“More to Know” with Marek Lis from Alchemy Insights

Marek Lis
Owner/Founder at Alchemy Insights
Website Address: www.alchemyinsights.com

Talk to us about techniques that you teach on how to bring people together even when they don’t agree initially.

I mean we work in an opinion business. It’s a business that’s full of highly opinionated people. Try and get a bunch of creatives in a room to agree to something is a difficult task. And that’s one of the thrills and joys and challenges of our business is dealing with that highly opinionated talent that we have in every aspect of the agency. These opinions create a very fickle business. These opinions on the nature of the work, the strategy, the media buys, the production values, these opinions create disparities of where the group is actually at. So you can imagine the agency has a view about the work, and the client has a view about the work. And every single person on the client side and every single person on the agency side have different opinions about the view of that work.


It would be nice if everyone just agreed and always thought the same, but that’s not realistic.

It’s not realistic, and it makes for very boring advertising. You’re going to aim for mediocrity. So we need to celebrate the fact that we have different opinions. We’re all human at the end of the day. But the trick is how to get everybody to understand what that focal point is or those opinions. Because each of these opinions create disparities, and those disparities lead to frustrations. Those frustrations have a dollar value against them. Just look at the concept of rework. How many times are you asked to make changes to the creative by the client? Every time you do that that costs money and that causes frustrations and those frustrations inevitably will lead to resentment and will inevitably lead to the client wanting to change agencies at the end of the day. So my work is concerned about those disparities, identifying those disparities, putting a measure against those disparities like the sentiment, the degree of those disparities, and a dollar value against those disparities. Once you have that information at hand as an agency leader, you can then start to make good decisions about how to move the business forward, and it is going to give you a better business advantage.


Does any one person’s opinion, in your mind, carry more weight? Does the clients carry more weight than the agency advertising executive or expert, or does everyone have to look at this as their on equal footing, that everyone’s opinion weighs the same?

In reality, it’s usually the person with the checkbook. Their opinion carries more weight. That’s just the reality of the business. However, I found that those people appreciate the fact that they are dealing with people who have a spine, who have a steadfast opinion, and want to protect the integrity of their work. So it’s all about getting the discussion, getting the the argument around the work to a much more constructive place. So I call it healthy tension, and you want to celebrate that tension. You don’t want to get rid of it. If you get rid of it and everyone’s just agreeing and playing nice, you usually producing very very boring work. And that’s a death knell for an agency. So you want to celebrate that there’s that healthy tension there but to do it in a respectful way.


What is exactly healthy tension? How do you define unhealthy tension from healthy tension?

The healthy tension is if there has been a good solid discussion, a good disciplined discussion, about what we want that work to do, what we want that work to look like, and that has been properly articulated. And very few people actually do this. Very few people actually go through this discipline. And it will save a hell of a lot of heartache and angst if people would do this more, that these agencies would do this more, and that is have a proper, disciplined, structured discussion around the opinions surrounding the work. I have a technique that I use, it’s a technique that’s been used by many Fortune 100 companies, and I’m applying that exact same technique in an affordable and practical way for advertising agencies to use and that is to greet groups of highly opinionated people all on the same page so they can click.


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