Too young to write briefs for an ageing population


A new twist on an old problem.

When I see client and agency teams struggling to get a brief together or push work out the door that is actually irrelevant to the target audience, I am reminded that I too was once young. While a lack of audience segmentation is often at the root of poor briefing, so too is a disconnect between our young professionals and the ageing population they are trying to communicate with. The all too apparent disconnect is as misguided as Saga sending me a “Welcome to the Club” mailing on my 50th Birthday. They all but suggested the onset of incontinence pants was imminent. The root of this kind of creative incongruence is a lack of empathy and life experience and, to make matters worse, an industry-wide inability to bridge the age-gap through informative and inspirational briefing.

The lack of enthusiasm is all to obvious.

I see far too many briefs written with little or no enthusiasm for the task; a myopically heroic focus on the brand, product or service; a patronising and meagre view of the customer and an abundance of retweet edits from earlier briefs and stream of consciousness updates. So, let’s look to understand how we serve at the pleasure of customers who live in the real world. Let’s look to develop briefs that are 80% customer and 20% us. Let’s make sure that campaigns can be segmented into groups that allow us to create very specific responses to very specific audiences. Out there in the world of the customer, rich sources of unique campaign ideas that are Relevant, Original and Impactful are waiting to be discovered. Go out and investigate the lives of your target audiences. Watch them. Listen to them. Smell and taste the food they eat. Understand the things that touch them emotionally, physically, spiritually. It will be hard. It will take time. The best part of the whole process is to bring that sense of ‘otherness’ to life in your briefs.

Think like Jerry Maguire.

Next time you are settling down to put a brief together remember the immortal words of Dicky Fox in Jerry Maguire, “If this (he points at his heart) is empty then this (points at his head) doesn’t matter.” Writing briefs for an audience you do not know, or worse, even care for, is one of the reasons so much of what we do fails to have anywhere near the desired impact. Think about the fact that even if your older target audience is not bungee jumping, sky diving or base Jumping on a regular basis, they may have in the past. Chances are they may have done things you have only ever dreamed of doing. Make it your mission to get closer to all your target audiences. Work out how you can be of use to them. Most of all, treat them with respect by writing better briefs and earn their trust by never treating them to lazy stereotyping.  Yes Saga. I am talking to you.