How many strategies does it take to change a light bulb?

The contender...
January 1, 2000

The contender

Dave Shea, creative director

Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, New York

The assignment

A major lighting manufacturer wants to come up with an advertising campaign targeted to kids. They are about to launch a line of light bulbs that come in eight kid-friendly colors and are safer for kids to use, being made of a sturdy, clear fiberglass. In the campaign, the manufacturer wants to mention its 50 years of experience, the bulbs’ long-lasting technology, and wants the agency to ‘strongly consider’ casting a completely bald male as the spokesperson. Say watt?

The strategy

Not surprisingly, these kinds of requests happen every day. The trick is to distinguish between executional requests and strategic direction, and, if you’ll pardon the pun,

enlightening the client to the importance of the latter.

A well-written strategy assumes nothing. It’s the hard-won result of consumer research, market evaluation and a very sharp pencil. It asks who the target audience is and what truism that audience has about the product or the product’s category. Making up or writing a self-serving truism (‘I love colorful light bulbs, I just wish a leading manufacturer would make one that wouldn’t break in my hands’) will only lead to self-congratulatory creative that the client will love and kids will ignore.

Once you’ve got the target and truism nailed, the single-minded proposition should come easy. This is the part of the strategy that puts into words the single most motivating thing about the brand as it relates (via truism) to that target audience.

For our lighting manufacturer, we discovered that for most kids, light bulb safety was not an issue, they don’t get the bald guy analogy, 50 years experience made the company seem ancient, and long-lasting bulbs meant they’d be stuck with one color for a long time-but giving their room a colorful tint would be totally cool! So for our target audience of kids ages eight to 14, we agreed on the single-minded proposition: `Now you can color your world every time you turn on the light.’

From a creative’s point of view, this strategy was right on the mark. The executional requests had been put aside. The target, truism and SMP aligned perfectly. There’d be no hunting in the dark by the creative teams in hopes of finding an angle. We had a well-researched, well-written strategy to light our way.

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