The philosophies we follow at work and at play are as much about what we do instinctively, as they are about what may or may not be the best approach in any given situation. As we align ourselves to companies and friends with a similar philosophy to ours, so in turn, we find ourselves with clients that accept and value our philosophy.
Some of us work at agencies that come up with big bold ideas, designed to promote a product or brand. When it is agreed that we have an idea that will reach the desired target audience which the brand is after – then bingo, there is something to get to work on – but the principle of the idea above all else, as well as it helps the brand entertain always comes first.
Some of us work at firms where the bulk of the hours in pitch and proposal preparation are spent identifying to the tightest possible degree the audience we are aiming to hit. When an idea is eventually churned out that works within this very tightly drilled-down demographic (and which everyone likes enough), then we press go.
It may seem like the same process just in a difference order, but I don’t think it is the same. The order of your priorities is crucial. If coming up with big ideas is your agency’s ethos, it will naturally attract and retain more big ideas people. Visa versa, an agency whose ethos is with great precision understanding audiences will draw those PR’s who are naturally probably more analytical and may feel a frustrating sense of subjectivity around pitch preparation in a big ideas agency.
So what happens when you have an idea or a gut instinct about an audience, but your subsequent research doesn’t clearly support your theory?
If you are all about understanding the audience being the key to great PR, then you ditch the idea and move on to try and find some ideas more tailored to your research; generally trying to make yourself a better expert in order to learn ever more about your specific audience. But, if you are about big ideas then it is more complicated, as it is likely that you see yourself, your own experiences, cultural awareness, creativity, etc. as being central to how you come up with great ideas for brands in the first place – not research into very specific audiences (even though this may be a factor).
Your instinct might be that 18 to 30 year-olds see Wham Bars as old-fashioned, so your big idea is to launch an online campaign to get consumers to suggest cutting-edge pop art inspired designs for the packaging. However your research suggests your audience don’t think Wham Bars are particular old fashioned! In fact, they are pretty neutral about it. The phrases retro or old-fashioned may not even be mentioned in online forums used by your target group in connection to the sweet. But if the evidence is not there, does that mean your gut-instinct insight is wrong and you should move on to another idea? Or are great ideas just great ideas? Should you persuade your client that your gut instinct and big idea is more important that the insights from your target audience research in this instance?
There is no right answer, just as there is no right agency philosophy.
Of course ‘big ideas’ agencies do research and use it. And ‘understanding the audience first’ agencies do sometimes lead with big ideas.
What any PR must decide, in order to be in agency that will allow them to do their best work is: “Do I believe the philosophy that my company holds to”.