Free is the most powerful word in advertising. Knowing good advertising from bad advertising is the most important skill in advertising. Because we can’t expect all of our clients to go to some expensive ad school and learn what works and what doesn’t, we thought we’d provide a free education for them, and also for the budding young professionals who we hope to employ some day.
This is the introduction. We released the first three episodes all at once, so once you finish this one, on to the next at the tail of the video.
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A friend gave me a copy of Dick Wasserman’s 1988 book “That’s our new ad campaign…?” and I started digging in. Wasserman approaches the book as an effort to help everyone, from the CEO to a student understand how to tell a good ad from a bad one- via a system.
Inherent in this story is a look at “how the sausage is made” and he is very clear that clients need to bring their A game to the table if they want great advertising. He cites a CEO who made a conscious effort to get better advertising.
Reuben Mark was the CEO of Colgate Palmolive- who made waves by hiring agency folks to run his marketing efforts and to manage their agencies. He was involved, but trusted his people to do the creative. He also realized that his agencies had to make money and actually raised their compensation level.
Here are Reuben Mark’s ten commandments for creative excellence, as listed in Ad Age:
Be the best client they have.
We must really care.
True partnership/mutual trust.
Ask for excellence.
Clear, honest direction.
Look for the big idea.
Streamline approval procedure.
Personal involvement of top management of client/agency.
Ensure agency profitability.
The chairman of every corporation with an ad budget would do well to make these ten commandments his guide for dealing with his ad agencies.
Much of this amounts to respect of the ad agency by the client- and an understanding that the big ideas won’t come if the foundation of the relationship isn’t solid. When you look at brands that consistently do great advertising, year in year out, you usually see a long term client/agency relationship. This has gotten harder and harder as we’ve come to believe that hiring a star “chief marketing officer” with an average tenure around 2 years, is a good way to manage marketing.
Typically, the best relationships are directly between the CEO of a company and the Chief Creative Officer of the agency. Look at the relationship between Steve Jobs of Apple and Lee Clow of TBWA\Chiat\Day, or Dan Wieden of W+K and Phil Knight of Nike. Those are the kinds of relationships that have generated some of the greatest ad campaigns and concepts of all time.
Clients who think their agency shouldn’t be bothered by being involved in something as mundane as an email blast or the design of a welcome packet- often miss the bigger picture of a clear brand voice. Jobs was fanatical about reviewing every single campaign, every package design because he knew brand voice was critical.
When it comes to the establishing of the relationship, clear contract terms are to be assumed; what is the client getting for their retainer or contract rates. If you approach an agency asking to pay less, don’t expect more, no matter how big you are in comparison to their other peers. A communication system, be it an online project management portal, or something like #Slack should be included in the working agreement. Not only should the means of communication be clear, but also responsibilities for responses as well.
But most importantly, if you want creative excellence, look for passion in the voices of your agency. Hire what Crispin Porter + Bogusky calls “ad people” well, they used to hire ad people.
These are the weird and wonderful people who are at the core of any great agency.
Just because you work at an ad agency doesn’t make you an ad person.
First, ad people really love ads. They like to talk about them. They like to read about them. They like to see them. And they love being involved in their creation. Second, ad people are deeply interested in the advertising industry.They know which agencies have what accounts, they know which people are doing great things at other agencies.
They know what the trends are and they follow accounts on the move. They are emotionally involved in what they do. If youre an ad person, you have a career here. If youre not an ad person, you have a job. Whichever one you are, its worth taking the time to learn about the ad industry. Its like the old saying goes: the worst day in an ad agency beats the best day a bank ever had.
Passion is what really separates good agencies from the great ones. Just never mistake winning industry awards as passion for the craft. Awards are nice, but results should always be more important.
In what I consider the seminal book on advertising, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” by Luke Sullivan, he has a section where he he describes the disconnect between many clients CMO career path, vs those on the agency side- typically, one comes up through sales, and the other- comes up through- well, the creative consulting side of things. Really awesome clients ask their agency what books on advertising to read, and great agencies ask the client what they should read about their business. We have a booklist, but are really happy if our clients just read Whipple.
We have our own theory of what makes client/agency relationships create synergy: think of it more like a marriage, and not a contractual relationship. Choose your partner wisely, and realize, that gestation of a great campaign usually takes slightly longer than that of a baby. W+K wasn’t Nike’s first agency- who came up with “there is no finish line” but it was a few years after Nike moved the business to W+K when “Just do it” was introduced.
There is a learning period, and it’s not something that can be sped up. Clients who invest in teaching their agency about their business, usually get much better creative solutions. In a data driven world, this also means sharing not only web logs and analytics, but actual sales figures, customer data, and costs involved in making a sale. This is how targeting and marketing automation tools get optimized.
