In a word: relevance.
We've all seen ads that make us smile, make us laugh, or make us cry. We'd love to tell our near and dear ones all about them – if only we could remember just what the hell it was they were advertising. Such is the ad that is relevant to the consumer – it obviously made a connection – but not to the brand.
On the other side of the pickle, we've all seen ads that annoy us to no end whilst pummeling us with their pitch. Blah blah whiter than white. Blah blah car on twisty road. Blah blah #blah. We may get the message – assuming we don't change the channel or click the next link first – but we don't want it.
The point is to be engaging. To seduce. To paraphrase Bernbach, you are NOT right if you have a young man bang his head on a door jamb just because it's funny. You ARE right if he bangs his head because a lifetime of eating your product has helped him to grow straight and tall.
Relevance is everything.
No, it doesn’t.
Now before you start bellowing blasphemy, ask yourself “When was the last time I purchased something a Cancer Society ad was ‘selling’’ me?”Now, I will yield that making the cash register ring can be the ultimate objective of a larger marketing effort of which advertising is a part.
But if not selling, what does advertising do?
Allow me to share an anecdote that will illustrate my thinking better than any blather I could write.
In November 2012, a friend and former co-worker posted the following on Facebook:
My friend’s daughter understood that Verizon equals fast.
Why? Because their advertising had given Verizon meaning; it had positioned Verizon in her mind.
Of course, with her limited life experience, she didn't grasp that the advertising was referring to Verizon's cellular service but that's not important in this case; what is important is that it changed – or more likely formed – the way she thought about Verizon.
And that is what advertising does – positioning by means of changing (or reinforcing) the way one thinks about a subject, whether said subject is a brand, a product, a service, a cause, or a whatever.
Definition: Advertising is the art of positioning clients in consumers’ minds.
We are in the perception business, people.
But Wait! There's more...
Consider a product already thirty years out of date and created at the behest of an absolutely rotten person.
I mean really, really, really rotten.
Like Adolf Hitler rotten.
What if you had to work on that brief? Would you throw up your hands in despair?
Or would you simply turn your product’s disadvantages into advantages?
Turn out-of-date into proven and reliable?
And create the original Volkswagen Beetle campaign?
Yep, the Beetle – the ultimate master class lesson in advertising. A car positioned so well against the modern land yachts of Detroit that it became – and remains – the most loved automobile of all time, 1930s outboard fenders and all.
The Shelf Test
Advertising doesn’t sell because advertising can’t close the deal all by itself.
Consider the following scenario: You see an ad, you go to the store, and upon seeing the product in person, you realise what a piece of crap it is and you don’t buy it.
The advertising did all it could; it positioned the product in your mind as something right for you, so much so that you took action by going to the store.
Too bad the product sucked.
But as Bernbach said, “A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster.“
More babblings on positioning to come...
• We is better than me.
In fact, always say we.
Because no matter how good you are – no matter how much the big idea may be the product of your formidable cranial contents alone – it still takes the talent, know-how, patience, and money of a whole bunch of other people to make it real.
So say we.
Otherwise, one day there'll be no “we“ to say we about.
*Also, if there's a huge screw up, you'll be especially glad you said we.
• Strategy and Creative are two sides of the same onion.
• All advertising is brand advertising.
• Nobody cares about you, your products or your ads.
• Advertising does not magically turn people into consumer zombies.
Beliefs + Conceits
• The role of the agency creative director is to create the environment in which great work can happen.
• It's not about doing it differently; it's about doing it right.
• Awards are simply a byproduct of doing great work.
• Celebrities are not an idea.
It's just that hiring the latest whiskerless boy band or amply-rumped diva to wave your fizzy drink around to a beat is just plain lazy.
• “Take them good work. If they don't buy it, take them more good work...”
• Account management isn't the responsibility of account executives alone.
• If you hire wisely, you should never have to fire anybody.
• Art direction isn't about aesthetics alone.
• Research proves research works.
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