Telling left from right

Campaign UK - - NEWS - Global ed­i­tor-in-chief claire.beale@hay­mar­ket.com @claire­beale CLAIRE BEALE

There’s a story on page 5 of this is­sue in which Sir Martin Sor­rell reck­ons one big dif­fer­ence be­tween con­sul­tants and agen­cies can be sum­marised like this: “Tra­di­tion­ally, those con­sul­tants have worked with chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cers or chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cers on the left brain; we’ve tended to work with chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cers on the right brain.”

It’s a dis­tinc­tion that is pre­oc­cu­py­ing our in­dus­try. Can con­sul­tants snare agen­cies with­out smoth­er­ing the thing that makes them de­sir­able ac­qui­si­tion tar­gets? Can busi­nesses geared around left-brain de­ci­sion-mak­ing bed down with busi­nesses rooted in right-brain, in­stinc­tive cre­ativ­ity?

It’s too soon to call on any pre­scrip­tive level (though early anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests there are sur­pris­ingly few shared am­bi­tions be­yond their own fi­nan­cials that unite the two beasts). But the ten­sion be­tween proof and in­tu­ition, left and right brain, is one that the best mar­keters and agen­cies have been ac­com­mo­dat­ing for years. The smartest mar­keters and the smartest agen­cies know when to let the left brain rule, when to de­ploy sys­tems, re­search and data, and when to ig­nore them all in favour of what just feels right (brain).

It’s that lat­ter bit, the in­stinc­tive over the em­pir­i­cal, that the con­sul­tan­cies are said to find hard to pull off. And it’s that lat­ter bit that mar­keters lack­ing in con­fi­dence and/or the sup­port of their board find hard­est to achieve. These are the mar­keters who need to be able to say “these are the facts”, who don’t have the cred­i­bil­ity to get away with “I think” and “trust me”. And, like con­sul­tan­cies, they are in dan­ger of smoth­er­ing the very cre­ativ­ity that they’re hop­ing to har­ness.

So said Adam & EVE/DDB’S James Mur­phy in Cannes – and he’s not alone, with other in­dus­try lead­ers adding their voice to grow­ing con­cern that tra­di­tional pretest­ing mod­els are dan­ger­ously out­dated. VCCP’S Ju­lian Dou­glas de­scribes pretest­ing as “the last refuge of the ner­vous and risk-averse ad­ver­tiser” (page 5). Of course, no-one is say­ing dis­miss the left brain, the re­search, the data – but left brain needs to come be­fore right brain, not in place of it.

Pretest­ing – that sub­ju­ga­tion of right brain to left – is a peren­nial topic for de­bate. But it’s one that’s be­come more pointed in a world where left-brain man­age­ment con­sul­tants are be­gin­ning to own more of the client re­la­tion­ship. In a world like that, the need to re­assert the value of in­stinct and the al­chem­i­cal magic of cre­ativ­ity be­comes im­per­a­tive.

Brave mar­keters em­brace the right brain. Smart, brave mar­keters use both left and right brain but know when to value one side above the other. And the re­main­ing mar­keters will prob­a­bly hand their bud­get to Ac­cen­ture or Deloitte in a few years’ time. Pick your side now.

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