck from the air. It’s a chain that stretches all the way back to the dreamer, the in­ven­tor, the cre­ator of what­ever it is we’re tasked to sell.

So it’s a mar­ket­ing man­ager’s job to get to know the prod­uct team, and un­der­stand what it is that makes this new wid­get bet­ter/ stronger/faster than last year’s model.

And if the prod­uct team doesn’t know, to get on the phone to de­sign, or engineering, or pro­cure­ment. And to keep on dig­ging un­til they find some­one with that un­fake­able gleam of in­spi­ra­tion in their eyes.

The same goes for the ad­ver­tis­ing agency. It can be easy to con­fuse pa­per shuf­fling with cre­ative brief­ing. Fill­ing out a form isn’t the same as fill­ing some­one with in­spi­ra­tion.

As­sum­ing, just for a mo­ment, that the chain of in­spi­ra­tion stretches all the way to the mar­ket­ing depart­ment, the surest way to break it is to re­duce the brief­ing process to box-tick­ing.

Yes, the writ­ten word can in­spire, but it’s a pale re­flec­tion of speak­ing out loud. Martin Luther King’s speeches im­pressed me on pa­per. But played out loud, on the cas­sette deck of a rented Oldsmo­bile, pulled to the side of an im­pos­si­ble-to- drive road in a mag­nif­i­cent At­lanta mid­sum­mer thun­der­storm, they moved me to my core. The words came to life. His dream be­came mine.

Great ad­ver­tis­ing (yes, it ex­ists!) rarely springs per­fectly formed from the mind of its cre­ator

Your wid­get might not be as world-chang­ing as Dr King’s vi­sion of racial equal­ity. But it still mat­ters. So get in­spired, and when you do, pass that in­spi­ra­tion on in per­son. Look them in the eye­balls.

Let them hear your voice and smell your breath. Take them up a tall build­ing, or down to the edge of the sea. En­gage ev­ery sense and leave them in no doubt that you, and the per­son who briefed you, and the per­son who had the balls to in­vent the rare and pre­cious thing you’re priv­i­leged to in­tro­duce to the cus­tomer are deeply, sin­cerely and un­shake­ably in­spired.

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