No Insight! No Idea?

“Bulls***t!”, said Dave Cobban, Planning Director, W+K at the ESOMAR Consumer Insights Conference 2007 in Milan. Although he went on to show numerous examples of work by his agency and the insight that drove each piece, the opening of his presentation still resonates. The point being that although all creative genius needs to be fueled by a ‘fresh’ consumer insight to deliver a breakthrough creative idea, it is not always true! In my early days at Ogilvy I had come to learn this simple driving mantra of the strategic planning process – “genius in, genius out” or “garbage in, garbage out”! I had further interpreted this process as one which involved two leaps. The first one was the “strategic leap” taken by the planner through a fresh perspective – an undiscovered insight that drives the creative process to a higher ground. However, that is usually not enough (dare I say, it is never enough!). There is the second crucial leap that the creative team needs to take that makes all the difference. It is these two leaps when combined that lead to creative excellence.

As a planner if I were to say that an insight is not necessary for great creative work I would be saying one of many things! For one, planning as a function is not doing its job. They have failed to add any value to the creative process and are simply unnecessary! I guess I would be right to a certain extent. Absence of an insight could be attributed to a number of reasons the worst of which is the skill of the planner himself! In an ideal world, a good research budget with enough time to indulge in an insight mining endeavor would usually lead to sound strategic thinking and consequently a strategic leap. But we don’t live in an ideal world. In the real world, the presence of an insight or the ‘strategic leap’ in a creative brief is directly proportional to the skill and experience of a planner. That was what Dave Cobban’s presentation was also about. The best of the planning lot will bring a fresh perspective and will add value either through a cultural insight, a usage insight or even simply a product insight that would give enough fuel and inspiration to drive creativity to new heights! But again that is not always the case. There is so much work churned out by the industry which has no insight driving it. We know why! But that’s not the point!

The same logic applies to creativity. There is so much work out there with no creative leap either regardless of the fact that an insight was driving it or not. The best of the creative lot however will always take a leap with or without an insight. That was Dave’s point at the starting of his presentation. W+K is one creative agency that has proven this point time and time again! Their creative team almost always will take a creative leap to the point that it makes me question what DID the planning team do to contribute to the work. At the conference the example shared by Dave was Nike “Freestyle” which he said was purely creative genius. Recently I saw another piece of creative work again by W+K which inspired this post to begin with. For one I think it’s pure creative craftsmanship, second is the same question I often ask myself when I see such work “what did the planning team do to contribute to this work, if anything at all?” Have a look!

What did you think? If you are planner did you ask yourself the same question? It’s simply a launch commercial for a car. The same idea could have easily applied to the launch of a mobile phone as well or pretty much anything manufacturing driven! How did they do it? Where is the insight?

No Insight? No Idea? Bulls***t!

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