Paul Alexander
Paul Alexander
Group Creative Director

Nine Ways To Improve An Ad.

This brilliant article originally appearedPaul's Blog Post 25 years ago (so apologies for the quality) as part of a presentation to an audience of advertising and marketing people. It was a presentation made by Fred Manly Vice Principle, Creative Director of BBDO San Francisco, he had a serious point to get across to his audience, and with the help of his Art Director spoofed everybody in the audience, with many people believing what they heard and saw.

His presentation, slide by slide, presented the argument that the classic Volkswagen Beetle car ad ‘Think Small’ was, well, basically a torrid exploration into the world of cleverness and had no relevance to the consumer, it didn’t ‘Sell’ the product. The presentation effectively demonstrated what can happen, and how easy it is for a nugget of an idea (in this case an ad that changed advertising forever) to have its bravery, simplicity knocked out of it, in a misguided attempt to make it effective.

We have all experienced this at some level. That pure, wonderful idea that has miraculously found itself in front of you, scribbled on a lay out pad. The sweat and tears that went into that is only the beginning. The real battle is yet to come. Sell the idea internally, sell it to the client, and finally constanly battle against people then fiddling and adding what they think are important other messages that will mean the clarity of the idea will be lost forever.

But there is more important relevance to this today than ever before. The consumer wants entertaining, it wants to be engaged in a way that makes them smile, cry, shrug, think. They don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want to be bombarded by £ signs, offers. They don’t want to be told, they want to make their own minds up.

Here at Ponderosa we have what we call a Time Brief. It doesn’t have your usual boxes to fill, it doesn’t have your usual questions. It asks for ideas that the consumer will allow into their busy lives. Today you have to get permission from the consumer to allow your brand into their world which is already overcrowded with brands jostling for attention… brands have to work much harder.

To do this, agencies and agency people must entertain, challenge, excite, their clients and in turn the consumer. We are the ones who will think different, dig up that golden nugget. After all, if we’re not doing this, we just become a more expensive version of Prontaprint where we just churn out whatever it is that we are told to do and if that’s the case, the client may as well do it themselves.

So when that brief comes in from a client, whether it’s TV commercial, New Product Development or a simple DM piece, remember what good agencies are here for, and what we should be giving to our clients, it’s very rarely what they have asked for, they want a sparkling, 18 carat lump of an idea, one that creates an emotional response and that will engage, ideas make a difference, ideas are what we are here for.

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