The business problem is usually upstream of advertising.
The business problem is the job the advertising is being asked to do.
It’s the question “Why are we advertising?”
The kneejerk answer is, “To get more customers.”
But is that always the right answer?
Instead the answer might be, “To get current customers to buy more.”
Or it might be, “To be able to charge more for what we sell.”
It might be, “To get younger customers, most of ours are old and dying off.”
It might be, “ To buy this instead of our competitor.”
Or it might be, “To buy this as well as our competitor.”
There are many, many possibilities.
The next question is usually,  “How will advertising do this?”
The kneejerk answer is, “By making people feel good about our brand.”
But that’s just one possible answer.
It might be, “By telling them we cost less.”
It might be, “Telling them why we’re worth more.”
It might be, “Get the to remember our name.”
It might be, “Play on their fears.”
It might be, “To attract a higher demographic amongst readers so we can charge more for advertising space.”
But I tell you what it isn’t, ever.
It isn’t ever, “To win awards.”
That might be the creative director’s real brief from agency management.
But I bet you that isn’t ever written on the brief.
Especially not the brief that the client sees.
Because winning awards is what’s in it for the agency.
So that’s unsaid.
That’s how the agency wins new business.
That’s how the creative director keeps his job.
That’s how the creative team get a new job.
You see, there are two agendas going on.
The agency agenda.
And the client agenda.
Agencies want awards.
Clients want increase in revenue.
They use the term ROI: return on investment.
Put simply, does this advertising bring in more money than it costs?
And the answer better be yes.
That’s how the client keeps his job.
Sometimes the two agendas are the same.
Sometimes the ads that win awards are the ads that work.
Sometimes not.
I don’t think creative awards should be linked to sales.
I had this argument a long time ago with David Abbott.
He felt that sales effectiveness was more to do with the IPA than D&AD.
I think he’s right.
I just think we should be honest that they’re not.
I think we should stop pretending the ads we like are automatically the ads that sell the most.
The difference is the target audience.
If the brief is to increase sales, your target audience is wherever that growth is going to come from.
It might be housewives, or children, or old people.
But it’s also everyone in the UK.
If you can get them repeating, whistling, talking about your ad, you’ve generated free media.
So more exposure for the advertising message.
So more chance of the ad working.
Now an ad like that may get an award, and it may not.
But, if you just want to go directly for winning awards, your target market is different.
It’s twelve industry creative’s on the award jury.
You have to do something that either makes them laugh, or they think is beautiful, or they think is shocking.
Good criteria, but a different audience.
That is unless your target market is college educated, B-C1, male, 25 -35, London media professionals.
The good news is, it is possible to please both audiences.
To do ads that we all love, and ads that work.
The bad news is, it takes more effort than just a kneejerk response.