Sep 26, 2008

Death of a Concept

I’ve written about this before, how technology has sucked the respect out of what we do and prostituted it to the whims of ignorant clients and coworkers. But I’d like to discuss with you how technology has, quite literally, killed the whole idea of the concept.

What I mean is this: There was a time, not long ago, when great ideas, ground-breaking campaigns, true works of art, were sold based on a solid concept, which usually consisted of nothing more than an oversized sketch. Yep, a simple scribble on large white paper is what eventually led to memorable campaigns such as Volvo, Volkswagen, Marlboro jeans, and even Macintosh. A good idea, a great salesman and a solid concept was all you needed.

In today’s Photoshopped world, the client expects to see FINAL ART on the first round of presentations. It’s no longer enough to just illustrate a can of beer with a simple image. You have to show it in all its product shot glory, complete with sweat beads and chilled mist. You cannot show a client a sketch of a person’s face and say “This is a red-headed woman in her 30s.” You actually have to show a real life photo of the red-headed woman in her 30s. Otherwise, the client “won’t get it.”

The damaging effects of concept-less presentations is twofold: (1) The agency spends countless hours and exhausts all resources in creating the FINAL ART for initial presentation; (2) You open the door to distracting criticism that will surely kill your pitch. For example, I just walked out of a presentation where a great idea was shot down because the client had trouble with the color of a model’s shoes in the stock photo. He was fixated on the shoes and could see nothing else. Weeks of brainstorming and “marketing strategy” flew right out the window because of some stock photo. Case closed.

We’ve stooped to a new low when people cannot imagine a candy cane forest without the need to actually see a candy cane forest. By always showing up with FINAL ART, there’s a good chance that your concept is DOA.


Me said...

I've had problems with stock model photo's hair.

Also, clients nitpick every fucking copy line as it was final and usually shut down stuff because they didn't like how a sentence started.

Such fuckers with no imagination.

Anonymous said...

Could not have said it better.

I've had a client call me up to tell me she wasn't going to have her boss look at a concept because I carelessly left some random letters right on top of the image.

Those letters? F P O. She had absolutely no idea what they meant, and immediately assumed I was a moron for leaving them there.

I sometimes suspect our clients compete to see who think more literally.

Me said...

That was fucking hilarious. I'm gonna have to post your comment because some people out there cannot miss this.

Jeff said...

I completely agree. I would go as far to say that email and jpegs have done their fair share to erode things as well. Just going back as far as when you would overnight the layout for client review. IT made them truly look at it and mark their changes in pen. It helped avoid the every 10 minute emails of change after change.

Alex Chesbro said...

Answer to your problems? Overnight mail. Another solution? Magic Markers.

Client looks at your layout, sees green shoes, and says "i don't get it, the's just distracting."

Ask him what color he thinks would look best, take out the Crayola and color over it.

Be the stud and, "well, can we move on" to your solid presentation.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap this happens all the time. I hate the spoiled, babied clients' who need to see polished artwork.

Thankfully my CD hates this too and so he lets me run riot with layout paper, marker pens and stick men. I only get away with scamps about half the time though. Grr.

I must also point out this is happening to students too. These days they don't know what a scamp is and the stock library is their best friend. God forbid they actually draw up their concepts.

Anonymous said...

I love it when my advertising director gives me some crappy sketch on a piece of legal paper and "needs to have that worked up" by tomorrow morning. She has no idea how to use our design team to best effect.

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