|Height Isn't Everything|
This isn't going to start as marketing and advertising, but hang with me, we'll get there pretty quick.
Tonight in Cleveland in the NBA Finals, Golden State coach Steve Kerr tried something he hadn't done all year, in nearly 100 games. He benched his starting center (Andrew Bogut), moving his power forward (Draymond Green) over to the center position. With the empty slot, he brought Andre Iguodala, a versatile guard/forward, off the bench to start.This made his team very "small", and put them at a considerable risk for not getting enough rebounds of missed shots. It also meant that more players on the floor were offensive threats, as Iguodala is better than Bogut in that respect.
You probably couldn't get away with this kind of move all season long, because your shorter players would get worn down and injured from having to go against bigger players every game. Kerr did the move because his team was down 2-1 in a best of seven series, and from an odds realism standpoint, in serious jeopardy of losing the championship to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers if they didn't win this game. They had trailed for most of the previous three games of the series, and had lost home-court advantage. And in the first few minutes of the game, as Cleveland used its taller players to control rebounds and race their way to a seemingly instant 7-0 lead, it looked like a disastrous gamble.
Kerr called a timeout. Golden State started playing better, with Iguodala in particular having his best game of the year. The smaller players increased the tempo, and got to more loose balls to mitigate the rebounding problem. Cleveland's tallest player, Timofey Mozgov, had his best game of the series, but the Warriors took the early lead and never let it go. The series is now tied, and Cleveland coach David Blatt is under pressure to somehow adapt to the Warriors' short lineup. (By the way, to real NBA fans, this is an overly simplistic narrative. Please forgive me; as noted before, we're going to a larger point about marketing and advertising.)
Kerr probably didn't want to do this. Bogut has been a great player for him, and Iguodala has been terrific at leading the Warriors bench players in limited minutes. But he felt that, due to the 2-1 disadvantage and how the play had gone for the first few games, that he had no better option. What he was doing wasn't working, and to just keep losing the same way was not an option. He had statistical evidence that his team did well when they went small, and knew that increasing the tempo with faster players would help his team, but he doesn't make this move from a position of strength.
Now, back to the marketing and advertising.
I've worked on campaigns for thousands of clients over the course of my career. Frequently, I've been brought in to "put out fires", as performance has not met expectations, and we needed to increase the actionable rates to retain the business.
You might think this is, well, a bad way to work. Deadlines are short, tempers are frayed, pressure is high, and everyone knows the cost of failure if you can't hit the numbers. Sometimes the client is downright angry on calls when things have gotten to this point, and challenge your expectations or ability to serve. People can also get very defensive about what is working, what isn't, and who needs to step up their game to save the relationship.
Here's something you might not expect: this is frequently the most efficient creative cycle for new projects, and it's been the source of some of my favorite moments in business.
When a campaign is at risk, what you have is a pain point. Something needs to change, and change immediately. So much of the blocking agents for offers, creative practices, copy and more are dramatically scaled back. You also can usually work faster, with fewer revision cycles. Treat the project carefully, with professionalism and proactivity, and you can create your most attached long-term client.
The phenomenon is not limited to sports or creative, of course. In politics, campaigns that lose primaries might switch messaging and try to change the narrative. Financial analysts will change their recommendations or investment mixes. Musicians might try new formats, writers new categories, and so on, and so on. Success, seen in this light, can be something of a trap, and curtail learning and innovation.
So the next time you encounter a crisis, consider it for what it is -- a limited-time opportunity, with a fantastic payout if you turn the situation around. And even if you can't, your chance for learning is higher here than anything else in your workday.
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You have read this far, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I also welcome email to davidlmountain at gmail dot com, or you can hit the RFP box at M&AD.
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