Basic Training

May 4th, 2016

How Creative Can Win the War on Advertising

Thinking 2016-2 Creative1

So, surprise. People (your customers) hate ads, and actively seek to avoid them.
And this is supposed to be news?

True, the drumbeats have been getting louder, and the tools to avoid ads are smarter every day.

So how can those of us who create advertising (or as some now call it, “content”) reach an audience that doesn’t want to be reached, and is telling us so in no uncertain terms?

Rather than look for the latest technological sleight of hand to fool consumers (branded content, clickbait, surveys, interruptive stunts, product placement, etc.), let’s look back at the basics – and take a lesson from Howard Gossage who sagely said “People don’t read ads. They read what interests them, and sometimes that’s an ad.” It’s our job as advertising creative to interest them.

  1. Start with the audience. There’s a very simple way to do this, although it can be counter-intuitive to many clients. Start at the end. Rather than begin with what you as a marketer want to say and what you have to sell, start with what your audience wants or needs to know. Remember, demographics can be deceiving. “College educated females age 55+” includes both Hillary Clinton and Caitlyn Jenner. Only when you really know who you are talking to can you craft a message that is relevant. And relevancy is currency.
  2. Understand the context. Where and how will the audience engage with your message? If you try to push the same lame catchphrase and graphic across every medium, you’re going to announce loudly and clearly “I’m an ad! Avoid me!” Campaign continuity comes from having a consistent tone and message, not the same trademarked tagline and color combination. If the ad is designed to appear on mobile devices, it’s going to be very different than an ad on a Web page. If it’s on the side of a bus, speak to the driver of the car passing by (or stuck behind it). Context is everything.
  3. Have an insight. Don’t leave it up to the client, the account team or your agency strategist (if you’re lucky enough to have a good one) to spoon feed you everything. There’s a chance they could be misguided or just plain wrong. Everybody has their own agendas – yours should be to make work that resonates with the audience. So study them. Know their behaviors, desires, actions. Watch for purchase triggers and body language. Are they bold and decisive? Hesitant? Do they look pleased when they buy? Or resigned? Don’t just do internet research; go watch your customer in action. You will learn more in 30 minutes of observation than you will in three days of Google searches.

So what’s the key to winning the war on advertising? Mad Men’s Don Draper said it well: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Stop making ads people hate and start making communications they want to hear.

Thinking 2016-2 Creative2

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