I read a great post on Richard Huntingdon's Adliterate the other day entitled "Spoiled for Choice." In it, Richard takes the Planner's favourite briefing example one step further and points out that it was unlikely that Michelangelo was asked to present three different concepts for the Sistine Chapel roof concept to go into research.
He's absolutely right: nor, I suspect, did J.K.Rowling approach publishers with a boy wizard idea, a teenage werewolf idea, a girl nun idea and a baby musical star idea to see which had the best chance of running. I also read an interesting piece on Contagious about visionary product designers and here, too, we didn't see everyone from Edison to Steve Jobs presenting a range of alternative ideas in case the client or "the consumer" didn't like the light bulb or i-Pod.
In my years at Saatchi London, we only ever presented one idea: the idea we were all behind and that we believed in. It came from our single-minded way of thinking. But, gradually, around the time I came to Germany (which was when Charles & Maurice did their bunk), things changed. There were Schulterblicks and "tissue meetings" to present various different Ansätze, directions or approaches in the name of "client involvement and buying-in."
Around this time, I first heard someone use the (to me) silly expression "a whole raft of ideas". I wondered if I had missed something in the use of the word "raft" so I checked in my dictionary. Now, OK, "raft" can be used colloquially to mean a "large collection or crowd" but interestingly this comes from the word "raff rubbish, perh. of Scand. orig.". This is as I suspected. To me, unless you're Thor Heyerdahl, a "raft" smacks of desperation. All manner of flotsam and jetsam cobbled together to get you out of a tricky spot. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it floats.
No. We don't need rafts. I know the world has changed and I know that in these days of customer-generated content everything is a lot more complex than in those single-minded 1980s. But...I do sometimes wish that agencies would sometimes have the boldness to leave their ragbag rafts and dragnets in the agency and just bring the client their rocket.