Stop Trying To Solve The Client’s Problem

/ Comments (28)

It’s been a while since I really went off on a fundamental aspect of the advertising business, but after sitting through a deluge of piss-poor creative briefs, the time has come. And it has been a long time coming.

Let’s start with a scenario.

The client, let’s call them Amalgamated Durables, sets up a meeting with your agency. Specifically, the account director, hopefully the creative director, and maybe even the owners (having the owners there can be good, or really fucking bad).

After the usual introductory bullshit and ass kissing, the client gets down to brass tacks. And it is at this point you get to the meat and taters of the meeting. What’s the client thinking? Do they have a great new product or service? Do they want a launch campaign? Do they want something revolutionary?

The client will lay it out on the table, and the agency representatives will, hopefully, probe for the details. And then the agency kicks into gear, with a creative brief that will address the problem at hand and the direction the creatives should head in.

What problem?

These days, it seems to be the client’s fucking problem. And 99% of the time, that is the wrong approach.

Here are a few examples of problems I have seen in the last few months, both at my own place of work, and from other places that reached out and touched me in that way ad folks tend to do. OK, they were venting.

“We need to penetrate the marketplace and gain at least 5% market share.”

“Consumer opinion of the latest widget has been poor. Its image needs revamping.”

“Sales are down. Please create a campaign to boost 4th quarter income.”

“Apple is kicking our ass. Let’s kick Apple’s ass.”

“People don’t like this new flavor, and we invested $2 million in it.”

“No one knows who the fuck we are!”

The savvy among you will know why that’s wrong. If you’re a moronic account executive who thinks these are legitimate problems to solve, please do us all a favor and find a job in another industry. Maybe one that involves food service or bar work.

If you're in the creative department and think they are problems you can solve, bang your head against the wall a few times. Then, pity yourself for having rotten agency experiences and awful mentors.

Those are not problems that need to be stated. They can be listed in background information, or “other considerations.” But they are not problems your advertising should be solving.

Your advertising needs to solve the CONSUMER’S PROBLEM.

Sorry for the awful use of caps, but I had to. It came over me like an ocean of jizz at a bukkake competition.

So, what’s the consumer’s problem?

It’s something that can be solved by the client’s product or service. That’s the problem you have to solve, and it should always be the first place to start.

Consumer problems include:

“My phone bill is too damned high.”

“This itchy asshole is killing me. And I wiped. ‘Roids!”

“I don’t have much time to clean my shitty house.”

“Just once I’d like an energy drink that doesn’t taste like battery acid.”

“My 401k looks about as healthy as a Steve Jobs did before he kicked the bucket.”

“I hate my fucking job.”

Ah, I hear what some of you are saying. Sometimes, there’s no problem to solve. Like selling Pepsi or chips or flights. Or, the consumer problem could be solved by your product or service, but also every competitor’s out there.

That’s when you dig deeper and find out why your product would be a better fit for the consumer than the one they have, or the others on the market.

Pepsi is sweeter than Coke. Maybe Coke would be a better choice. The chips you’re eating right now don't have the flavor burst you’re looking for. XYZ airlines doesn’t charge a baggage fee. Or it has more flights to different destinations.

You’ll find it. And you can use it to create a problem you can then solve. Yes, I did just say that. Create a problem for the consumer, then solve it. This is a basic advertising premise that has always been a part of our industry.

But what you cannot do is dive headfirst into a project that is trying to solve the client’s problem. Their problems are always the same.

We want more sales.
We want more buzz.
We want more customers.
We want less bad press.

Blah, fucking, blah. We know. Every creative knows. And seeing these stated as the problem to solve is about as useful as telling coal miners they need to dig for coal.

No shit, Sherlock.

Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.


This, all of it. But especially this: "Sorry for the awful use of caps, but I had to. It came over me like an ocean of jizz at a bukkake competition."

"It came over me like an ocean of jizz at a bukkake competition."


I'm actually disappointed in the Egotist more for posting something as juvenile and egotistical as this. It's just one of those pieces where the writer is saying look at me I'm controversial and a rebel.

