On the front page of our site it asks why are you here? Either to do great advertising and make a lot of money, or, because you work for the competition and want to figure out how we do it.
The funny thing is, we’ll tell you how to do it, but most of you will still fail. Because, we’ll make you uncomfortable. You’ll ask, “has anyone done this before” or “show us a case study” to somehow soothe your rankled idea of what works. And by the time you are able to rationalize, to knit pick, to quiet that little demon on your shoulder saying “are you willing to bet your career on this idea”- that idea has sailed. It’s done. It’s too late.
Lee Clow has disrupted the ad world and done some of the most iconic advertising ever. He’s also failed spectacularly- but, after bringing Apple back from near death to be one of the most valuable companies on the planet- maybe, you can trust him just a bit. At TBWA\Chiat\Day they call that discomfort “Disruption” and here’s their little manifesto:
People couldn’t stop complaining about the tagline “Think Different” for not being grammatically correct, while they showed a whole rogues gallery of people who were told that they were trying to do the impossible. They made those people, or the idea of rising to their level, to be associated with Apple. Never mind that Mohamed Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Picasso, Einstein never touched an Apple product on their rise to fame.
That this video isn’t on an Apple official YouTube channel is proof that even with the best advertising agency and smart people, some companies still don’t get how to do this right.
So when CP+B suggested to Domino’s to tell the world their pizza sucked- and that they were going to change it with “Pizza Turnaround”- was the only reason they allowed it- because Domino’s were either at rock bottom- or the people selling the idea rock stars? You decide.
The crazy part is everyone thinks they know the secret to great advertising, because they can identify it when they see it, but, even when they see it- sometimes, they still don’t understand it. Ryan Reynolds isn’t an ad guy- but his Superbowl worthy ad for Match.com is great advertising- even if it breaks all the supposed taboo’s of dating site ads- suggesting you may end up with a sociopath for a date- or worse- Satan.
If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably going to make you remember it, share it, think about it, have some kind of emotional response. If it’s just funny, snarky, or cute- it probably doesn’t have a real basis to convert thoughts into an action. The real question is if Match knows how to make this more than a one hit wonder- will it keep doing what it’s supposed to do- after the 2020 dumpster fire is over?
The true skill in advertising is finding an insight, a universal truth, a way to connect your product or service to something the customer already believes, or knows, and wants more of- and getting the client to trust your skills enough to be brave, to disrupt, to evoke trust and create lust. To do this- you start with truth. It’s authenticity that’s the currency, not the size of your budget.
On the last day of 2020 I sat down with my favorite former intern, who left us to get a masters at BIC, and went to work in a NYC agency. He was a bit disillusioned with the business- because so many people are too timid to greenlight work that will work. And that’s a part of the business too. You come up with great ideas- and then the client kills them. Over and over. He was in the first meeting we had with the following client- there’s a funny story that had us both wondering if we were going to get shot on the spot to the answer I gave to a question, but, that’s a story for another time. Instead, the client tortured a big idea to a slow death soon after we started on the account.
At the beginning of 2016 we had a client who made a light that was optimized for old people who loved to read- and we had a new president who was elderly and proud of his not-reading. We quickly put together an ad for the Washington Post- that the president supposedly did read.
To the brave, can go the spoils. Unless you pick it apart
By the time, 4 months later, the client was done picking it apart and re-writing it, Trump had started to perfect his “Squirrel!” strategy of distracting people daily. The days to contemplate the idea of actually reading his daily brief was long gone- and the client stripped out the address line. And, then, it only ran once, as a remaining space ad. C’est la vie. BTW- the “Get illuminated” line was contributed by the one and only Alex Bogusky. Yes, I ran it past the Creative Director of the Decade for suggestions and he liked it.
