My Kingdom for a Horse

A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

I have always loved Shakespeare’s Richard III. It’s an epic experience – no matter whether you see it live in performance or whether you let those words loose in great emptiness of your cognitive surplus. The line comes at the point in the play where Richard – the evil and arrogant king – is about to meet his doom.

Like many of Shakespeare’s best lines, it has found its way into our everyday speech. Accordingly, we use it in a variety of situations – where we are exasperated, challenged or just down right desperate.

But there is more to it. Increasingly I am hearing this in the world of business.

When dealing with strategy and the challenges of social media, many CEOs, CMOs and their compatriots on the agency side are heard uttering these same words. But they are not asking for a horse. They are asking – nay demanding – that you pay attention not to their words, but to the source of their problem.

Any Tom, Dick or Harry can show up with a fistful of Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts. But the true strategist will look beyond the words to the insight – seeking to understand the root cause, understand the behaviour driving the need and develop an approach which will solve the problem. Sometimes it will indeed be a horse.

Rob Campbell suggests that many agencies have been trapped by a form of creativity-by-the-numbers. Rob places the responsibility on the shoulders of the creative and media agencies:

… because clients tend to judge their effectiveness by the level of media exposure they’ve achieved [R&F] – rather than by specific business goals – media agencies are basically being encouraged to push for creative work that can be placed in measurable media channels because it help ensure they get their fees.

But I think clients – the CEOs, the CMOs and all their direct reports also carry some of this responsibility. You may think it is a horse that you need, but that’s applying logic to the problem. What you want is creativity.

If someone had delivered Richard a cannon perhaps history would have had a very different shape. Next time someone calls for a horse, don’t give them what they ask for. Give them what they need.