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What to Do When Your Agency Says “Trust Us on This One!”

May 8, 2006

Recently in my local market (Midwestern city of about 200,000) a couple of outdoor campaigns have caught my attention. No, not the ATT “Your World Delivered” campaign, but a set of local organizations – one a health system targeting moms and another, a bank with a number of branches throughout the region.

People that I speak with in the target audiences have all expressed confusion over both campaigns. And, in the case of the bank, the people could recall the copy of the ad, but not the name of the bank. In the case of the health system, many simply remark, “those are the stupidest ads I’ve seen. What were they thinking?”

In speaking with people close to the decisions on both campaigns, I heard similar language. They weren’t sure about the strategy behind the campaigns, but the agencies (two different ones) had both told their clients “Trust us on this.”

In one case, the agency was pushing the health system to be more edgy, because “that’s what people want.” Hmmm, none of the moms I asked were looking for that in their health system. Most moms I know don’t associate the vibe of Desperate Housewives with excellent health care for their kids. A branding/positioning problem?

In the other case, a different agency was recommending their bank client use numbers and percentages related to indirect financial topics. Things like “4.2% shinier vaults” or “6.2% firmer handshakes.” What does that mean? I don’t get it, nor does anyone I talk to (again, people in the target audience – which would include me on this one).

The bank VP I spoke with said he wasn’t yet sure of the success as it was too early in the campaign, but that the agency had said, “Trust us on this one.” Now, in the agency’s defense, they had just done a very nice rebranding and identity overhaul of the bank. But this campaign befuddles me. Sure, it made me think. But then it just annoyed me.

I can understand launching a campaign if I know it speaks in a relevant manner to my target audience, but if I’m not given any evidence that this is a good strategy, should I trust it?

This is a case where common sense has to play a role. If the creative direction isn’t supported with some sort of solid reasoning (and you may have to “push back” to determine whether it’s actually as solid as they think!), I’m not sure it’s worthy of trust.

What do you think?

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