Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Explaining Things to a 12-Year Old

Last week I was asked to sit in on a strategy meeting with the client as their brief was refined. The account person leading the meeting was brilliant. The client is a very esoteric, academic global entity, and was prone to over-explaining. But the account person was so diligent and gracefully forceful at reining them in.

When the clients were struggling with a vision statement she said, ‘It’s very simple. How do you want to describe yourselves at a cocktail party? You can either say we [simple explanation of what they do], or we [verbose, cobbled-together explanation(s) that sounds like a PowerPoint presentation of a technical manual created by a paralegal].”

She broke another stalemate by saying, “Look. Let’s just say it like we were explaining it to a 12-year old.”

I know some agency people would have politely nodded and taken dictation from the client in a meeting like this. But in a couple hours, I saw the brand positioning statement whittled from seven words to two. It wasn’t without a fight. But I’m glad I’m at an agency that sees these battles as the kind worth winning.

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