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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

The Future Starts Here: Agency New Year Resolutions

A new year always gives a feeling of hope: on both a personal and business level. What should agencies be resolving for 2012? I reckon these three New Year resolutions stand out from the rest.  

A new year always gives a feeling of hope. Nothing actually changes at midnight on December 31, but the year is so new it seems pristine and unspoilt. It's the time where we look at ourselves and wonder what we might achieve in this blank canvas of a year.

It's with that new-found optimism that we find ourselves making New Year's Resolutions and promising that we'll keep them longer than we did last year (because this year is different, right?). So with this in mind, and before the shiny new gym membership burns a disheartening hole in the bank account or the detox turns into a re-tox, what better time to look at our industry and wonder how we can progress this year? Any more than three resolutions is hopelessly unrealistic I reckon, so here are my suggestions.

1) Be courageous
Doing the same old thing is quick – and it's easy and it's safe. Selling the drug on a power message, eh? How about an iron fist punching through a wall? Excellent! Lunch, anyone?

But doing something different – something truly innovative – takes time; effort, and ultimately a bit of courage.  In the words of Woody Allen: “If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” Having the courage to fail doesn't make for an easy life, but it's the only way we can get better. And we all know that it's the courageous decisions with a pinch of calculated and smart risk that will make us famous.

2) Make friends with procurement
I'm not saying that you have to hook up for weekends with the kids or poke each other on Facebook (although feel free of course) – I'm just saying we should take time to consider what they're looking for.

Procurement are looking for high-quality, inventive and efficiently produced work which has a real impact on the performance of the brand. They want clear, coherent and concise briefing, and a solution-focused challenge. Yes, that's right: they want the same things agencies want.

With a bit of trust, honesty and openness, they can and should be an agency's closest ally in producing brilliant work.

3) KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein said that, and he often knew what he was talking about.

Sometimes complexity is used deliberately to make things inaccessible and seem cleverer than they actually are. We've all seen it a million times. But it's the simplest ideas, in the simplest language, and with the simplest essence behind them, that resonate and endure.

As old Albert's words suggest, stripping things back means you need to be sure of what you're saying because there's nothing to hide behind – but that's where the courage I mentioned earlier comes in. If you can't explain your idea in language your mum would understand, it's not strong enough.

In the words of American jazz musician and civil rights' activist, Charles Mingus: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.”  

There probably aren't many areas where a jazzman and a theoretical physicist find the need to make the same point – perhaps it's something we should all be considering?

Article by
Phil Bartlett

managing director at Torre Lazur McCann London and can be reached at
Follow TLM at

6th January 2012


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