June 26, 2024

Building client trust with ideas that are absolutely bonkers

Christian Jaekle

Marketing Director

We know ‘em. We love ‘em. We’re all a lil jealous of ‘em.

Independent agency Mischief @ No Fixed Address has become infamous for selling in all sorts of bat-shizz crazy ideas that sweep the headlines and almost every award show on the planet. At the 2024 Mirren Live Conference, I had the pleasure of sitting in the proverbial splash zone as Mischief Creative Directors Bianca Guimaraes and Kevin Mulroy spilled their secrets. And yes, I was rubbing my evil little hands together the entire time.

So how is Mischief able to assault our eyeballs and award shelves so often? Yes, it’s their outrageous caliber of creative talent. But it’s also their insight and client strategies that quite literally break just about everything we agency folk have come to expect. Lucky for us, that process is repeatable. And I took tons of notes. Notes that now belong to the people.

Here are the highlights straight from the unicorn’s mouth.

Being “breakthrough” isn’t random – it’s highly strategic.

It’s no secret that a great brief gets great results. At Mischief, they believe an exceptional brief gets the creatives 70% of the way there. The most important part of the brief though? A killer insight. And the most killer of insights has an unconventional human truth baked in with just a little bit of tension. For example, remember when Mischief’s Grand Effie-winning jealous Tubi Super Bowl work fooled us into thinking our kids stole in the remote? That’s the kind of tension that gets all sorts of attention. They risked making a lot of people angry in the final minutes of the Big Game, but most could appreciate the creativity of the moment. At least the Effie judges did – I’m still screaming!

When it comes to great strategy, it’s essential to get creative leadership involved from the very beginning. This isn’t the time for Strategy to throw a brief over the wall. When it comes to cooking up 8-10 strategic territories that’ll be narrowed down to 4-5 across sometimes multiple briefs – it’s a team effort. Remember to bring the clients into the process as well. When they’re involved in the early stages – they’re invested in your crazy idea from day one. This will also avoid y’all whiffing in the first creative review.

Why do client reviews always feel like a battlefield?

Risky ideas only seem risky until you know the strategy that supports them. It’s easy for us creatives and account folk to ask, “Wow, where are THOSE clients who are willing to risk it all and trust us every step of the way??” 

Without the full story, being envious of clients like Pizza Hut who greenlit Goodbye pies to or eos who bought a quick-turn packaging activation called Bless your f*ing cooch. But really, Mischief fights the same battles we all do – they just know how to win. Provocative ideas like these start with an airtight brief and client strategy. 

Here’s their advice to other agencies: You and the client are not at war – you both want the same things. Because of this, you need to have your client’s objectives top of mind throughout the entire process. And, once your first project is a hit – they’ll trust you with the follow-up.

Next, once you get the “yes” from the client – stop trying to sell the idea. You may just uncover new reasons for the client to be concerned. Stop selling at “yes” and fight your battles in the edit. Friendly battles that is. We’re not a war, remember?

Kill your ideas with dignity

We’ve all felt this pain. The client wants a Harry Potter-inspired spot but later decides it can’t have magic, wizards, or fun. If that’s the case, kill the idea and start over. Mischief says, “Don’t make Jaws without the shark.” If you attempt to solve something unsolvable – you’ll burn up your entire budget and timeline. Know when to start over.

For example, MillerCoors wanted a spot to show that when other brewers were making selters, they were going to double down on what they were good at: beer. When Miller signed on for a campaign cheekily named “Miller G*d damn beer” and later decided that the risk of blowback was too great, they proposed Miller “Gosh darn beer.” Let’s be honest here: No tension, no punch, no laughs. Just a million lil cringe emojis. What’d they do? They went back to the drawing board and launched a seltzer by launching it into space – and it was a huge hit.

Nothing sells like copy that’s downright contagious

Bianca and Kevin offered this overlooked detail of a pitch as the ultimate cheat code: give the idea an amazing name. Mischief’s portfolio includes campaigns like Kraft “Send Noods,” Alpha Food’s “Chickenflation,” and Outback’s “Koala on the Walla.” Give your ideas names that make the room smile and clients can’t get out of their heads. If you name your spot “Pumpkins” – it may not be worth getting excited about. And I LOVE pumpkins.

On the PR front, bring in your partners early and always sweat the details of the headline. In fact, it’s worth dreaming up the headline along with the concept. When you can see the long game, so will the client. Mischief’s one caveat was to make sure the client's objective comes first – don’t go for clickbait. 

For example, “Kraft Mac & Cheese is encouraging people to send each other noods” may make you sweat under your collar, but “Kraft noods helps people comfort each other in uncomfortable times” doesn’t bury the lead – or in this case – the client’s interest while still being fun.

But wait – there’s a lot more.

Alright, this leaky faucet is done spilling trade secrets. But honestly, y’all: There was SO much more to this session. Bianca & Kevin are currently on the conference speaking circuit, and if you see this session on the program, book your ticket immediately. Much like “Koala on the Walla” – even weeks later, I just can’t get it out of my head.

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