A Public health anti-covid campaign that doesn’t suck
Star power, a big idea, digital activation and talk value
Just before the second spike of Covid in the fall of 2020- we responded to a public health RFP to reach out to minority communities to get them to be smart about Covid- to warn them of the dangers of not wearing a mask, not washing your hands, not gathering. It had a fixed budget. The RFP was written by people who had no idea of how to write a brief or an RFP (see this post). They asked for the moon- on a shoestring budget. As part of our activism, we’d uncovered them as crooks 6 months before- handing out a no-bid contract for even more money to the agency that would do a county officials political campaign. Needless to say- we knew we wouldn’t get the contract- but, with good ideas and good connections- we decided to pitch them the moon. We came in dead last on the score sheet. Why? Maybe because we’d embarrassed them- or maybe because they have no idea or tolerance for a great idea. Here it is:
Strapline: Don’t bet your life.
Idea: Groucho Marx used to host TV show- You Bet Your Life. We will have Dave Chappelle talking to people about betting their life on Covid- in a very Dave way.
Action: We’ll have scratch off lottery like tickets to win in a sweepstakes. The scratch offs will be distributed in gas stations, corner stores, minority businesses, churches. They will be supported by a poster by Shepard Fairey and Studio No 1.If you don’t think you know Shepards work- you missed the whole Obama Hope and Change poster thing.
First round prizes- 1 in 4 chance is to win a deck of washable playing cards. 56 chances to share messaging- and lots of room for sponsorship. You can play solitaire with yourself- and take no chances- or you can play cards with friends and engage in risky behavior.
By filling out an online form- and allowing us to continue to message you via text or email- you can register to win a top of the line phone and service for a year- from T-Mobile who was signed on to sponsor. 10 prizes available
To get pastors into the act- they were to do short video sermons against gambling- either *wink* lotteries and scratch off- or with the virus. The top ten in shares and views would be randomly eligible to win a complete video streaming system.
And- the grand prize- sponsored by a local funeral home- for if you gamble and lose, a complete pre-paid funeral. Because if you bet your life with Covid- you stand the chance of needing one.
The last part- well, it made the “evaluators” nervous. Talk about death, oh, no. As if it’s not something everyone will face?
We pitched it to the State as well. The former newspaper reporter who runs public health communications, and knows nothing about advertising said “At first glance, I don’t think it strikes the right tone that we are trying to convey.”
And there you have the death of a big idea that would have made a difference.
A US Army recruiting campaign- for your mom and dad
Here’s one more. The US Army is a huge marketeer, it’s hard to get people to sign up to risk dying for their country. The account, worth $4B over 10 years recently went to DDB. They had some brilliant insight in their pitch to the Army and their new tagline, “Tomorrow takes an Army” was a huge departure from the gung-ho video gamer campaign the Army was running- “Warriors Wanted.” As a former soldier and disabled veteran, I understand the dilemma of teens on deciding to join the service- and their expectations, better than most people in advertising (very few minorities and very few veterans in the field). Unable to get in at the last agency or current one- we went to Ft. Knox in November of 2019 to pitch our idea based on a key piece of insight: a higher percentage of recruits come from families that have veterans in them.
We pitched a reality TV show called “Back to Basic” where old veterans went back through basic training to finally dispel the eternal myth of “It was harder back in the day” and compare the experiences- and the wisdom gained by serving. We had hoped to get parents with their kids at the same time. We had the perfect host- a celebrity MMA star who had served- and we knew it would do blockbuster ratings.
The Army rejected us- saying “We’ve done reality TV” and it didn’t work. Hate to tell you, Mark Burnett has done a lot of reality tv- and some has worked out just fine, others have bombed, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to try.
Well, last month we found the vindication for our pitch. AARP posted a video about a 59 year old veteran who had to go back through basic training so he could serve with his kid. In less than a month it had 750K views, it’s at 847,411 in 50 days. That far exceeds the views, shares and discussion of anything the Army is producing right now.
If an idea doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it’s probably not big enough.
And, the size of your agency, the size of your budget, has nothing to do with the size of your agencies ideas.
A local state university president, already facing a budget deficit, is quoted in the paper suggesting that “more cuts are needed” and that the Coronavirus is destroying their ability to enroll students. This is not the message to send, even if it may be true. There is no urgency in her plans, because she assumes the university will survive, will be bailed out, she’ll have another job. The future is not something we can control, but it’s also inevitable and it’s your job to adapt and plan to win, not to admit defeat and attempt to manage.
