I recently had the opportunity to present work to clients.
Um, no, not the usual suspects – not the client's marketing people, the ones who we present work to day in and day out.
I mean all the other people who make up this client. A couple of hundred of customer-facing people who work in non-headquarters roles – the folks who never see silly things like creative strategies, and who never hear suits talking about "leveraging" things – stared down at me from the seats of a rented theatre. They were a true cross section of the thousands of people who work for and with this organization.
These were the real clients. These were the people who actually do what this client is in business to do. Also in the audience were several board members, and the entire executive team.
And despite a sudden attack of dry mouth, it was an incredible experience. Let's say it focused my mind on what our campaign was really about, and forced me to boil all the thinking we'd done about it down to its bare essentials. (For instance, at the last minute I cut a bunch of stuff about our planning lingo; I realized it was irrelevant to them.) But it also made me think about our work not just as "creative" but as part of the organization itself. After all, the creative is something every employee will see, and publicly wear; if it sucked, I wasn't the one who'd have to literally stand in front of the target audience every day.
On a deeper level, I knew that I had to relate the campaign back to them. The creative couldn't just be a clever idea that would float out there in the world, and perhaps be vaguely to them by bringing in a logo and URL at the end. (Saw a spot this morning for Raising the Roof that did exactly that; hope they got it produced pro bono.) I had to prove to all these people that the work and its message all came from the reality they experience every day. That was the only way they'd feel a part of the campaign, be proud to talk about it with the people they serve.
And while we won't know how it alll turns out for a few months, the vibe was very positive.
Well, at least they didn't throw anything.
And I learned something crucial about what we do, and why we do it.