Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two common advertising failures

I just posted this on Twitter: "Advertising is like a singles bar -- loud, busy, lots of competition, and the audience has a short attention span. Creativity helps. A lot."

Then a few minutes later, I linked this from Ad Age about Super Bowl commercials where I had added this comment: "My guess is that the most frequently heard comment around the water cooler the Monday after the Super Bowl goes something like: 'Did you see that funny commercial with the monkey on the Super Bowl? I can't remember who it was for - but anyway . .' "

They might seem a bit contradictory - one arguing for creativity and the other pooh-poohing creativity in Super Bowl commercials. But not necessarily. Drop down a couple of posts and read this.

I think there are two common failures that can doom any sort of advertising to irrelevance.

One is just what the post says - the mindless production of stunningly creative advertising - advertising that sometimes seems to me to be little more than (and I apologize for the language, but it is what it is) masturbation for the creative department. That's one.

The other is not applying creativity at all. This is the kind of all-we-have-to-do-is-show-the-product-and-customers-will-flock-to-the-door approach as practiced by many. That singles bar analogy holds. If nobody notices you, nobody is going to know what the hell it is you have to sell. And if you look like everybody else in the category, nobody is going to notice you.

The trick is to be creative and demand attention from the target audience, but to have the creativity built around a product attribute. "Tastes Great. Less Filling" always comes to mind. So does "Think Different", and the wonderful new commercials Samsung is running for their smart phones.

It's pretty easy to just be "creative". Hell anybody who ever did a "Think that's crazy? It's not as crazy as buying a car anywhere else!" approach was creative. Being creative in a way that promotes your client - that's harder.

Of course, the easiest thing is to not be creative at all. I'd give you example of something, but I tend to blot those out of my mind. Read today's paper, watch television tonight or open the home page of your local newspaper's web site. You'll see what I mean.

There's a difference between creative and creative for a good reason, and not everybody knows what it is.

Perhaps that's why God invented copywriters and art directors.

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