Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Should we be more open to open source ads?

          This morning I woke up to an email asking about open source advertising. In other words, what do I think of having viewers write the commercials?

           To me that's a lot like an advertising creative person saying, "I've got an idea! Let's have the customers do our work!"

            I know that a number of companies have tried it, and yes, some of the commercials are good and if we see one on the Super Bowl it will probably be very good. But those will most likely be for potato chips or snacks, quite a different problem than most advertisers face.

            When the advertiser has a very simple strategy, such as "it's fun" or "it's delicious" or "it's good", viewers have a chance of writing a good commercial. And it can be as funny as any home video on YouTube.

            But what about something more complicated? What about what we in marketing call "considered purchase products", things such as cars which people want to think about before buying? It takes a different kind of selling than, say, candy bars.

           Some ads, even from professionals, are really dumb. It's a matter of batting averages.

           I remember years ago, on my first ad agency job, our wine company client was bought by Coca-Cola Wine Division. For something like a hundred million dollars.

           A month later the former owner of the winery asked the head of our agency for a job. Our president said no. The former winemaker asked, "Why not? You have to admit that starting a wine company out of my basement and then selling it for a hundred million dollars is a good idea!"

          "Of course,"said our agency president. "You had one great idea. But my people have to have a great idea every day."

          I think people's interest in open source advertising is natural. Everyone wishes he or she could be an advertising person, and is convinced they could be good at it. But advertising takes training, talent, some scholarship, empathy, skill, common sense, and an uncommon understanding of people.

          Convinced you can write a good commercial? Here's today's assignment. Write one to get more college students to read the newspaper every day.

         Or forgo their Facebooks for a week.

         Now you get the idea.


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