And as a piece of copy it's poorly written, not funny and ill constructed,

This Felix person isn't really worth taking seriously but The Egotist has a platform that really can help better people. Please use your forum wisely.

And I am supposed to take this site seriously after this?

+1. The Bukkake comment is utterly unnecessary. Shock value doesn't help you make your point or make you a better writer. It merely shows off your poor taste.

I expect better than this from The Egotist...

To quote the Tap: "Such a fine line between stupid and clever."

Fuck all these people^

This is exactly what this site needs. Bitter honest truth.

It's probably exactly what your companies need as well. Truth between you and your consumer. The kind of truth that comes from understanding them, and how your product/service solves their woes and hence increase your profits / creates more buzz/ increases the 4th quarter sales numbers. If it doesn't you need a new business model or product.

Once you all take the ass hat off and start focusing on the consumers problems and how to enhance their life not your numbers all your problems will fall in line behind it.

Until then put on your rain coats cause the jizz storm of problems will just keep cuming. (not making any excuses for the pun because you all need the lame visual to probably get my point across since the above post from felix didn't get it in your heads the first time around)

OK, look. I'm not a moron, and I do consider myself to be a decent writer. By no means a God, like all of you commenters clearly are, but I've survived this long and have enough accolades to at least prove other people think I'm doing something right.

The question is one of foul-mouthed metaphors and other salty language. Should I use them, or not? This was something I asked a long time ago. I came out and said, should I tone it down? Should I?

The response was, overwhelmingly, stop being such a pussy and write what you want, how you want.

I put it on a bit for the column. I am not this much of a cock. Really. But at the end of the day, it gives some people a small break from the usual vanilla columns they read. If you don't like it, I get it. But don't let my filthy ways detract from the main message.

Deal? No? Ahh, fuck it then.




You a Denver native? your writing style is reminiscent of someone from overseas...

just curious.

Felix none of us professed ourselves a "God" we just thought your column wasn't based on anything other than shock value and insights that were more hunches than fact.


You just don't get it.
That's why your doomed to fail.
Simple as that.

I think everyone "GETS IT". If Felix wants to ride the coat tails of Bob Hoffman he needs to be more clever than a 14 year old junior high school student.

Just sayin'

As someone who works as the marketing director at a place just like Amalgamated Durables, may I say "Fuck you, you arrogant, pathetic whining piece of egotistical shit."

You are exactly what we complain about when we work with agencies. You are the reason we put our business out to other agencies. You are the annoying fuckstick in meetings that make me want to scream.

Grow up. Quit complaining when I don't phrase things right. Quit acting smarter than me. Quit pretending you know what you're doing, because I've been doing this a long time, and you -- and your smarmy soul-patched friends -- don't know shit. Just admit it. Then maybe, just maybe, we can work together to create something interesting and valuable.

If not, you're fucking fired.

^ You sound like a dream to work with.

If you would work with your agencies to find the real consumer needs to solve, then you probably wouldn't need to find new agencies and they probably wouldn't have to work their people to death for your bullshit requests and ungrateful attitudes.

Good clients understand the importance of the agency and themselves working together, and hire their agencies for their expertise, not as puppets to do their bidding. Good agencies don't want bad clients.

We don't need you, you need us you Donald Trump wannabe.
You're fired fuck face.

Shock and Awe. The tactic of foisting the shocking upon the rest of us unsuspecting, decent people, in order to creep forward incrementally with worse and worse behavior.

This is a good example of Shock and Awe as a writing style. But using bad words to seem smarter than the rest = really stupid. I thought this site was for people in the communications industry? This is such a bad example of communication arts in every respect -- in the piece itself, and in the comments the rudeness continues, cheered on by more chaos agents. Why does this site publish crap like this? I can't believe the irony.

