Saturday, March 3, 2012

Good ads, bad ads, or no ads?

           Advertising isn't the best way for a company to persuade people. The best way is person-to-person. Unfortunately, most companies can't afford to send salespeople house to house, and the new media are often segmented into groups generally much smaller than television audiences.

          Advertising is the least expensive way to be sure your message reaches the most people, exactly the way you want your story told. Put an ad in Vogue, for example, and you can reach close to a million people for about $120,000. You do the math.

         Of course, it costs as much to run a bad ad as a good ad, and I've seen good ads that do 20 times as well as bad ads. Good advertising is a powerful multiplier.

         The next question is, what's the main difference between a good ad and a poor one. Essentially, it's the very thing that creative directors are looking for these days. Rob Schwartz, the c.o.o. of TBWA/Chiat-Day, told Ad Age, "We always look for the big idea. A lot of books (portfolios) have an integrated bunch of tactics, fleshed out from a mediocre idea. I'm thrilled kids are thinking of media arts, but media arts without an idea is like a lot of separate ingredients in search of a recipe."

         Susan Credle, c.o.o. of Leo Burnett Company in Chicago, added, "We have underestimated the need for brilliant writing and art direction...The last ten years, technology has been so all-consuming, we have been a bit distracted."

         So let's get back to basics. In advertising, the idea has always mattered most. The Volkswagen beetle as the honest car, defying an entire auto industry based on annual model obsolescence and cheesy salesmanship. Or Hallmark, separating itself from all other greeting card companies by communicating a person's feelings so perfectly, people know you care about them.

         Look around today. Can you find any advertising ideas as big as Apple's "1984" commercial or Avis proclaiming its predicament in being only #2 in car rentals? Very few. A few years ago, Chevy's restaurants convinced us how fresh the food was because the commercials were done the very day we saw them. That's a big idea. Urging us to keep more milk on hand because some foods aren't the same without it --- that's a big idea. McDonalds telling you that "I'm loving it"? I don't think so.

          Want to do a good ad? Don't do an ad. Come up with an idea.

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