A Better Strategy Statement


© Gary Cox 1980

The basic advertising agency strategy statement has many forms.

The "standard of the industry" is as follows:

1. Background
2. Opportunity
3. Communication Objective
4. Target Audience
5. Single Most Important Points
6. Support Point/Key Messages
7. Personality
8. Mandatories


Unfortunately, many agencies, especially those with ad hoc procedures, don't standardize on a form, or don't use one at all. The result can be bad planning, waste, communication problems, long painful creative development, blown budgets and bad work. Almost certainly, there is no sense of a brand identity and probably no positioning.

The strategy statement below is a slight departure from the above, in that it's designed as a sales tool.

As a "creative person," my focus is less on the safety and comfort of the agency/client relationship, and more on the power and impact of the communication. This form focuses the communication from a wide-ranging discussion (Just give me an idea, dammit!) down to a single point. It narrows pages of "messaging" down to a single promise. AND! Because it is based on a descending logic, it keeps heads nodding in approval along the way. Examine the problem, look for the opportunities, exploit them, deliver the goods.

For creative people, it's often important to remember that making ads is not the same as making art. In one case, you're the owner of the art, and it only has to satisfy you. In the other case, you're a hired gun, using your wits and skill to solve someone else's problem. The difference between advertising and art.

The Better Strategy Statement

    Situation Analysis

    Briefly describe the market, and the events leading to the need for this communication. This section could include A: the problem to be solved or a description of the product or promise; B: how the product or issue is perceived; C: key benefit or positioning; D: competitive issues. In political or social issues, it should list the "buttons" or factors alive in the decision making process. (To see the article on research, click here.)


    What openings are created by an examination of the above events? What problems were revealed? What "switches" can be thrown, with whom, which will create a decision in your favor?

    Goal Setting

    These are your objectives. How can you take advantage of the above opportunity? (Do not confuse goals and strategy.)


    In order to accomplish the above goals, what strategic move will win the day?


    What's the trick to getting the message across? It will help to remember who the target audience is, and what key message they must hear in order to accomplish your mission? What is the single most important point? Included in this may be demographic and psychographic information. Where's the support for your claim?


      To convince ___________________ (Target Audience)
      to ___________________________ (What do you want them to do?)
      instead of _____________________ (What don't you want them to do?)
      because ______________________ (What reason supports your logic?)

Metrics for performance evaluation

How will you judge the effectiveness of the communication? These should be specific, like inches on a ruler, or the tactics and strategies are weak.

Tone & Manner

How shall you speak? What "personna" does the communication reveal. Remember, "the clothes make the man;" how you say something is as revealing as what you say.


Logo, theme lines, continuity devices, etc., not covered in the Situation Analysis

A Strategy Statement Worksheet

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(If you're having trouble with any of this, drop me a note: gary@garycox.com )