Are propositions still important for digital strategy?

Preparing a training session on creative briefs, I came across this ancient piece of wisdom from 1993.  It’s a document about propositions.  Propositions are the single most important thing you want to say in a communications activity, and also known as the thing that will be carried into the ad (because we were always told that it was the only thing the creative would bother looking at.)

When I was learning to be a planner propositions were absolutely the most important thing we had to be good at.  Propositions are the distillation of the strategy, and should be based on an amazing insight.  (Insights are also apparently out of fashion these days.  That’s a topic for another blog post.)  When I was learning to be a planner a good proposition was a sexy, beautiful thing.  They’re really hard to do well.

Because a lot of digital stuff needs to say more than one thing (and perhaps because propositions are hard to write well) the proposition has dropped off the radar a bit.  Creative briefs have become less tied to insights and propositions and are often about the medium, and the creative discussion is more about the potential for technology.

This is good in some ways because it’s freed up the creative process, made it more fluid and collaborative and exciting.  The strategy is all about the objective, what we want from the activity, rather than the steps taken to get there.

It’s not so good because I feel like we’re moving away from thinking really hard about who we’re designing and creating for.  We need to think about what motivates our consumers, ensure we’re not creating for technology and creativity’s sake. Insights do bring us closer to our consumers’ needs, wants and goals, and help us to connect them to our clients.

It might be that the nature of insights and propositions have to change for the digital age, but I think we can learn from the past in terms of ensuring we keep thinking hard about what we are doing and why, be lateral and creative with insights, and work with our creatives to produce briefs that motivate them.

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