Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The theory vacuum

Image by acb

Here’s how it goes. Lots of smart people spin out lots of very smart theories, expressed in whiteboard scrawls, in contact reports, in .ppt presentations, in venn diagrams and the like. No one will have a solid understanding of their applicability until they get turned into something real, ie something not .ppt.

But no one can decide which theory to go with, because each competing theory has its advocates and enemies. The conversation eddies around, becoming theories about theories about theories. The theory vacuum.

Creative agencies still believe that using creative to ‘find’ the strategy is a poor use of resources. But in reality, it’s a great way to break the theory vacuum. It's fast for one. But more importantly, it makes theory reality.

We recently did a project for a retailer. Their (very large) agency was stuck on a vexing issue for six months. The theories got headier, the rationales became more detailed, but nothing of actual real physical value got done. The client became so frustrated, they even questioned their own judgment - “maybe there ISN’T an answer”.

We took a different approach. We quickly put together a presentation free of theory. No rationalization. Just multiple, diverse ideas on how the brand could behave in the world. The concrete nature enabled the client to see clearly what would and would not work.

The result:
Client no longer questioning sanity.
Something to point at.
Momentum re-established.

Creativity is powerful. It is brilliant at expressing theories.

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