Monday, August 22, 2011

Nice to see the word is getting around

The Toad Stoool is a good blog that often crosses between discussions of digital and Other Kinds of Advertising.

It was a little surprising, then, to see this discussion of simplicity as if it was some sort of revelation. Um, well duh, as they say.

Simplicity has always been a mantra of those who want to do great advertising. Luke Sullivan, who wrote what I think is the greatest book on creating ads that ever did be (Hey Whipple Squeeze This) pounds this thought home again and again. And if you didn't get it, one more time.

He was the one who, as far as I know, first used a stop sign as an example of the perfect "ad." A clear, simple message, a distinctive look and it draws attention. It works. Perfectly.

(And if you've never seen the hysterical video about how the design process would probably go if stop signs did not exist and some mega-corporation was charged with creating one, you can see it here.)

The thing that is sometimes hard for folks to understand is that the more stuff you cram into an ad (or a commercial or an e-mail or a web site or any other damn thing) the harder it is for your target to zero in on your primary message. Even though that "real estate" might be expensive, you're not really doing yourself any favors by over-filling it.

Something I heard a long time ago that I pull out whenever I'm trying to deal with the addition of This and That and a Bit More of The Other Thing is that everything in an ad devalues everything else there. And that makes sense.

So, yeah. Simplicity rules.Even if it's a game for your smartphone.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Be creative. Smell like a man.

There was a great back-and-forth in Ad Age a week or so ago. Some guy posted a piece in which he opined (I hope the use of the word "opined" has impressed you already) that "Old Spice's Love Affair With Itself Serves No Sales Purpose". (That was the title of the piece)

You can read it all - and the following comments here. But the gist of it was that while the campaign was great, the following content on YouTube and Twitter featuring a "spokesguy" duel between this guy and Fabio was a waste of time. The author, Jonathan Baskin, said (I love the first phrase):

"I enjoy stupid as much as the next guy, mind you, and one could legitimately argue that there's not a whole lot upon which to base a relationship with a brand that is made up of a few cents' worth of ingredients in a plastic bottle that consumers swipe and splash on mostly out of habit.

Maybe that's the point? This latest campaign could be a textbook example of why every brand doesn't need a content strategy, and maybe why it isn't so old-fashioned to focus marketing on selling things instead of being entertaining."

He finished up with:

"Cart without horse. Medium without message. Marketing without purpose.

I think I'd be happier if the spots ended with 'Shoot the brute some Old Spice.' Is it really so unfashionable for brands to ask for the sale?"

As I said, there was a lot of discussion in the comments section. Some of it kind of heated and personal. Enjoy it at your leisure. My personal favorite was from some clown in Bethesda, Maryland, who said that he thought the question was whether or not it sold Old Spice. And I like that comment, not just because that clown was me, but because just a few days later, I came across this piece in Ad Age:

"Old Spice is Killing it on YouTube Again, But Sales are Down Double Digits." The subhead notes that coupons and probably not the funny spots drove gains last year. Read that one here.

Several years ago, someone from our agency (guess who?) was at a presentation in New York by Dan Wieden of Wieden and Kennedy, the agency most recently behind the Old Spice work. The very-creative-and-funny-but-ultimately-unsuccessful "Dick" campaign for Miller Lite had just been pulled because of poor sales. During the Q&A, our guy asked Wieden how he reconciled the fact that such a creative campaign didn't push the sales needle at all.

In a huff, Wieden moved into Lecture Mode. "It's not about selling beer," he said.

OK. Fine. Then WTF is it about?

You don't have to look very far for examples of great creative advertising that drove sales. Two of my favorites are the classic "Tastes Great/Less Filling" campaign for Miller Lite (which - ahem - did sell beer) and "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" for Perdue (which sold a lot of chicken).

I understand they aren't either one exactly current, but a) that's why I used the word "classic" as in "classic rock" and b) they both stand the test of time. They'd both work pretty damn well if they ran tomorrow.

The last time I brought this up in this blog, I got a bit of hate mail. I'd suggest that it came from what my Key West client Catherine would call the "ar-TEEST" types.

Face it folks. An advertising agency's job, it's reason for being, is to help the client sell stuff. Beer. Blue jeans. Cars. Vacation homes. Time shares. Whatever. That's why we get hired. And if we employ smart creativity to do it - and our clients recognize the value of it - that's what we can do. Sell stuff.

No matter what Dan Wieden thinks.