You work on Madison Avenue, smoke and drink all the time and treat clients and women with equal contempt.
The reality of life in adland nowadays is much tougher: more media, more brands, more advertising, more cynical consumers.
It is hard to create truly original, impactful advertising ideas. And just as hard to research them.
All you can do is try to work closely with the team in the best interests of the brand.
So it’s galling when divisive old stereotypes from bygone eras are trotted out, usually along the lines of ‘Shortsighted Research bludgeons Genius Creative Idea’. And the example almost always chosen is the Myth of Those Great Heineken Ads.
Persuasive people have dined out on the story so often that it has stuck. It goes like this: agency creates brilliant and original advertising idea (‘Refreshes the Parts’), research says ‘don’t do it’, but brave client sticks by agency and campaign goes on to be massively successful for the brand.
This story is gleefully used as a stick to beat research with, so a while ago we decided to investigate.
- the first piece of (now infamous) research did call it wrong, but more research a few months later found the ads clever, amusing and impactful, but questioned longer-term brand equity, rather presciently as it turned out
- sales of all lager brands went up massively over the following two very hot summers but Heineken did not increase its market share
- in fact, the longer the campaign continued, the more negative brand equity was reinforced, until the brand was withdrawn from the market altogether
So research was blamed for trying to kill a campaign (except it didn’t) which became a massive success (except it didn’t). Cold-filtered Heineken joined the ranks of failed beer brands (Hofmeister, Skol) while some of its competitors thrive (Fosters, Carling).
The blame game undermines everyone. Not all creative ideas are genius, not all research is short-sighted, not all clients are timid (another brickbat often lobbed out). These days good communications require more of a team effort.
So it’s refreshing when a Young Turk like Tony Quinn, JWT Planning Director, says that planning needs to embrace collective skills like curiosity and problem-solving, to be more humble and open to worlds beyond its own boundaries, because sharing is ultimately more rewarding than being right.
‘ditch the cynicism, the undermining, the poking and the ranting, and rechannel all that energy into a new attitude of sharing and collective inspiration’
The new generation of planners take a much more collaborative and inclusive approach and draw on sources like observation, immersion, semiotics, ethnography, analytics (research, in other words) because they know that great ideas and good thinking are not incompatible.
So, farewell divisive Heineken advertising myth, hello generous planning 2.0 and more effective communication.