Advertising & Practical Thinking

The advertising profession is cold and cruel. The power of practical thinking is a perfect antidote.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Whether it be one’s professional life or personal life there is a need to discern the difference between “what is important” and “what is urgent”.
Similarly, there is a difference between “what is not important” and “what is not urgent.”

Scenario One.
Let us say, you have to be at the airport for a 4:00 PM flight. You have a meeting the next day, and it is important you get a good night’s rest. You know that you should leave your residence at 2:00 PM so that you don’t have to rush at the airport.

This is "important."

You have already decided that you will wear your navy blue suit tomorrow, the purple dress tomorrow evening and the black suit the following day. You have also decided that you need something else for that evening. Should it be the red dress or the blue dress? This goes on for some time. Now, the challenge – what are the shoes and accessories you need to pack!
You look at the clock – it is 2:30 PM, and you are running late. The need to get to the airport on time has become “urgent”. You will not have the time to make a couple of calls you wanted to make before boarding the plane. You start panicking.

On the highway towards the airport, there is a massive traffic jam and you keep looking at your watch. You are worried if you will catch your flight. The next flight to your destination is at 8:00 PM.

Now there are two things that could happen: By a stroke of luck, you catch your flight. You are out of breath, your blood pressure shoots up, and you are tired. You reach your hotel room, counting your blessings. But you are exhausted and you have no energy to rehearse the presentation you have to make the next morning at 9:00.

The second possibility is that you miss your 4:00 PM flight. There is no other flight till 8:00 PM. You go to the restaurant at the airport, and have your dinner. The flight is on time, but you are so angry and tense you are not able to shut your eyes, and then there is this mother and crying baby sitting right behind you.

You start crying! And you promise to yourself that you will never let this happen again. You let what was "important" become "urgent"!

Scenario Two.
You are the Marketing Manager for a chain of ten local stores in a metropolitan area. Quarterly sales for the stores this year have been average at best. Spring is just around the corner, and you been challenged to ensure that this is best spring the company has had in its nine year history. Your job could be on the line!

You know you will do your best. You develop the outline for your marketing plan including a promotion for the first three weeks of this period. Your CEO approves your including the promotion, the creative strategy you will adopt, and the budget. He wants to know all the details, including the media plan in 45 days, the day after he comes back from his annual ski vacation.

You are elated! This is the most “important” project you have been assigned, and for a change you have the adequate amount of time.

You call your creative freelancers and arrange for a meeting for the next day, and expect them to deliver their best work in ten days. The next two days are spent on developing a media strategy. You have decided that this will be an all broadcast effort including radio, over the air and cable television.

You call the sales representatives from the various media outlets and arrange for each one of them to come and meet you for a media briefing over the next two weeks.

All the "important" issues have been addressed. The creative free-lancers have delivered on time and you believe their effort is superlative. The media sales executives have presented their spot avails, their recommendations, and the associated costs. You are on schedule and all seems rosy. All that is left is supervising the production of the commercials, negotiating the media buys, and writing the presentation for the CEO. You have ten more days. You decide to take it easy for a couple of days.

You finalize your spot buys and call the sales executives for meetings. Unfortunately, most of the choice spot positions that you wanted have been sold to other advertisers (including your main competitor) and you have to go back to the drawing board.

To make matters worse, your assistant has called in sick with some malady that will keep her out of the office for a few days.

Now you are in an absolute bind. This most “important” assignment has become absolutely “urgent!”

Not knowing and understanding the dynamics of the media industry made the “important” assignment “urgent”. Now you have to hope and pray that your marketing plan will be successful.

Scenario Three.
Mike is the Brand Manager for a chain of casual restaurants. Mike, unfortunately, is more of a promotions specialist than a developer of brands. He is always working on creating spikes in the sales figures for the restaurants.

He believes this is a continuously “urgent” issue. What he does not realize, or does not accept, is the fact the restaurants do not do well at all when there are no promotions.

The restaurants do not have any brand recognition; therefore, a very low brand image.
Mike realizes this is “important,” but refuses to accept the fact this is something he needs to address.

One day a Sales Executive with Comcast, a leading cable TV provider, had a long meeting with Mike. She was more than an order taker. She knew the value of a brand, and suggested to Mike he look into developing the brand of the restaurants. She suggested he needed to change his priorities a little bit. She also suggested an innovative brand-developing vehicle, called VOD. His response, “What you say maybe true; however, brand development is neither “important” nor “urgent” for my restaurants.” The Sales Executive could not make him see the value of a brand. She realized she was wasting her time with Mike.

A few months later, Mike call the Comcast Sales Executive, and asked for some details on Comcast VOD. He said, “My strategy needs to be re-examined, and maybe I have to look at building my brand.” I think it is “important”, and I cannot afford to wait for brand development to become an “urgent” issue.

Mike made the right move, and Comcast VOD became one of the pieces of his branding process for the restaurants.

Everyone in their professional and personal lives face such dilemmas. There will always be the unexpected happening. There are, however, steps each one of us can take to avoid major pitfalls.

Mike is one who finally understood this and took the right step.