Strategies from the edge
I don’t like the word edgy.
Edgy is appallingly overused in our business to describe work that that is uncomfortably unconventional.
We used it one hell of a lot at HHCL. Work wasn’t edgy enough, was really edgy or was way too edgy, depending usually on whether you were a Creative Director, a planner or a client. Indeed at one point one of HHCL’s clients used to talk about (and I kid you not) ‘the cliff of OKness’ to police our edgyness. Needless to say we were always accused of presenting work that careered off the ‘cliff of OKness’ like Roadrunner. Our idea for Tango of a group of children born to mothers who drank Tango during pregnancy who roamed round towns giving unsuspecting passers by wedgies was unsurprisingly deemed too edgy.
And I am so over it. Like the term talkability, which has become similarly moribund, it is tedious and its use these days is largely restricted to the terminally short of thinking desperately trying to justify a shockingly washed out grade or a piece of music penned by someone on the sex offenders register.
Edge on the other hand is something completely different in my book. And I am not talking about the aging Irish musician here.
The Edge is where the best creative strategies can be found. Because the edge is at the furthest reaches of what is acceptable, what is possible and to an extent what is true.
The Edge is where you find the behaviour or attitudes of a small number of people that might be made into the behaviour or attitudes of a large number of people. The Edge is where you find deeper insight because it is place you will uncover the real reason why people do some things and not others. The Edge is the place where the strategy everyone fears lives, the strategy that might just nail your problem.
The Edge, frankly, is a place that most creative strategists rarely venture, content as they are with tired insight and humdrum thinking.
And my advice for any strategist is go to the Edge as often as you can. Or at the very least start at the edge, you can always come back in if the initial results are unpalatable.
On toilet tissue we started with the nature of disgust and why bodily substances are a source of disgust. With an electrical retailer we started with the role of electrical appliances in the emancipation of women, on coffee we started with the effect a whole load of Europeans stopping drinking ale and being permanently pissed had on the progress of mankind.
This is the reading, thinking and questioning that will have you branded a strategic freak by your colleagues but it will be the place that you find your genius. And then you can work you way back in to a place where you can sell your thinking to your agency and your clients.
Go hug the Edge and beat to a bloody pulp the next person you meet that uses the word edgy.
Image courtesy of What What.
7 Replies to “Strategies from the edge”
For a wee while I thought adliterate had gone off the boil. Not a criticism you understand. Work, volume of cracking posts in the past, change of priorities; whatever.
But this is quintessential adlit. Nabbing the English language from spatialy unsullied territory and clearly delineating it from what I believe S. African ECD’s call ‘Idgy work’.
We both know that its not your approval I seek but the edge is back with this post.
Nice one, Richard.
What you describe sounds like what my partner and I call “Blindspot marketing” Essentially, you look for that bit of the relationship between the client and their customers that the customers see but the client doesn’t (or doesn’t want to.) Your old gaff nailed the blindspot with “The slag of all snacks” Fallon nailed it with “It’s a Skoda, honest” and, dare I say it, Budweiser hit it with “You do the football, we’ll do the beer.”
When we find that blindspot (and it doesn’t always exist) the ads literally write themselves. And they’re almost always at least very good.
I’d like to destroy the word ‘insight’. Horribly, horribly overused.
The fact that a product smells different to its competitors is NOT an ‘insight’. It is an observation..
An insight is something genuinely game-changing, something which flips a category on its head. Grr.
There’s a book called the Deviant’s Advantage that talks about this and indeed how ideas spread from the edge inwards (outwards? sideways)
Perhaps good planners are there to speed up that journey?
Could you hurry up with your hatchet job on “talkability” as us folk over here in PR could do with a bit of a shake up….
David Brooks in the NYT wrote a good article on just this, I quote “When you start looking into it, you realize edginess is the garment that mainstream institutions wear when they want to look slightly but safely rebellious. Stuff that is edgy looks cutting edge and dangerous, but it doesn’t actually threaten anything of substance.”
Can you do one on “flashy”? I would print and post it in my office (client side).
Edgy is a safe way to check the box. I agree with you – be bold, go to the edge.
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