When I was a wee lad in this business, I was working at DDB, and in the midst of debating an idea that would potentially irk a few people. (Hard to imagine, but it's true.) We wondered whether it should run, and Keith Reinhard, who was the head DDB muckity muck at the time, resolved the debate with a simple observation: "Never underestimate the importance of enemies. They help you focus." Coming from an exceptionally nice guy like Keith, those words were surprising. And correct.
To this day, I find the most valuable part of a creative brief is where we identify the enemy. (Maybe it's a competitive product; maybe it's a cultural trend; maybe it's just apathy.)
I was reminded of the importance of enemies recently as I watched the NBA Finals featuring the oh-so-lovable LeBron James. Having an enemy in the NBA Finals helped ABC to its biggest summer audience in a decade.
I'm thinking it probably helped the Dallas Mavericks too.