Category Archives: creative

Brilliant ideas are commodities (Part 1)

What I find interesting is that within ad agencies, 99% of the conversation about what they do is focused on “the creative idea,” and yet outside of ad agencies, 99% of what people talk about in communications is the change in media channels. Go on Twitter and try to find 20 tweets about an advertising creative idea that rocks in the next 5 minutes; good luck (Super Bowl week doesn’t count). Go on Twitter next and try to find 20 tweets about what Apple is doing with its upcoming hardware gizmo, and you’ll go “check” in a few seconds. People are obsessed with media channels and tools; agencies keep talking about ideas. Therein is a disconnect. The intersection of media channel and creative idea is rarely explained, although a few smart shops such as BBH Labs have discussed ending the top-down creative-to-media funnel and building a more integrated planning whole.
Or put another way, good creative is now a commodity.
The reason I suggest this is in a world where people watch 5 hours of TV a day seeing 166 :30 second spots, or spend 3 hours on the Internet a day being exposed to thousands of banner ad and video pre-roll impressions, 99% of creative ideas are ignored. Completely. Creative is really now a pass-fail grade — you get noticed, or more likely, you don’t, and even if your idea is in the 10% of brilliant executions, you’re still competing with 16 other top-of-the-heap TV spots and a few hundred other banner ads.
Go ahead, build a brilliant idea. You’ll be one of 50 or so I’m exposed to tomorrow.
This is not a negative; advertising is as always a game of what we catch, not what we spill. You could argue as well that good ideas and creative are more important than ever before in a world agog in communications overload. But this commoditization of idea brilliance is a real problem, and you can see it yourself if you measure the downcycle timeline of any big “idea” that goes viral. Most newfound memes spike but for a few days and then disappear. See ya, Skittles homepage.
What I’d love to see, if I were a student in Edward Boches’ class on creative, is how the construct of media channel and the pinnacle of brilliant creative inform each other, instead of the “idea” itself being something separate. This combination is the only path I see to truly breaking out and building something with sustained power and resonance.
Reposted from my comment here

Image: Nixter

Words and ads we don’t yet know


We came across that word tonight reading The Economist, and honestly didn’t know what tessellated meant. That’s what we get for reading news from the Brits. But wait … the entire sentence said “the building is decorated with tessellated plates of aluminium, a pattern inspired by the geometry of an insulin crystal,” and in our mind we saw a glimmering tower with diagonally criss-crossed planes.

Aha! The context of the sentence helped us understand a word we didn’t know. (Tessellate means to decorate with mosaics, or to cover a surface by repeated use of a single shape. And yes, those Brits also misspell aluminium.)

We’ve noted before that the reason babies learn language quickly is they process the context of words against thousands of other variables. Adults who encounter advertising are also like that; we run the marketing message against all the other communications and history in our mind to see how to interpret it. This is why European ads in magazines often place a small logo of the brand in the bottom right of the layout, a conceit that Americans are not used to. Yanks who view such ads are often puzzled at first, but Europeans know where to look, and so “get” the brand message.

This is also why we Yanks focus so much on sex in advertising, because, well, our society thinks a lot about sex. We see what we want to see, especially in ice cubes.

Context is a bit of a trap for ad creatives, though, who may focus so much on the product and client that they miss how consumers will judge the ad amid real-life distractions. Will the message work in a newspaper surrounded by copy for plumbers and banks? Will your icon make sense if years of other impressions have trained consumers to think of something else?

It’s a good pop quiz for your creative team. What have the past 20 years of media taught consumers to expect in this brand category? Does that clarify your message, or confuse it?

Drinking in the stimulus response

What prior experiences were Nestea and Coke referring to in these ads?

B.F. Skinner wrote that motivation has three requirements: A preceding thing or event that will provoke a reaction; the reaction itself; and a reinforcing or punishing consequence. People’s likelihood to respond is tied to a formula that includes the magnitude of the stimulus — say, someone waves chocolate in front of your nose — the context of the stimulus — say, are you really hungry? — and the rate of prior reinforcement — say, you’ve eaten chocolate before and you LOVE it. Because people, like dogs, associate the stimulus with the prior pleasure they received from a similar, earlier interaction, we salivate when we smell food.

This is important for marketers, because consumers have stimuli other than your own message. You can’t just build a concept by looking internally; you have to consider the exterior factors hitting your prospects as well. For example, a gasoline station with great customer service could focus ads on friendly staff, but consumers facing $4.00-a-gallon gas today just may not care. You provide service; they’re worried about price. Understanding all stimuli can help you refine the message.

In advertising, messages that reinforce prior rewards and mitigate past pain are most likely to stimulate response.

Photo via New Shelton.

Women admire intelligence. Men are pigs.

Slate reports that women and men differ wildly in how they select potential mates. Seems researchers gave 400 speed-dating heterosexual couples four minutes to talk with each other, and then their selections were evaluated based on scores of criteria. Women were twice as likely as men to favor prospective dates with high intelligence and drive, while men seemed drawn to … hot babes.

We’re sure there’s an important message here for marketers and ad creatives. If you’re targeting women, pump up the intelligent copy and push some irony in the imagery. If you’re targeting men, just pick the photo of the blonde.

Smooth, with notes of cherry, pepper, and a mild finish

Ever wonder what advertising connoisseurs might think of your ad creative? Upload your ad to the Andy Awards Instacritique and an impartial judge will tell you if you’re destined for ad greatness or just a dunderhead. We wonder how our brilliant media plan flowcharts will fare.

The Andy Awards have been around since 1964, launched by the Advertising Club of New York, and now cover print, radio, television, out-of-home, direct mail, video/cinema, interactive and other media. Go ahead. Be brave.

Although designers should be very afraid

OK, so maybe Google is scary — at least, if you are a designer of newsprint ads. Google has launched an ad creation tool that does just that. Any bloke can now create a professional-looking newspaper ad in seconds, with a few clicks. No software required. No bills from creatives.

Do you get brilliant creative? No. Do you get smart thinking on where to put your ads, in which publications, to reach the right audience at the lowest cost for the best response rates? No. But man, it’s easy.