Frewin Design Consultancy


It Doesn't Matter What I Like


It doesn't matter at all, not a damn. Because what I like is a selective decision, based on my personal tastes.


If I'm not part of the target market. If my decision is not based on an understanding of the background and aim of the communication. My personal likes and dislikes, or anyone else's that fall into the same category, are, in the first instance, irrelevant.


It's about is it right? Is it fit for purpose? Does it answer all the questions posed in the brief? Does it convey the right message? - to the right audience? - in the right way? No? Well there's always an excuse. Creatives are notorious for complaining about briefs, and sometimes justifiably so. But that breeds an arrogance, even good briefs don't get digested, aren't referred back to. There can't be an excuse, 90% of jobs off-brief, are simply bad jobs. That leaves the other 10% that are brilliant, but that's because they've exceeded the aim of the brief, not failed it.


It is why getting the brief right is so important. It's why an understanding of the audience is so important. It's why constantly checking back against the brief is so crucial. Because the metrics established in the brief need to be the benchmark that the idea and creative executions are judged against, not those of personal taste. We're all human and it's hard to place ourselves in the mind's of others, and we all have our own pet hates, such as not liking a particular colour. But if a screaming purple is a key motivator of the audience, so be it. Though personally, if I were dead, I'd be turning in my grave. Remember, orange was a most unpopular colour, when a mobile telephone called and branded themselves ORANGE.


And Last But Not Least

At the beginning of this article it states that "my personal likes and dislikes are in the first instance, irrelevant." True, but have you ever noticed that with the truly brilliant ideas, nearly everyone likes them?



Absolutely right. Nice book BTW.

Posted by Stephen Hall


This can often be a good reminder and topic of discussion for "stakeholders" that pop in in the review process. Sometimes people get used to saying, "I don't like it..." and thinking that is the sole determining factor. In the case where a 50-something mid-level manager did not "like" the item developed, when he was reminded the audience was 17-20 urban youth, and what connects with that audience may not be what he "likes" he admitted he didn't think it through and was just voicing his gut reaction. "I don't like it" maybe be of little concern when the real question is "does the AUDIENCE like it". Thanks for the reminder! Now if more decision makers can think this way...

Posted by Joe Mercier


As someone who's worked to those rules for over 22 years, being in the business of creating and supplying good design..that actually works, I totally agree. Shame the clients can't think like that though!

Posted by Jennifer Holmes


I like it!

Can I be part of your target market, even if I don't fit? (Sorry, it's been one of those days....)

Posted by Peter Davies


The question is, though, do people in 'the target market' see themselves as 'people in the target market'?

I remember a particularly interesting moment at a meeting with what was Midland Financial Services when a research company presented the devastating revelation that their customers didn't actually consider themselves as such - they just saw themselves as ordinary people, like everyone else.

I'm sure the report was embargoed, shortly after that... ;-)

Posted by James Souttar



Good point. I think of the audience, as all who see the communication. With some sections more predisposed to respond positively, sooner rather than later.

It's why I believe it's so important to develop outstanding communications, rather than just hitting the 'target audience' with the same old, same old.

After all you never know who might become a customer.

It's true of most communications, but especially so with advertising, that the messages are not invited, they're an intrusion. So I believe it's beholden to us all, to make that intrusion as pleasant and informative, or maybe at least just funny, to as many people as possible.

There was a time, not that long ago, when a British audience thought the commercials were better than the programmes.

If clients want people to take in their messages, especially now, with so much diversification of channels, it had better be put across damn well.

A couple of examples, the Guinness dancing man, while the pint is drawn and the Cadbury gorilla. The Cadbury ad did actually capture that moment of joy and good feeling that eating chocolate gives to chocaholics, while at the same time entertaining even those who hate chocolate (is there anybody?).

The problem is, how many ideas do you have that are that great? Maybe once a year if you're lucky. Cadbury's agency didn't seem able to recapture that feeling.

But I reiterate what I said at the end of my article, 'good ideas are liked by nearly everybody'.

Posted by Jonathan Frewin


Er...actually James I do indeed hate chocolate !

But that aside I have to say that being in the business as long as I have a certain amount of re-inventing the wheel is also inevitable, there is no such thing as a "remarkable one-off"..its all about the unique delivery, but sometimes the message, if it's a good, one is the same.

