A LESSON IN PROCEDURE

There’s a part I love in the film ‘My Cousin Vinny’.
Vinny is defending his cousin on a murder charge.
Vinny does something wrong and the judge sentences him to a night in jail for contempt of court.
On the way to jail, Vinny’s girlfriend asks him what he did wrong.
Vinny says “I just got a lesson in procedure is all.”
His girlfriend asks what he means.
Vinny says “When you need to clean the jet-nozzle on a carburettor, what’s the first thing you do?”
Vinny’s girlfriend knows a lot about cars.
So she says you have to take the carburettor off the car first.
Vinny says “That’s right. The first thing you do is you take the carburettor off the car.
Because if you didn’t take the carburettor off the car, if you just unscrewed the jet-nozzle while the carburettor was still attached to the car, the jet-nozzle might fall down the manifold. Then it might fall into the cylinder.
Then you would have to take the entire cylinder head off just so you can get back the little jet-nozzle you dropped, right?”
His girlfriend says right.
Vinny says “And you would’ve learned the hard way that the correct procedure is to take the carburettor off first.”
His girlfriend nods.
Vinny says “Well that’s what just happened in the courtroom. I learned the correct procedure the hard way.”
And he goes off to spend the night in jail.
I love that interchange because it very simply describes why we have a correct procedure.
Why we observe certain rules and protocol even though we think we don’t need to.
Take a commercial shoot.

 


The correct procedure is the client talks to the account man, who talks to the creatives, who talk to the producer or director, who talks to the actors.
That’s the correct procedure.
Now, in a good relationship, it’s possible to shortcut some of those steps.
Maybe the client can talk directly to the creatives, and the creatives can talk straight to the director.
But you have to be careful.
Everyone in that process has a job to take care of.
Each time you bypass someone you’ve taken them out of the process.
The client has to concentrate on selling the product.
The account man has to hold everything on strategy.
The creatives have to make sure the end product works as an ad in an ad break.
The producer has to keep everything on time and budget.
The director has to produce a beautiful piece of film.
If you skip the middle part and the client talks directly to the director, three very important stages have been left out.
The jet-nozzle may have gone straight into the cylinder head.
The client may have been persuaded by the director that his vision of the beautiful film is better than the agency’s.
It will look much better.
But the director isn’t a specialist in advertising.
The director is a specialist in film.
And a beautiful piece of film isn’t necessarily the same thing as an advertisement.
So a middle stage has been skipped and that job won’t be done.
That’s why it works best when you stick to procedure.
And that’s what’s wrong with advertising at present.
The process disappeared when media left advertising agencies.
Now the client goes to the media company before the ad agency.
So strategy and creative are done after media has been decided.
This is putting the cart before the horse.
This is the equivalent of dropping the jet-nozzle into the cylinder head.
It looks like the easy way to do it, but actually it can work out much more expensive.
The procedural lesson, for those that choose to learn it, is that invisible work now runs in cost-effective media.
But if it doesn’t work, it’s still just wasted money.

Too bad we have to keep learning procedure the hard way.

  • john woods

    Media decided before strategy and creative? Tell me about it. I think I was pulling my hair out at this one from the get go I got into the biz. So when is it going to change for the better?

  • john woods

    I recently was putting sealant and filler down around the bath edge and forgot the most basic procedure of all…put the plug in!

  • Ben Millar

    I love this post. But surely the future is about making media, not buying it.

    • http://www.cstthegate.com Dave Trott

      Ben,
      As always the answer is both.
      Either way it’ll work better if we do it together.
      If we’re going to create we need to be creative.

  • Ben Millar

    I was chatting to my Dad about this on the weekend, and he said in the ‘old days’ the agencies just pushed the media that made them the most money anyway, which was TV because they made around 15% on it and that price was often already sold on to clients at a highly inflated rate, so we concluded surely agencies had the same problems 20 years ago?

  • Dave Trott

    Ben,
    It never worked that way at any of the agencies I was in.
    We started with a business problem, then worked out what advertising could best do to solve it, then worked out where the advertising would work best.
    Some clients didn’t have enough money for TV anyway.
    A commercial with an OTS of 1 or 2 wasn’t going to do much.
    So we might suggest a longer running poster campaign, possibly localised.
    But It’s true the guys who work in media treat ads much more as a commodity.
    That’s why they tend to buy space before they know the idea.
    Just according to the target audience.

    • Ben Millar

      Thanks for the reply Dave, and I agree about the idea defining the media, it reminds me of the joke we learned early on in college: 
      How many designers does it take to change a light bulb?
      – Does it have to be a light bulb?

      But the main thing that’s changed in the industry is clients are smarter, 
      they got smart about the 15% and they got smart about bringing expertise in to their own companies.
      It gives agencies less control, but a good relationship with the client should mean it’s better all round, more trust and collaboration.

      • Dave Trott

        Ben,
        I agree clients have got smarter as far as the numbers go.
        But if it was just about numbers we wouldn’t need people.
        We could use computers.
        And all computers would give you the same answers.

        • Ben Millar

          Thanks Dave, 
          I agree but we’ll always need people to use the computers.
          And there’s one thing that agencies and clients are never short of – opinions.
          Even the answer from a computer won’t get away from those.

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