Who better to speak to the importance of strategy than a creative (in this case) guy?

After all, who can more appreciate the creative freedom a tightly defined strategy provides than someone responsible for doing the creative?*

Sadly, I fear we creatives hold strategy so dear because we are so often asked to be creative without it, only to produce not-so-creative work. Coal instead of diamonds. Lamb instead of Gold Lion.

This harms not only ourselves but also the agencies that employ us and the clients who entrust us to do creative work.

More fundamentally, it harms the consumer. The barrage – and it is a barrage – of thoughtless (and by that I mean strategy-less) advertising creates a consumer callous of indifference towards advertising.  They reject advertising as reflexively as a child rejects broccoli.

Happily, I can tell you when we creative guys and gals do get a ‘tightly defined strategy”, the work – and the success of the work  – is markedly and undeniably better.

Game changing, even.

Here’s proof – and I guess an argument for why all of us in marketing need to fully commit to developing an inspiring strategy before unleashing the creative hounds, lest we be served a dog’s breakfast of work.

got-milk-hed-300x147 Creative Is Everything. But Nothing Without Strategy.

No campaign in recent memory better illuminates the role an inspiring strategy plays in developing magical creative than the famed and oft-parodied “Got Milk “ campaign, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board.

Pre-Goodby, milk was being sold (or should I say, trying to be sold?) as something good for your bones and teeth and as a good source of calcium.

It wasn’t working. Sales had been flat for years.

All because of a tired and flawed ‘health’ strategy.

Enter Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. They came up with a ‘deprivation’ strategy, repositioning milk as an “essential” drink vs. a ‘health’ drink.

A subtle but distinct, and most importantly, inspiring strategic shift.

The resulting work is the stuff of creative and marketing legend:

  • Sales increased 7% in first year
  • 90% awareness level
  • Won virtually every creative award possible
  • Original ‘Aaron Burr” spot named one of the ten best commercials of all time by USA Today
  • Campaign ranked among 10 Best All Time

None of this would have happened had not the folks at Goodby developed a game-changing strategy (and had not some of the industry’s finest creative talent articulated it with 21, count ‘em, 21 years of great work).

And such successes won’t happen for you, your agency or your clients if you don’t…wait for it….got strategy. (Yes, Got Milk is one of the most parodied campaigns of all time).

Interesting aside: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners said that the “Got Milk” phrase almost didn’t turn into an advertising campaign. According to the New York Times, folks at the agency “thought it was lazy, not to mention grammatically incorrect.”

*Paraphrasing legendary ad man, Norman Berry.

Bruce Nilsson

Bruce has more than 25 years of strategic marketing and copywriting experience. More importantly, he brings extensive marketing experience specifically related to government entities including The Arizona Lottery, Phoenix CVB, Tempe Tourism Office and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). In addition to the Phoenix CVB, Bruce has worked on behalf of DoubleTree Hotels, Wyndham Hotels, Best Western Hotels, SilverRock Resort (La Quinta, CA), Orange Tree Golf Resort and Wigwam Resort. He also previously spearheaded the successful Russian Heritage Highway Foundation launch initiative. Other notable account experience includes CVS/Caremark (Fortune 100), Circle K, Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes, Norwest Bank, Mesa Community College and Goodwill of Central Arizona. His work has been continually recognized for creative excellence, including the prestigious OBIE award for outdoor advertising. In his spare time, Bruce enjoys golfing and going on ski trips with his son.