I like what Felix had to say and don't see anything wrong with how he said/wrote it . It is supposed to be his words and even if it ain't he's still selling as is and doing that at least well. I also see that every body is complaining of his word-ages not being suitable for you now really what does it matter with Or without some of then choice words he would be saying the sale thing talk complaining of such insist to me talk are incapable of having a simple conversation of the TOPIC at hand Or even an educated one now for the remainder of this thread could we all me civil enough to talk of the subject at hand instead of bickering and babbling of how the subject matter was spoken to us seriouslly we're all adulta hete right so out your Big girl panties on and welcome to an adult conversation

^ I'm glad the adult can spell

Poor argument presented in the ugliest of fashions. Lost some respect for the Egotist after this one.

1. Clearly you've never read my other posts. This is how I always sound. Sorry you don't like profanity. I'm not sorry I offended you, I'm just sorry you can't handle it.
2. Poor argument? Are you saying you should solve the client's problem, and ignore the consumer? Or do you have a different take on this? What is wrong with the argument?
3. I'm an independent. Lose all respect for me, but there's no reason to throw the Egotist out with the bathwater. Oh, and by the way, it's a free site with free content you massive asswipe. Don't like my stuff? Don't read it. That simple.

Felix's piece is about the lack of substantive thinking in our business.

His point of view is being attacked on this thread with thinking that 100% lacks in terms of substance.

He lays out some great examples of where our collective brain isn't delivering. Go beyond calling it "poorly written" and saying that the Egotist sucks for posting it. Even Herr Marketing Direktor (if you do exist): you say nothing worthwhile with regards to why his opinion is incorrect. Whip out the marketing awesomeness, put Felix to shame. Don't "fire" the guy.

The Tea Party argues like this.

One last thing:


Thanks Chris, you awesome fucker. Oh, and to the person who said this argument is based on a hunch. It's also the same hunch that is shared by Luke Sullivan, Lee Clow, the aforementioned Bob Hoffman, and a bunch of other actual ad Gods. You should try reading their shit now and then. I wonder though, if I had written this in flowery, grammatically correct prose, would it have received any attention? Remember what Dave Trott said...get noticed. The #1 rule in advertising. Shock and awe? You bet your ass.

No I didn't like the bukkake comment either, but whatever, I read past it. I do think Felix's over all point is an important and interesting way to look at the situation. The consumer's problem is the business' problem, and when you solve the consumer's problem, the business' problem may be solved as well. Kudos Felix.

Keep doing what you do Felix. You may want to stay away from cum-covered faces and that shit, people have limits and it does detract from your message, but your posts get way more comments than most. And that means they get read. Bravo.

Regardless of all the bukkake hubbub (first time those words have met), the article seems to overstate the issue. The client's problems and goals do matter, and you are being hired to help them.

Of course, some clients have goals that are either too broad or a bit foolhardy. But it is your job to help your client, so explain where they may be mistaken. Help them redefine or refocus their goals.

Abso-fucking-lutely solve the client's problem. You solve their problem by serving their customers. You do both, because you are good at your job. And if their goals are bad and they refuse to listen to you, fire the client.

I had to google 'bukkake'.

There. I admitted it. Anonymously.

Help them redefine their goals. So basically, do what the article says.

So Felix, since you showed you can't take critical feedback like all of us have had to do in the business. Sometimes you just can't sell a piece of creative to the client.

If your now new argument that people like Luke Sullivan have this same opinion why didn't you quote them and tell us where where you read it, give a great pull quote? The way this was originally written it was your rant not a counter approach to the standard way of thinking. I've also read enough of Luke Sullivan that he doesn't need Shock and Awe.

Just take your lumps, learn, listen and grow. I've worked with and for some talented people and they all shared one trait. They listened and applied.

Oh and who ever said the customer's problem is always the client's problem. Read up on why some companies advertise on Sunday morning news shows. A hint, to push awareness to raise their stock price. Not really a consumer problem.

I hope you don't talk to your "clients" like this, if you have any. You seem to not like people very much, which is unfortunate given the line of work you're in.
It's one thing to say what you think; but if all you can think is snarky foul-mouthed expressions, then I'm not really interested in what you think.
This was my first, and last, visit to the egoist.

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