If it ain’t broke…break it


One of the things that does my head in these days is the way people treat briefs as some kind of legally binding document written in blood and never to be deviated from. How many great ideas die because they’re “off-brief”? Sod that, the brief’s there to inspire creativity, not to strangle it. Karl Marx said “Question everything” and I reckon that should include the proposition on an advertising brief. I know that the client might have already bought into the strategy, that the proposition’s already signed off internally, that there’s no time and I know there are a million more reasons not to go off-piste. A lot of hard work from some intelligent people has gone into that brief. But…it could be better. Everything always can be. And I just hate to see potentially brilliant ideas get killed just because we’ve previously agreed that the current brief is the best one.

Now, getting an idea that’s off-brief onto the table may be difficult. But there’s one thing that’s even harder. There’s a sacred cow even more sacrosanct than the proposition. And that’s the existing campaign. And the various guidelines and mandatories around it. Outside of actually being briefed on a new campaign, have you ever got any work out that breaks the guidelines? That departs from the current campaign? That deviates from the guidelines? It’s pretty rare isn’t it? And part of me doesn’t want to be the dickhead who killed ‘Impossible is nothing’ or ‘Carlsberg doesn’t do…’ and replaced it with something less good. But isn’t that our job? To be dissatisfied with the status quo, to shake things up, to take risks? The brilliantly annoying rent-a-gob troublemaker Julie Burchill once said “If it ain’t broke, break it.” Perhaps not a rule to live your entire life by (it probably doesn’t apply to marriages, Ming vases, kids’ toys). And I understand that brands crave stability. But I reckon a bit of destructive thinking now and then keeps things interesting.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

2 Responses to If it ain’t broke…break it

  1. Carl says:

    Hi mate. Can you share an example of where you went “off piste” and were successful in changing the direction of the brief? Regards, Carl.

  2. antmelder says:

    Hi mate. I could waffle on about ad campaigns where we managed to reframe the brief to create something more effective. But have a look at this. In 2010 police in Edmonton were tasked with bringing down the violent crime rate there. The brief was to get more officers on the streets to hunt down more gang members and make a high profile statement by making lots of arrests in a short period of time. But Superintendent Lucy D’Orsi went ‘off-piste’ with a slower burn strategy and here’s what happened: http://www.antmelder.com/work/boombox-record-shop/

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