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Trends & Stories

If you were a fly on a wall during any agency-client presentation of new concepts, you’d be staring into a PowerPoint vortex of unnecessary slides that are only there because the meeting in your diary was booked for one full hour. In fact, if you’re reading this, you’ve most likely been that poor fly on that very same goddamn wall.

The strikingly simple truth is this: people don’t remember much.

I don’t know about you, but here’s my beef with advertising: we seem to have forgotten how to advertise. How to tell stories. How to encourage meaningful conversation as opposed to ‘client approval’. In other words, we have forgotten that good ads don’t need 72 slides that precede them.

Think about it. We tend to open client presentations with an unnecessarily pompous title slide followed by an REM-inducing table of contents and the aforementioned 72 slides of blah blah table funnel pillar blah blah here’s a messaging hierarchy blah blah blah. If I were a mind reader, I’d be politely nudging Mark to stop planning his holiday in his head while I’m talking.

The strikingly simple truth is this: people don’t remember much. It’s why we bang on about simple, concise messaging in advertising. And yet we don’t seem to practise what we preach. Here are four of the many potential reasons why:

  1. Agencies have that Big Deck Energy which leads to endless slides and made-up schematics aimed at making advertising seem more of a science than it actually is. If you throw enough diagrams at it, you’ve got yourself something resembling science.

  2. If you cram slides with ‘strategy’ and ‘approaches’ and ‘pillars’, agencies are probably hoping they’ll come across as having really considered their response to the client brief.

  3. Through points 1 and 2 above, agencies can justify their fees to clients.

  4. Endless decks are what a lot of clients know through their internal ways of working. And agencies must have thought ‘Here’s a brilliant idea: why bother putting on a show when we can just have a 72-slide deck instead?’

The issue I’m being overly dramatic about here isn’t the fact that we precede creative concepts with a strategic approach and a systematic rationale. This is somewhat necessary, as it helps frame the thinking for our clients so that they can see how the dots have been connected. That’s cool.

Instead of telling stories, we make decks.

The issue is the format – the actual way in which we present our strategies and creative, which often includes detailed, text-heavy slides that belong in a follow-up to the presentation, not the presentation itself. What’s the alternative? Any other option but a friggin’ deck.

Instead of telling stories, we make decks. Instead of opening with a hook, we open with a dull title slide and a table of contents. We follow even duller templates. And instead of creating presentations for clients, we create presentations for ourselves, so as to remember what to say when we get to slide 36. Presentation rehearsals are rarely about perfecting our story and more about adding five more slides after slide 72, ‘just so we have that in our back pocket if the client asks’.

Instead of showing, we are telling. Instead of exciting, we are stating the obvious. Instead of moving, we are explaining. And 72 slides are just a lazy way of explaining anything.

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