Need proof? Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 and the company was on it’s death bed. New products, including the innovative iMac were a year away. The first thing he does is look for a new ad agency. Chiat\Day, which had been the agency that gave him the iconic “1984” spot introducing the Macintosh had been off the account for 10 years when they were invited back to pitch. Now, one of the hottest shops in the country, the plan for Lee Clow and Rob Siltanen was not to pitch- to walk away if asked, so when Jobs demanded spec work, Siltanen was ready to walk, but Clow said they’d be back.
The campaign they came back with, “Think Different” didn’t show photos of computers. It wasn’t even grammatically correct, and Jobs had said he didn’t want TV, but they came back with a rip-o-matic rough cut of a 2 minute spot showcasing famous folks who walked to the beat of a different drummer set to the song “Crazy” by Seal. Only problem was, it was 2 minutes long and they needed something more compact. After Siltanen did his best to write a new voiceover- Jobs trashed his work and alienated him. Another writer was brought on, Ken Segall., and he gave us the final script for “Here’s to the crazy ones” which was as much an ode to Jobs as to the people featured in the campaign. It was the right bet, and set the stage for Apple’s comeback. The string of products, from the iMac, to the iPhone to the iPad changed the world- all as predicted by the campaign which was as much manifesto as it was aspirational, because Apple was down, and almost counted out. Jobs wasn’t throwing in the towel, he was focusing his brand on attaining greatness, which is the exact right thing to do in a crisis.
With the whole world in shock over the Coronavirus crisis, many leaders (and university presidents) have thrown in the towel. Most have directed their agencies to do ads that all sound the same “in these unprecedented times” and “we’re all in this together” kumbaya bullshit.
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — General George Patton
It’s so bad, you can cut them all together and get- well, someone already did:
This is not the answer. Ever. Doing what everyone else is doing is exactly the point that “Think different” railed against. Now, of all times, is the time to launch your brand with a new message, a new way of doing things, a new commitment to reach new heights. It’s called adapting, and it’s critical to evolution. We were adapting before the crisis- to the new gig economy, to software as a service, to a new media landscape where “fake news” was somehow acceptable.
The pandemic was just a unforeseen misdirection to most. Yes, Bill Gates saw it coming, but didn’t do a good enough job of raising the alarm. Now, the question is, will you rise to the challenge? Will you adapt, overcome and succeed? The PhD flails and fails, the college drop out swings for the fences. It’s easy to be a “leader” when things are predictable- but the true test is when they’re not.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — President Theodore Roosevelt
The funny thing is, Steve Jobs was inspired by Nike’s advertising and looking for his own version of it when he came back to the sinking Apple.
“The best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing the universe has ever seen is Nike,” Jobs explained. “Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, they don’t ever talk about their products. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they’re better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about.”
He wanted to do the same for Apple’s brand. “The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds. It’s not to talk about MIPS and megahertz, it’s not to talk about why we’re better than Windows,” Jobs said.
Jobs went on in the talk to announce Apple’s newest ad campaign, which used the tagline “Think Different,” and featured pictures of legendary thinkers like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King and John Lennon. The ads didn’t describe Apple computers’ specifications or functions, but instead gave a sense of the company’s mission.
And when you want to see a company give the right response in troubled times, Nike, with their agency for life, Wieden+Kennedy, get it right, right now:
Because, once you admit you are down, if you don’t start talking about a comeback, you will never have one.
“We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower
We’re not saying we have the answers for the Coronavirus crisis you are facing, but, we’re here to help brands find a voice that is uniquely theirs and projects hope for a better future. This is what advertising does- it creates lust, evokes trust- and triggers an emotional response. If your campaign doesn’t inspire folks while they are desperate for a comeback, don’t even consider running it.
When the “Think Different” campaign launched, Apple immediately felt the boost despite having no significant new products. Within 12 months, Apple’s stock price tripled. A year after the “Think Different” launch, Apple introduced their multi-colored iMacs. The computers represented revolutionary design, and they became some of the best-selling computers in history. But without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple.
Karl Lieberman and his creative partner, Brandon Henderson, had been working on the brief for Dos Equis beer for months and had work in production, when they were told to come up with more ideas, a mere two hours before a meeting with the client.