What may be the most overlooked aspect of the agency/client relationship however is what are the clients real objectives. Is it to get big and get bought, to maximize profits, to build the company, to be a leader in their field? While it may seem obvious, it’s not always clear to both parties and sometimes this is where the disconnect is. Steve Jobs was building “bicycles for our minds” when he launched Apple Computer. Watch him explain how he came up with that expression, and then figure out what does success look like for your agency/client relationship?
Apple computer may have grown to be the most valuable company in the world, but, since Jobs has left the planet, Apple has also seemed to lose his idealism. Apple doesn’t seem to remember its roots of being a company that helped you evolve and move the human race forward and that’s too bad.
The final word of advice in being a great client, and getting the most out of your relationship is to hire people who believe in what you do. We won’t take vape stores or manufacturers as clients, just like we won’t take on tobacco companies. We’re also not interested in your micro or macro beer brew operation, your distillery or your gun store. It’s not because we don’t think you deserve great advertising, it’s just that we aren’t going to be passionate about working on those types of accounts.
If you found this helpful, please take a moment to add any advice you may have for being a great client. Thank you.
A recent reviewer of a RFP/RFQ response wrote this in the evaluation/scoring:
Plan provided is NOT a marketing plan it is a Operational plan. RFP is for Marketing not a replacement of the Administration.
People who think marketing is something separate from operations shouldn’t still be in business anymore. That myth should have gone away a long time ago. Wisdom from Leo Burnett should be a good starting place, and he died in 1971.
“What helps people, helps business.”
“Before you can have a share of market, you must have a share of mind.”
“We want consumers to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product” instead of ‘That’s a hell of an ad.'”
“The sole purpose of business is service. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders.”
“The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.”
Considering the potential client runs a service business, funded with tax dollars, and is getting a failing grade on every count, (a local school district) a new operational plan and way to communicate the new way of doing business is the key to changing perception and their fortunes.
Marketing does not exist in a vacuum, it’s interrelated to everything a business does. Looking to management guru Peter Drucker, who died in 2005, we find yet another quote:
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
If that doesn’t tell you that an operations plan is marketing, you should reexamine your boss credentials.
Everything a business does, reflects upon its brand. And the brand is a story that the world tells each other, based on what they think they know about it. Apple, Nike, Google, the great brands- have a story that people can share without a whole lot of prompting- and for the most part, it’s a positive one. Sure, each has its detractors, but overall, the Q-score and the buzz line up with the company vision and goals.
To me, Apple started out as a “bicycle for the mind”- a tool to exercise your further your ideas and to help you share them. Nike reached into the competitor in all of us, and gave us an uplifting mantra- “Just do it” and Google, knew long before the rest of us, that with great power, came great responsibility and stated that their goal was to “Do no evil.” It’s take over a decade for most people to understand the power that Google had harnessed.
Click to download a printable PDF
Great companies do great things and communicate those things often and consistently. But here’s the key- it’s not through words or ads- “actions speak louder than words” should be the mantra of every ad agency across the globe. Doing good is doing well. Talking about yourself is just talk, and often times, boorish.
Need an example of actions speaking louder than words? I was at a minor league hockey game last night. I’ve been around hockey for at least 50 years, playing and watching. In a freak instance, a players stick was flung into the stands, and a fan caught it. Granted, sticks can cost as much as $300 these days- but, the team had the nerve to send down a team official to take the stick back. The crowd booed for at least 5 minutes. Considering the home team was down 2 goals, the players had to wonder why they should be trying their hardest to win- when they were getting a steady raspberry. Would a marketing-centric company dare to ask for the stick back?
The story that the fan will tell now is “I got hit by a players stick flung out of the rink” and they came and took it away. Or, the proper response, “I got hit by a stick at a hockey game, while sitting in my seat, and they came and checked to see if I was OK- and offered to let me come down after the game and get it signed by the entire team.”
Very few people can play in the NFL, fewer in a Superbowl, and even fewer win it 6 times. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have better records with Superbowl wins than most ad agencies. Very few agencies get to play in the big game, and so those who do, go all out.
As do the critics the day after. And while there are plenty of opinions of what were the best and worst ads of the Superbowl, and there is the AdBowl and the AdMeter ad nauseum.
We look at ads differently at The Next Wave. It’s about effectiveness. Do they make their clients more money than they spent? Will they create good will with their target market? Will they evoke new levels of respect for the brand? These are the things that count with us. And most of it stems from the creative brief- is the campaign on target? Does it hit the right buttons?
