Why are debriefs such an anticlimax?

By Reach Brands

It is amazing how quickly the shine of an impending debrief is marred so early in ones career! The anticipation of the ‘experts’ imparting invaluable knowledge and untapped insight that will drive a business forward soon gives way to a vague hope that a small nugget will be delivered, something unique and untapped but alas this is rare.



Unfortunately, all too often debriefs just rehash what a client already knows rather than helping to reframe issues and problems and create a solution driven plan to move forward with. I actually think that this has been the norm in our industry for so long that clients are quite happy with this in many instances as it is safe and does do a validation job, so not a complete waste of time, just not necessarily the best use of time!

However on my part, my heart sinks every time I am invited to a client debrief as you just know the form and it always ends with a spurious stab at trying to solve ‘the’ problem based on very little true insight. Never have I been party to a debrief that actually creates solutions for the brand that are relevant to all brand comms and that will allow the experts in their disciplines to go away and work their magic based on a great brief rich with consumer driven insights.

I think we are in a bit of a rut, as clients want insight driven brand solutions but seem to be tied into the sluggish traditions of the research process reliant on quant. Don’t get me wrong, quant has a place but that is not at the time that we are mining for insights or assessing what connects emotionally. In reality, it is the very antithesis to what drives finding insight and the only real way to find insight is through qualitative, one to one co-creation. Getting truly different and unique insights can only be gained by understanding the consumers, following their patterns of usage, identifying anxieties and working with them to solve problems. This is the stage that clients need to be investing in to get the wow factor, where the debrief signals a sea change, a true understanding of consumers and not a tick in the box to say yes we can press ‘go’ on the production line!

It is with a heavy heart that I write this, as it does feel that the buzz around co-creation and the need for insight is still just rhetoric, as the shift of balance between qual and quant has not happened. Clients are becoming more able to track consumer behaviours and target their consumers through their insights departments but again getting true insight is a skill that requires a process of reframing problems. Insights are only that, once this process has occurred, and unfortunately the time and budgets are not reflecting the importance of this stage in the innovation process.

On a positive note, I do feel there is a place for quant and therefore it should not be consigned to room 101 just yet, but it should be on the conveyer belt and only allowed to be bought out to ask the right questions to validate an idea when finalising it not creating it!

By Zoe Tuttle, Strategist at Reach