With 30 minutes to go, they landed on “The Most Interesting Man in the World” and his famous line, “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The spots close with the signature sign-off: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” They were actually taking the brief, which they didn’t like, to an extreme- they didn’t believe that drinking beer made you interesting, but, that’s what the brief was searching for.
It also sold a lot of beer, and made the actor, Jonathan Goldsmith, famous.
Luckily, Lieberman and Henderson weren’t just working on a project for time and materials pricing. The value of that idea and the amount of beer it sold, priceless (to steal another tagline from another great campaign.)
The creative brief was pretty similar to all beer briefs- brands make a statement about the drinker, young folks still lean on these brand identifiers to help project their own personal brand. The same type of brief led Crispin Porter + Bogusky to devise “Twin Label Technology” for Molson- an ad campaign that was more than just a campaign, for Molson and one of our favorite examples of true Marketing • Innovation. This is the beauty of creativity in solving business problems. Do research, develop insight, and then find new ways to connect, often using what we call a “fundamental truth,” to create an emotional response that evokes trust and creates lust.
It was years before Nike had “Just do it.” Yet to many, it defines the brand. Three words took years to come up with. Those three words changed the brand forever.
For BMW, many would say “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was the perfect tagline- yet, for a few years, brand management moved away from it- before bringing it back.
When advertising is done right, it looks easy, it feels comfortable, and it immediately makes a connection with a consumer. That’s the value of creativity, and it should never be valued by time and materials.
The “think different” spot that was created soon after Steve returned to Apple, and moved the ad account back to Chiat/Day and rekindled the relationship with Lee Clow, may be the best short tribute to Steve, even though it’s from 1997.
As a memento, tribute and gift to you- we’ve taken the spot and created a poster for you to print and hang.
Click on image for link to PDF of "Here's to the Crazy One's poster
The number of “students” who come through this small agencies door, drawn by the work on this site is truly amazing. Many are about to graduate from 2 or 4 year programs that specialize in Advertising, Graphic Design, Marketing, Business or even the new buzz-degree “new-media.”
With the economy being what it’s been- we’ve also seen a lot of “seasoned professionals” in the market. People who’ve been going through the motions for 5, 10 and even 20 years- turning out what they believe to be “advertising” and “marketing” materials.
The sad thing is, most may know the tools- page layout, illustration, webdev- but, few- understand the why of what they do. I make everyone here at The Next Wave read, at a minimum, “Ogilvy on Advertising” or “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” so that they understand the reason behind thinking before putting ideas on paper (or in “new media”). I’m seriously thinking of making them watch this too:
ART & COPY introduces the cultural visionaries who revolutionized advertising during the industry s golden age in the 1960s by creating slogans to live by and ads we all remember. You may have never heard of them, but pop pioneers Lee Clow, Hal Riney, George Lois, Mary Wells, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Phyllis K. Robinson, Dan Wieden, and David Kennedy have changed the way we eat, work, shop, and communicate often in ways we don t even realize. From the introduction of the Volkswagen to America to the triumph of Apple Computers, ART & COPY explores the most successful and influential advertising campaigns of the 20th century, and the creative minds that launched them.
An hour and a half of listening to the greats of this business- discussing what makes real advertising work. It’s the real thing, baby- from the genteel West Coast cool of Lee Clow- to the NY Bronx attitudes of George Lois, you get the feel for the business the way it’s supposed to be practiced- with guts and gusto.
Lois steals the show, with his straight forward comments about most contemporary advertising- which is missing as he calls it “The Big Idea”- but, while he’s put on a pedestal for growing Tommy Hilfiger from a no-one to some-one with one gutsy ad- the clear hints in the film about how he basically stole his own “I want my Maypo” to “I want my MTV” show how in advertising originality isn’t always the golden egg- effectiveness is.
If you are a student of advertising and you haven’t seen “Art & Copy” it’s time. If you are an advertising professional, and haven’t seen it- maybe someone should question what profession you are really in.
Because, as is alluded to in the film- we’re all students of public perception, desire, trends- and this film helps us understand how that process evolved from the beginning of the “creative revolution” started by Bill Bernbach, to today.
And if you want more good stuff to further your education, try our booklist.
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