What can darts teach us about advertising?

Have you ever played darts?

Have you ever lost at darts? 

So is it safe to say that playing darts is not enough to ensure that you win at darts? 

That simply playing the game isn’t enough? 

Let’s suppose the two best dart players in the world had to play a best-of-three match against one another. They’re equally matched, equally skilled and equally as likely to win. Do you know what would happen at the end of every game and every match they played? One of them would lose. 

So is it safe to say that it’s impossible to win 100% of the time, even if you’re one of the best in the game? I think the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Your advertising is no different.

To simply put advertising out into the world is not enough to guarantee its success. And even when you put forth great advertising, another brand may do so as well, and you’ll have to go back to the beginning and take another shot. Does that mean your agency isn’t up to the task? Does it mean your company has an inherent fault? No. It means you have an opportunity to walk back up to the board, pull the darts out and try again. 

If the client is the elbow, the agency the wrist, and the dart we’re throwing is the activation going out into the world, then our ability to work together is the difference between hitting the target every time, and putting a bunch of holes in the wall. This is the core of any great (and successful) client/agency relationship. When it comes to your advertising and marketing efforts, neither of these parties can act alone and succeed. A dart thrown from the wrist alone will lack the power to even make it to the board, and no amount of aim will solve the problem. A dart thrown from the elbow will lack the aim needed to reach the desired target, no matter how hard it’s thrown. Conversely, throw a dart that’s too large and it becomes hard to control – plowing through whatever is in its way with reckless abandon. Throw a dart that’s too small and you’ll struggle to make a mark on the board – ricocheting in all directions unless it’s thrown with the force of a cannon. 

Establishing a base of cooperation, communication and confidence early-on in a working relationship is absolutely crucial…

Striking this balance of aim, power, trajectory and scale is a delicate art, but it is possible. What it needs most to succeed is something I’ve coined the “Three C’s of Successful Campaigns” (working title…): cooperation, communication and confidence. Without cooperation, no one will truly know what their role is or how to execute it; without communication it’ll be impossible to know what part of the board we’re trying to hit or how to get there; and without confidence in each other, it’ll be impossible to get to the big ideas that make a difference. Establishing a base of cooperation, communication and confidence early-on in a working relationship is absolutely crucial to the success of your company’s marketing, or the success of your agency’s client relationships. 

The good news? Those targets are easier to hit than you might think. All too often, we assume that the target is the same size as the object we’re throwing at it. We fear that our aim has to be absolutely perfect, or we’ll miss. Do you know the difference in size between the tip of a dart’s point and the bullseye on a dart board? The diameter of a standard dartboard bullseye is 12.7mm, and if you measure the tip of a dart, right before the final taper to its point, it measures about .4mm. That means the most desireable target we can hit is 31.75 times larger than the thing we’re hoping to hit it with. In other words, there are more than 30 different ways you could throw an idea or an activation, and still hit the bullseye. 

By working together, accepting that you may do something great and still not win, but having the confidence to keep throwing new ideas out there – you can overcome even the biggest marketing challenges, and in the end, have a pretty great dart game as well.