Looking back at Superbowl LI or 51, or 2017, or the one where Tom Brady pulled a win out of his rear end, there were a few spots that performed incredibly well.The rest, helped the agency make money, or stoked some egos in the ad world.
The biggest winner was 84 Lumber. While they never could have anticipated their spot would get the GoDaddy banned treatment, it helped build some pre-game buzz. And while they and their agency don’t seem to understand how their ad was perfect, they lucked into something without knowing it. At least, from our read of the after game dissections.
84 Lumber had never bought a Superbowl spot before. Their ad budget doesn’t compare to that of Home Depot or Lowes. They don’t have the stores, the online presence, or the top of mind awareness. To most contractors, they go with the store that’s most convenient, has the best price, offers the best support etc. They don’t pick their vendor by their politics- and if they did, Home Depot and 84 Lumber are probably both as Republican as they get.
But, all of a sudden, with their “Journey” ad, showing the hardship someone is willing to endure to get to the border and become an American- only to face a wall, and then find the door and the final message “The will to succeed is always welcome here” they’ve done something that clearly separates them from their competition- they’ve won over every roofing contractor we’ve seen in the country- where Spanish has become the first language on rooftops. They’ve given the anti-wall people, a place to support, and while the country may have elected Donald Trump, more people voted for his opponent. They’ve carved out a clear point of differentiation in a whole new space that up until now- advertisers were terrified to wade into. There is already pushback against UBER for not supporting the taxi strike in NYC over the immigration restrictions, and some are canceling their Tesla orders because Elon Musk doesn’t hate Trump.
They may have spent $15 million making and running the ad, but, 84 Lumber got the talk around the water coolers that they couldn’t have bought for 10x that amount.
Budweiser also played in that arena, telling the real life story of how their founder made his way to America to brew beer. Another beautifully shot spot, its payoff was “When nothing stops your dream” which speaks to the public on so many levels, and brings a new respect for the hard work and effort that gets you to the top of your game. They don’t call it “The King of Beers” for no reason at all.
Budweiser is normally known for horses and dogs, and talking frogs, for them to get back to their roots in 2017, was a reminder to all of the work ethic we ascribe to being our collective story.
So far we’ve centered our discussion on the big production, high dollar, epic mini-films, so the next spot is going to seem like it’s coming out of left field.
Mr. Clean scored by building on a universal truth- at least to women, that the perfect man cleans up after himself. How you add sex appeal to a household cleaner, that sits on a shelf with a bunch of other products that no one really has a deep emotional attachment to- is something only a master of the craft can do- and this spot nails it. No superstars, no hype, just straight concept, executed exquisitely. Payoff “you gotta love a man that cleans” is a line that only Mr. Clean can own.
Then there are the spots that tried too hard. Sort of like the Atlanta Falcons for three quarters.
AirBnB had a political spot that was probably the cheapest to make- and was political as well, but coming from a company that had just got hoisted by their petards for not renting to minorities, they didn’t have the credibility to make a case for inclusiveness. Nor is their brand mark well enough known to rest on its own. “#weaccept” isn’t based on truth. And the online version has “airbnb” under the logo- the broadcast version didn’t.
We loved the Audi ad for the cinematography, and it even had cars in it- but, for Audi to try to talk about pay equality was a leap they didn’t have the right to make. The concept was one we’ve seen before- different execution.
This space is already taken. “____ like a girl” was Always- and they did it without insulting women. Need a refresher on how it’s done?
Hiring celebrities to connect your brand is always a risky move. And while we may pay attention to the ad because you hired someone we know and like, be it Jason Statham and Gal Gadot:
Wix you still suck.
Or John Malkovich for SquareSpace– yes, John, you’re an idiot for not buying your own domain name- and Squarespace isn’t going to build you a better website-
We’re not sure what Merecedes AMG is thinking, but the Coen Brothers should stick to movies. Peter Fonda, Easy Rider, biker stereotypes and Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild are throwing a bunch of easy to reach ingredients into a spot that is so totally off brief for a very expensive sport car for the 1% The testosterone is all in the wrong place. I wouldn’t be surprised if AMG dealerships saw more people cancelling orders than buying them after watching this clusterduck of the uninspired.
However, if you hire Christopher Walken to be Christopher Walken, and throw in Justin Timberlake for giggles with a cute take on his song and your brand name- we might actually forgive you and feign enough curiosity to buy your drink one time and see if we like it.
You go Bai Bai Bai.
And for all of your brands that don’t have your spot on your own YouTube channel and tagged correctly, you are failing internet 101. Sign up for www.websitetology.com now.
One last spot that used its placement as creative leverage was the spot for Genius, directly following Lady Gaga. Crossing her music with Einstein playing it on violin, complete with his bare feet, and the tongue full frontal made us take notice. Beautifully shot. Nice job National Geographic.
