Back to Basics

By Jamie Bell, 21 February 2022 | 5 mins read

Delivering high quality, results-focused innovation to shift the narrative and empower sustainable client success.



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As an industry we are obsessed by jargon-laced ‘points of difference’. Pretending that complicated slogans, catchphrases and promises are some sort of magic bullet that nobody else has ever found.

Even the trade press and pitch intermediaries keep asking for a ‘point of difference’ as if agencies are alchemists with the formula to turn lead into creative bullion.

But do these ‘unique propositions’ actually add value to clients?

Not really.

They are simply a smokescreen, to convince clients that the agency they are talking to have found some kind of secret sauce that will give them the edge. But these ‘unique agency viewpoints’ are only words. Strategists still write strategies. Ideas people still have ideas. Designers still design. Client Service still own client relationships. A brief is still necessary to make sure we’re answering the right question.

So where is the secret sauce? Not in claptrap-filled propositions, that’s for sure.

Creating a Jolt with brilliant basics

Electric is less than two years old, so as an agency, we are mere whipper-snappers. Who are we to suggest that ‘points of difference’ are nothing more than the velvet curtain surrounding the old man pretending to be the wonderful Wizard of Oz?

All we know is that doing the fundamentals well is what produces results. That’s why we only offer brilliant basics. The important stuff done right.

There’s no hot air or pompous mission statements – just proven ways to help clients create the very best work they can.

We service the client the right way. Write the tightest brief possible. Find the most compelling thing to say, and say it in an equally compelling way.

All brilliant basics. All what clients should be able to expect.

Avoid the Buzzword Bingo

We used to have a game to help pass the time when stuck in jargon-heavy internal meetings. The rules to Buzzword Bingo were simple. Every time the person talking to you spouts ad-waffle, you put a cross on your pad. Run it up the flagpole – one cross. Take this one offline – one cross. Open Kimono meeting – one cross. The person with the most crosses at the end buys the drinks as punishment. It was great fun, and it taught us all to keep our heads out of our colons and talk to people like people.

We applied this buzzword filter when arriving at our own proposition. ‘Create a Jolt’ is born from the truth that in order to sell to someone you have to engage them first. That’s only possible when you switch off the gobbledygook and find something that really motivates people.

As Bill Bernbach put it back in the 60’s:

Don’t sell the sausage, sell the sizzle.

The most effective advertising campaigns are those that reflect fundamental human truths, what motivates us, excites us, drives us and inspires us. That’s where you’ll find the Jolt. People respond to what feels real. If you want to get their attention, you need to speak from the heart.

Sorry, social media

Few brands have embraced the buzzword smokescreen as much as social media platforms. Sometimes they’re like the two bogus tailors from the story ‘The Emperor’s new clothes’.

I had a stand-up confrontation with the CMO of one particular platform not so long ago. He was trying to convince my supercar client that three to six seconds is the optimum time for videos. He rattled through pie charts, bar graphs, eye tracking numbers… all manner of things to prove his argument. As with the Emperor from the story, nobody dared question the validity of his waffle for fear of being seen as ‘not digitally savvy enough’ to understand.

This was like a red rag to this particular bull. And as long as I was there, I was going to make sure my client wasn’t being strong-armed by people whose primary concern seemed to be getting the highest number of eyeballs, rather than getting the right eyeballs. The CMO didn’t seem to care if the people watching the video were wealthy supercar buyers or random browsers who just liked looking at pretty cars. He simply wanted viewers – the more, the better. Simple as that.

It seemed to me that this particular social platform weren’t doing what was right for the client and sticking to brilliant basics. They were only interested in what would give them another PowerPoint slide with which to baffle and bully the next brand manager.

The platform were adamant that volume was the only secret sauce required and that they could guarantee at least one million unique views as long as the films were no longer than three seconds in length (six at a push). They tried to scare the client with the spectre of ‘massive drop off’ (insert spooky noise here).

Read that again. Three seconds.

Now try and tell the person next to you anything at all about yourself in three seconds. You can’t. Because it’s tosh. But in a meeting full of self-styled digital boffins, no one has the guts to say what’s staring everyone in the face.

The CMO ridiculed the 15 to 20 second posts I was proposing with a smirk. They doubted that any more than 10% of viewers would watch to the end. And they were 100% right. And that was my point. 100% of people who will never buy your product isn’t good value for money. Landing the 10% of people ready to drive your car away this afternoon is, to quote Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels…

It's a deal. it's a steal. It's the sale of the f****** century!

And this is where brilliant basics come in. The social media company were motivated to sell themselves, not what they could do to sell my client to their customers.

Following our heated ‘debate’ my client decided that the platform was not for them. They went to another platform and ran 20 second films that reached the right audience, with the right message, and (if the full order book is anything to go by), to deliver the right result.

This was the only metric that mattered: how many people actually put their hands in their pockets. It’s the brilliant basics again. And they’re what’s behind our ‘Electric Pledge’:

  1. To keep things simple
  2. To ask the right questions right at the start
  3. To write a brief that you will 100% believe
  4. To create original ideas that create both a jolt and the right result
  5. To put what you need at the heart of everything we do

Our five-point pledge makes sure that everything we do is geared around exactly what you need.


And basic.

And if you’d like to talk to us about it, get in touch.