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Is fuzzy marketing the
future of advertising?

Our industry has to change to survive. Not just because of recession but because we have been doing things the same way for too long and the gap between client and agency has grown, writes Chris Arnold.

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Five years ago, integration was seen as the way forward but most agencies just paid lip service to it. The result was still advertising-led rather than solution-led with an above-the-line agency working uncomfortably alongside its below-the-line partner. Still spending three months writing a TV ad but only briefing the below-the-line side three days before the pitch.

But clients are also facing a recession and now need business-changing solutions, not just a nice execution. You can't crack every problem with a TV ad or a direct mail piece. But because most agencies have been reluctant to take a broader view, they have lost the trust of clients and are now treated just like suppliers.

So I'm borrowing an idea from science and technology that challenges how we all think.

Fuzzy logic has transformed these industries and offered a more creative way of seeing things. It challenges the old black-and-white approach (binary thinking). So if it works for them, why shouldn't it work for us?

I call it "fuzzy marketing".

To practice fuzzy marketing you have to throw away the old rule books, break away from the narrow way we do things (abandon the media hierarchy for a start) and take a media- and marketing-neutral attitude. And then apply a lot of creative thought. That way you will be able to come up with highly creative business-changing ideas, not just ads. And probably save a fortune (remember that quote about "50% of my advertising budget is wasted".)

Sorry to say your creative ideas may not win a D&AD as they probably won't have a category for them yet. That's the price of progress. New categories need to be invented.

One example of fuzzy thinking in action was a solution created for the YMCA to raise funds at Easter. They thought the solution they wanted was a mailer. Yet previous years had a very poor return on investment. Instead, the agency came up with a hot cross bun with an Y on instead of the cross. A major supermarket was prepared to sell it and give the YMCA a percentage. Good publicity for the supermarket and a great earner for the charity that required no outlay.

A better business idea all round. There are many more examples too.

But to think fuzzy, you have to adopt a more creative, free-thinking approach. Forget the old ways. (It's not easy if all you've been doing for years is TV ads or direct mail.) Give it a try -- you'll discover ways of thinking you haven't considered. It's certainly opened my mind.

Chris Arnold is integrated creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, chairman of the DMA Creative Council and regularly lectures and runs training programmes on creative thinking.

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