I do agree that because of the massive change in media in the last 15 years one has to assume our audience is flooded with messages, so the delivery is now the all important factor.

Good ideas are indeed liked by, I would say the majority, but not always understood by everyone. I was doing a presentation on Brand Management to a global audience once and remember introducing the new Company Strap-line the marketing team had invented, only to discover that it meant something very un-business like to the Russian part of the company. It would appear no amount of research can cover every aspect of communication when aiming to "please all".

Posted by Jennifer Holmes


I can see the logic of segmenting audiences, but instinctively I am opposed to the idea of targeting when it is divisive. There is surely a distinction between relevance - which is for the reader to decide - and inclusion, which is about making them feel welcome. Communication uses a common language, so surely it should be accessible to all?

To my mind what British advertising has always excelled in is producing commericials that appeal to everybody, even if they aren't part of the 'target audience'. BMP's Smash aliens are still fondly remembered (and consistently seem to get to the top of those interminable Channel 4 '100 most loved adverts) but the product... well, if you can remember Smash, you probably remember something that tasted like very finely ground sawdust. Virgin's 25th anniversary campaign is another in that tradition - the ad only seems to get better each time I see it (compared to more than half of what is screened nowadays, which irritates me the first time, and only gets worse...) However I wouldn't fly Virgin if Richard Branson paid me, my own experiences being more along the lines of the hillarious complaint letter that surely everyone has seen (but if you haven't, you can find it here: ).

So I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan here. The minimum price for making an intrusion into someone's consciousness should be to reward them with a communication that is enjoyable in its own right, regardless of whether the message is relevant to them. But a communication that signals: "you're too old for this" "you're too young for this" "this is not for you" is frankly insulting, and must cause more ill-will amongst those outside the target groups than goodwill within them.

Posted by James Souttar


If the nice people who can afford mainstream, broad, untargeted marketing please step forward, I am sure that a nice advertising agency will spend ALL your money reaching everyone in the UK.

Most of us can't afford to waste money on reaching people. So if I am selling pensions, I am not very likely to put my cash into saturday morning cartoons for kids. (unless of course I happen to have some spectacular insight into the viewing habits of pension buyers)

Similarly, if I want to sell sugary, chocolaty breakfast cereals to kids, I ain't likely to go for late night TV. I use TV examples because they are easy to follow. But I don't see cereal sellers advertising in the FT either.

Now making something with "appeal" isn't about targeting. So I can create a cereal ad with broad appeal and amusement factor, but I still wouldn't put it on late night TV when the demographic I want is supposed to be sleeping.

In short, targeting is just as much about the medium as it is the message.

Posted by Peter Davies


Thanks, Jonathan!

Great discussion that carries on!!!!!

Posted by Peter Davies


Peter, I think you might just be surprised how many of us potential pension buyers are, if not actively watching saturday morning tv with our kids, nonetheless unwittingly absorbing it. Screening a pensions ad between Hannah Montana and Zach and Cody might just be smarter than you think... ;-) Likewise, who do you think *pays* for the sugary, chocolaty breakfast cereal? The 'gatekeeper' with all the power to insist it comes out of the trolley and goes back on the shelf, who often goes by the name of Mum (and might well be finally relaxing in front of late night tv).

The thing is, real life is just so much more mixed up than marketing models would like it to be. Perhaps that's because we aren't really anything like as 'segmented' as we used to be - and we're becoming more mixed up all the time. In any case, the logic of segmentation is rapidly working its way towards Chuck Anderson's vision of billions of markets made up of one person each. Either the message will have to appeal to everyone, because you just can't categorise who the target is, or it will need to be precisely targeted, amazon style, to each individual's tastes and interests. I can't see much more mileage in 'segments' that presuppose that there are groups of people who can be categorized by common patterns - because I just don't see it as true any more.

Posted by James Souttar


"At the beginning of this article it states that "my personal likes and dislikes are in the first instance, irrelevant." True, but have you ever noticed that with the truly brilliant ideas, nearly everyone likes them?"

That's where 'gut instinct' enters stage left. Those truly brilliant ideas are the ones where the brief data has been eaten, digested and distilled down to a simple truth that engages people in an entertaining way on a purely human level.

'Entertainment' is the key to engagement. And as David Ogilvy said, ' No-one was ever bored into buying your product'.

Posted by Derek Redican