There were other spots we liked – Honda’s talking yearbook- but, did it sell anywhere near what it cost to use all those celebrities? We doubt it.
What did we miss? What do you think?
Unfortunately, the Effies don’t do a separate break-out for Superbowl spots, and of course, the whole genre was defined by Apple’s epic 1984 spot. But, then again, in 1985 Apple did lemmings- showing that genius in a Superbowl is as elusive as playing in the big game itself.
September 23, 1977. Steve Jobs walks into a conference room to introduce “Think Different” internally. Khaki shorts, long sleeve black turtleneck with the sleeves pushed up- looking tired.
It’s an 18 minute presentation that anyone looking to turn a brand around should watch.
It’s not about speeds and feeds. It’s not about a better product. It’s about the core values of the company- and where does Apple fit in this world.
Yes, he begins with the product line being too complex, the distribution channel being too long and heavy, and that they spend a ton of money on advertising- although “you’d never know it.” He doesn’t blame his predecessors. He looks to the future and thinks about what kind of people he wants to build products for: “we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”
They get to use people that had never appeared in an ad- or ever world- for any other company. Partially because they aren’t talking about themselves, and partially because their leadership understood that doing great work comes first.
He cites examples- the milk processor board spent 20 years advertising “Milk is good for you- even though it really isn’t” and sales didn’t move- and then, Goodby Silverstein comes up with “Got milk” – which actually advertises the lack of the product and sales climb.
Jobs says that Nike, who makes a commodity- shoes, doesn’t sell shoes, and does advertising the “best of anybody” by honoring great athletes and athletics. Side note- Nike, for the most part has used Wieden and Kennedy for the brand since the start. Believing and trusting your ad agency is another good lesson. Jobs went right back to Chiat/Day for this campaign for a reason.
The result- is the “Think Different” campaign. Which literally changed everything. People listened to an ad. they watched it over and over- before YouTube. The words from this ad, turned into posters, were remembered as a eulogy for Jobs because it was so different.
Watch the video about the introduction. Learn. (sorry the actual commercial has the music cut out- you can watch the full final spot below).
If you are spending money on advertising, and you don’t think you are getting your money’s worth, maybe it’s because your advertising is too conventional. Maybe, you think that your ads, should be like your competitors ads, only better.
Then you see what a young criminal defense lawyer did with his advertising and you start to understand that being like your competition just means you’re a commodity.
Daniel Buckley Muessig is a defense attorney from Pittsburgh, PA and yet he’s so much more. He recently uploaded an ad for his business, you know, like most lawyers might. But in less than 24 hours, the ad has gone super viral.
Why? Because if you’ve committed a murder or an arson or “even funny throwback crimes such as moonshining” and you live in Pennsylvania, he wants to be your lawyer.
“I may have a law degree,” he says, “but I think like a criminal.”The otherwise plainspoken 32-year-old Pittsburgh native and graduate of The University of Pittsburgh School of Law was formerly a battle rapper by the name of Dos-Noun. As Dos-Noun, he performed with the likes of indie rap heavyweights such as Slug, Atmosphere, before making the successful jump to a career as a criminal attorney a few years ago.
After uploading the video at 11pm Wednesday night, he’s been seeing his phone ring off the hook ever since.
The folks at Crispin Porter + Bogusky used to evaluate if an ad was just an ad- or something special- “how would this work as a press release?” If it isn’t press worthy- it’s almost not worth doing. CP+B launched a body spray for Burger King- called “Flame”. Do you really want to smell like a Whopper? Nope. But, every news outlet wrote about it.
Here is the raw footage of Mr. Muessig being interviewed by the local news- about his “unconventional” ad- which is also 7 times longer than the normal lawyer TV ad:
This was cut down to a 2.75 minute news segment.
Remember, Muessig didn’t spend a dime on media, he paid some professionals to create the ad- and posted it on Youtube.
We always remind clients, we can create interest, but it’s still up to the client to close the deal and follow up. The old adage that nothing kills a crappy product faster than great advertising still holds true.
If Mr. Muessig’s phone really did ring off the hook, he may never need to do another ad, since this ad will always be relevant. No sale, no call before midnight tonight (in fact, he’s ok with you calling him after midnight). People who don’t think it’s professional (other lawyers) or that he doesn’t looks “lawyerly enough” aren’t his target audience. He says he thinks like a criminal in the ad, and since thinking like your clients is one of the fundamental keys to good advertising he’s nailing his advertising since his customers are criminals.
Learn from the X-rapper lawyer. Don’t do ads that aren’t worthy of press coverage or watching twice.