What Your Ad Agency Can Learn From The Army

Your Ad Agency Failed. Now What?

Army_Strong_WP.jpg  1024×768“Oh well” should never be the last thing you say when your ad agency failed to sell in an idea, a new advertising program or are at the losing end of a pitch for a new account.

“Oh well” simply isn’t good business. Advertising agencies need to have a process for evaluating what did not work (even what worked) in order to improve its business systems — including how to pitch ideas. I suggest that agencies consider using what the U.S. military calls, the After-Action Review (AAR). Here’s a definition from the Air Force:

An after-action review (AAR) is a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables soldiers to discover for themselves what happened, why it happened, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses. It is a tool leaders and units can use to get maximum benefit from every mission or task.

Stop Failing… The Ad Agency After-Action Review

aar-graphic-3An ad agency after-action review (I am sure that you can come up with your own term — possibly a ‘no-action review’) should become part of the agency’s standard operating procedures for any major presentation of  new strategies, creative or new business meeting or serious pitch.

The Harvard Business review has an in-depth article of AAR’s. Here is a tidbit to whet your appetite.

The AAR meeting addresses four questions: What were our intended results? What were our actual results? What caused our results? And what will we sustain or improve? For example:

One objective of the AAR, of course, is to determine what worked and what didn’t, to help OPFOR (The U.S. Army’s Opposing Force (commonly known as OPFOR, a 2,500-member brigade whose job is to help prepare soldiers for combat) refine its ability to predict what will work and what won’t in the future.

How well did the unit assess its challenges? Were there difficulties it hadn’t foreseen? Problems that never materialized? Yes, it is important to correct things; but it is more important to correct thinking. (OPFOR has determined that flawed assumptions are the most common cause of flawed execution.) Technical corrections affect only the problem that is fixed. A thought-process correction—that is to say, learning—affects the unit’s ability to plan, adapt, and succeed in future battles.

A Big Point… Worth Repeating: Go Army

“Yes, it is important to correct things; but it is more important to correct thinking.” 

In my mind, one of the worst things an advertising agency (or any business for that matter) can do is to repeat what does not work (as Yogi Berra says, “Its deja vu all over again.” Or way worse in the case of the Army… ‘hey, let’s send some more troops to the middle east’).

An effective and very easy way to start to figure out what isn’t working is to STOP and assess before making the same mistakes over and over. Having a dedicated evaluation process is a good thing.

Post Pitch Questionaire

I discussed the idea of having a standardized post pitch questionnaire in “The Levitan Pitch.” book.

You can also read more on post pitch analysis at a guest post I did for HubSpot… “Do You Know Why You Lost The Pitch?”



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