"...And Make It Real Creative!" - September 2006

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

There are certain facts you need to know:

1. South Dakota State University is in Brookings, SD.

2. The University of South Dakota is in Vermillion, SD, some 115 miles South of SDSU/Brookings.

3. My daughter had a boyfriend in Vermillion, but that ended a year ago. Recently she moved to Brookings with another young man to attend South Dakota State.

4. Visits back to South Dakota usually mean at least one surprise, generally supplied by my daughter.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let me tell you how I spent part of my summer vacation.

My wife and I decided that we would take a road trip to visit my children and parents this summer. Along the way we visited my older step-son in Nashville, and friends in Kansas City. All in all a pleasant trip, and I was looking forward to picking up my boys in Sioux Falls (which is midway between Brookings and Vermillion, by the way), and going up to Brookings to see my daughter and parents. I should’ve known better.

When we arrived in Sioux Falls, my Ex wife was home. The first thing she said was, “You might not see Chelsea this trip.” She went on to explain that Princess had decided that she had made a mistake moving to Brookings with the current young man, and had gone back to Vermillion and her old boyfriend. Further, she had observed cell phone silence since announcing the change of heart. “One thing I told her,” my Ex stressed, “We are NOT going to help her move again... last time was it!”

Well, well, well. We spend one day with my two boys and my parents... then two. Still, no daughter. I had pretty much resigned myself that this would be a Chelsea-less visit, when my younger son’s phone rings. It’s his Mother, and she wants to talk to me. “Chelsea finally called. She wants to move her things to Vermillion tomorrow... we’ve rented a U-Haul. Can you come help?”

Resisting a comment about famous last words, I tell her that we’d be happy to help, and agree to meet them at the apartment the next day.

Understand that all parties have moved on, and the ugliness of the past is a dim memory. Both my Ex and I have remarried and we all get along well... in fact, I think her new husband is a great guy, and frankly a saint to my children. So when my wife and I joined my Ex and her husband, along with my sons and daughter for this little moving party, the only thing stressful about it was the 100 degree temperature.

Sometime between hauling the chest of drawers and the kitchen table, Hubby #2 mentions that he forgot to bring rope to tie things down. “No problem,” I said. “My wife can run over to my parents’ house and get some.” (My Dad is one of the great collectors of twine and rope products of his generation.)

I mentioned earlier that I am surprised nearly every time I head back to South Dakota for a visit, and that my daughter is usually the one to hand them out. I suspect you’ve deducted that her abrupt move was the surprise of this trip, and up till this point you’d be right. But then I walked into the living room, where my current and Ex wife were busy packing. I said, “Honey?” And, in unison, my current and Ex wife said, “What?”

There are some moments that you can’t prepare for, responses that have no textbook reaction, lit fuses that could either lead to a ladyfinger or a keg of gunpowder. Luckily, both new spouses began to laugh, and I was able to quit holding my breath and join them. In fact, the whole thing broke what tension the heat had caused, and by the time we were finished, Hubby #2 wanted to know what his nickname was. “Pumpkin,” in case you’re wondering.

The next time someone tells you that consistency isn’t important in advertising, feel free to tell them this story. Despite the fact that we had other names for each other toward the end of our 15 years together, even though it’s been nearly 10 years since we parted ways, my Ex had developed a conditioned response when the word “Honey” came out of my mouth, and it had stuck with her. Considering some of the hell we went through, this is a great example of the power of consistency.

There are many good reasons to change course with a client’s image... a name change, new management that is trying to overcome a bad image from a previous owner, the current image isn’t driving business, perhaps even a location change could be a valid reason for an image over-haul. But when a client tells me the only reason is that they’re “bored” with their image, I’ve been known to try to talk them out of it. Because if that “old boring music/jingle/voice talent/slogan” is working, changing it might do more harm than good.

“I want to freshen things up,” they’ll insist, “like the big companies! Look how much McDonalds changes!” True, they are not the same McDonalds I used to drag my parents to when I was a kid... but yet, they are. The Golden Arches are still there, and the basic advertising message, even after countless slogan/jingle changes, remains the same. And you’ll notice that when the slogan and/or jingle has changed, it’s a slow process... and a big deal.

I’ll be the first to change something if it’s not working, but why fix something that’s not broken? Yes, that jingle might be old and annoy you, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, perhaps all you need to do is throw that old jingle in your DAW and clean it up. There needs to be valid reasons behind any real change, consistency is that important. And if you do make a change in a client’s creative, fight for them to give it a chance. Business might not see an overnight increase. In fact, gains might not appear for weeks, possibly months. But if the message is right, running it consistently will make a difference. Keep making surprise moves and they’ll soon be your Ex client. And I doubt they’ll be calling you Honey.

 

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