Unleash the ugly
Saatchi's outspoken CEO Kevin Roberts tells Austyn Allison from Communicate that the time for analysis is over. Advertising is going to get ugly.
July 22, 2009 8:01 by Austyn Allison
Have you seen a change in how agencies are run?
I’ve been running Saatchi for 11 years and I’ve seen the spectrum move. When I first came in here, information was king and the Internet was just open. And then information rapidly became a table stake because of course the beauty of the Internet is that it’s open to everyone, and that’s its beauty.
Then the name of the game became knowledge. You remember we moved into the age of knowledge. It was about hiring really bright people, hiring MBAs. Harvard had a professor of knowledge management and all this kind of crap. And we found out pretty soon that smart people with smart training programs got you pretty much to parity. There was no great differentiator.
The great differentiator was a positioning. So Saatchi had a position that was Lovemarks, TBWA had a positioning that was Disruption (which is a very good kind of positioning), and those were the things that became decisive.
And then the buzzword became insight. From information to knowledge, you developed insight, clients developed insights.
The one common factor I found in this fetish for insight is that all insights were non-insightful. Because all they are when you look at them is an agglomeration of data, accumulation of data or a justification for going into a position. That’s what they are, that’s what insights are.
Is that why you have appointed Joseph Atallah as chief strategy officer for the region?
What we’ve said is, forget insight. What we need from Joe are revelations. So you, Joe, are not the head of planning; you’re the head of revelations. We need you to explore a consumer’s feelings, not what she says or what she does. Come up with a bloody revelation, surprise us with the obvious, deliver the revelation to our creative department, and from that revelation will become a stunning piece of work across every touch point. That’s the idea.
Consumers are not driven by analysis, research or numbers. And all numbers do is show success models. The iPod could never have been developed without a revelation. The revelation was: People want personalized free music on the go. But that wasn’t an insight; that was an unbelievable revelation. Sony just said, “The numbers say you’re stupid, you’re wrong, the Walkman is fine. Nobody wants 12,000 songs.”