Good/Fast/Cheap Is Dumb

One of them has to go, and here's what should replace it

We've been sold a bill of goods. Actually, we're the ones who've been selling the bill of goods, and maybe we should just stop. Agencies have been putting clients' feet to the fire for years with the all-too-familiar cliché—Good/Fast/Cheap, pick two. And we say it because those are the parameters we know. How fast can we get the idea out there? What's it cost? Will it be any good? But I think if we're all honest with ourselves, we're hoping the people who are being asked this will balk and find the money and the time to do things correctly.

But it's a false choice and it doesn't really serve anyone. It creates a compromise where maybe there doesn't need to be one? I’m not sure how watchable Sophie's Choice would be without the choice part, but perhaps we don't need to turn every advertising assignment into such a dramatic life-changing moment. I would contend, however, that Sliding Door could've been a better movie than Sliding Doors. Just Gwyneth and her new Pella sliding glass doors that glide open like butter. More of a short than a feature, probably, but I digress.

So let's do the industry a favor, throw out the Good/Fast/Cheap ultimatum, and come up with something new. Our tough-love approach with the purchasers of creative—you'll get two of these three things and like it!—just feels a bit outmoded and needlessly adversarial. Sure, clients and agencies alike are asked to do the impossible. "We need to completely overhaul the brand but we've only got $100K and it needs to be in-market next week. We can do that, right?" The impossible ask isn't going away, especially since our industry promises business transformation and domination of cultural conversations with every breath. We promise the impossible, so let's just find a better way to set expectations for what delivering it looks like.

So what are the inputs? Well, I don't think the industry needs to make more schlock, so Good is here to stay. And if you've looked at a production calendar in the last 5-10 years, it seems like Fast is table stakes these days as well. Again, we've done it to ourselves. We deliver fully integrated campaigns in the time we used to take to edit two :30s. We do shit in-house. "Hey, the junior animator also has a 5D and can shoot the BTS stuff and then post it over the weekend after managing the clients social accounts! Let's do it!"

None of this is slowing down, and that's good. Fast helps. Fast limits overthinking and second-guessing. Brands and agencies that aren't built for Fast will be left behind. The faster we make work, the more work we can create, meaning more chances to steer the brands in our care in the direction we think they should go. More points plotted along the course make for smoother transitions from point "Who Gives a Crap" to point "Hey Check This Out."

Okay, so Good is good, and Fast is difficult but serves the objective of preserving or remodeling brands. Which leaves Cheap. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Cheap, you cheap bastard. Cheap is the one that's gotta go. And yeah, I know "the budget's the budget," but there are better litmus tests for judging an idea's should-we-do-it-ness than the purely fiduciary analysis of what it costs.

What about asking what's it gonna get me? Will anyone notice it? Will they care? Does it jiggle jiggle or does it fold? Will other brands in the category be jealous? Or scared? Cheap doesn't answer any of these questions. Cheap makes us think in the wrong terms. Cheap makes us focus only on the "I" part of ROI. Which is like ordering BLT and then only eating the tomatoes. Which is weird. And not a sandwich anymore. Plus, Cheap tricks us into thinking that squeezing 50+ deliverables out of the budget is wise, versus making a few powerful things. Why fill the funnel with a lot of stuff that's cost-efficient but ignorable?

Wait, let's tangent together for a sec. Think about the number of times you've heard, "Well, if we see an idea we love, we'll find the money." Usually this is said by people who've yet to secure any actual money. But I've also seen it work. I've seen clients go from mouth-agape sticker shock to stealing from every budget they can get their hands on when they fall in love with an idea. So the notion of fixed budgets is more of a principle than an actual fact. Deep down, we all know things cost what they cost, and if we love it, we'll find a way to fund it.

So what replaces Cheap? I humbly submit to you one simple word. Loud. Sorry, LOUD. No, just Loud was fine. Loud. Loud gets heard. Loud stands out. Loud makes the neighboring brands spit-take gin drinks on their tennis whites. Loud has vibe and swagger, but still has the ROI and engagement rates that get the KPI-ers straight hyped. Loud gets undue attention, because that's what Loud was trying to do in the first place. It's effectiveness and bravado rolled into one.

Loud isn't just volume and/or obnoxiousness. Media approaches can be Loud. Partnerships can be Loud. Technologies and colorways and corporate giving can be Loud. Loud is disruption without the arrogance of thinking we're disrupting culture. We're not, we're interrupting culture, so the interruption better cut through and be worth listening to. Because we're out in four seconds.

Good/Fast/Loud. There it is. That's the new triumvirate. But here's the best part. You don't have to say the "pick two" bit. With Good/Fast/Loud, there's no false choice; you get to pick all three, each and every time. Every idea worth doing has to be Good, because honestly what are we doing here if it isn't? It's gotta be Fast, because fast brands win. And it's gotta be Loud, because it has to cut through the constant content against which every brand is competing. Otherwise, again, what are we even doing here if the work is quietly ignored? Good/Fast/Loud, pick three.

So the next time you're tempted to answer a Herculean client request with the Good/Fast/Cheap conundrum, take a beat. Do a breathing exercise. Open your Calm app. Fake a coughing fit. However you gather yourself, get yourself gathered. Then think about what we're actually doing in this industry. We should always be striving for Good. We should always be striving for Fast. And if it isn't Loud, no one out there's going to hear or give a crap. And no amount of Cheap can save you from that.

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