Creativity in Advertising

These notes will give you some good ideas about how to develop good creative advertising.  They are as relevent to Internet based advertising (both Push and Pull) as they have been to the older forms of advertising media.

A lot is currently made of “Content Marketing“, but CM is going to just get very boring to your audience without a creative approach.

Before going any further, let’s look at the Golden Rules of Advertising You Should Always Remember.


First rule: There are no hard-and-fast rules for creating great advertising, but two things should always be there.  First is uniqueness, so that your ad stands out from the clutter of all the other advertising.  Second, that uniqueness must relate directly to your brand personality.  Otherwise, you lose the audience the moment you begin the brand selling story.


Second rule: Most products (both goods and services) are not unique.  That is why your advertising must be.


Third rule: Your advertising message is the least important thing in the life of your consumer.  That’s why how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.


Fourth rule: You are not trying to convince the people who manufacture the product (the client).  They are already convinced and may be the worst judge of your campaign strategies for this very reason.  Remember that you are trying to convince the people who are most likely to buy.


Fifth rule:.- People will rarely tell you their true reasons for doing things, that is, for liking one product or not liking another.  In most cases, you must deduce their reasons for yourself.  You will realise this is so when a mother tells you milk is best for her kids and soda pop is worst, but when you ask what she buys for them, she tells you soda pop, because they hate milk.


Sixth rule: People tend to be irrational creatures.  Most goods and services, therefore, are purchased for  emo­tional-reasons.  That’s why most advertising should rely solidly on emotional appeal


Seventh rule: Creating a brand personality is investing a lifeless product with a human-like quality.  An advertisement doesn’t sell the brand so much as it establishes a relationship between the brand and an individual consumer, which may result in a purchase.  Think of this relationship as a sort of friendship between two things: a person and a brand.


Eighth rule: Clichés in ads bore people: We tend to tune them out.  Running the same headline over different pictures and calling the result an ad campaign is like the friend who always says the same thing in the exact same words but wears different clothing each day.  After the first or second time, do you really listen?


Ninth rule: There is always a better way to promote/sell something.  Anyone can write an ordinary advertisement in seconds, but few people can write great advertising.  Each day many ordinary ads run with just about as many horrible ones.  There are even fewer great ads, but these few are the ones everyone knows and responds to.  A great ad requires fewer media dollars to achieve the same sales results as an ordinary ad that runs three, four, or five times as frequently.  Think of how much it costs to sell a product with a horrible ad! If the money were coming out of your pocket, what kind of ad would you want?


Defining Creativity

“Different, unique, unusual, out of the ordinary,” are some of the sponta­neous definitions advertising students provide when asked to define crea­tivity.  By and large, they are right.  “Creativity has no boundaries,” they add.  Everyone has the ability to be creative, for all it takes is the ability to express an old idea in a new way.  “If creativity is not practiced on a regular basis,” they add, “you can lose your touch.” “Creativity is also a method that offers a unique perspective about a certain thing,” another student suggests.

Defining the Task

A major oil company decided it needed more creative executives.  So it hired a team of psychologists to determine exactly what makes a person creative.  After a great deal of study, the psychologists reported this:

People who think they are creative are.  People who think they aren’t aren’t.


Strategies for Creativity

1.         Risk-Taking. Also known as “the right to fail.” The problem many of us have with this strategy is that throughout school we have been urged not to take risks, so that we come up with the right answers, that is, so that we “succeed.” Therefore, risk-taking is in sharp contrast to conservatism, which prefers traditional solutions, puts old principles to work in tried and-true ways, and distrusts any shifts in emphasis.  Yet the right to fall is essential to creativity, just as the prevention of failure is the essence of conservatism.  The creative act must be uninhibited and marked by su­preme confidence; there can be no fear of failure.  Nothing inhibits so fiercely, or shrinks a vision so drastically, or pulls a dream to earth so swiftly, as fear of failure.


2.         Divergent Thinking.  The use of more open-ended, divergent, ambiguous modes of thinking often contributes to creativity.  Many of us know the story of Albert Einstein failing math.  That he would rather ask ques­tions than fill in the blanks is often offered as the explanation for this phenomenon.  He was a divergent, rather than a convergent, thinker.


Try using metaphors to describe the situation/project

Metaphor-using one unrelated idea to describe another-forces us to see things in new ways and to make observations that raise questions, rather than answer them.  How would you describe corn flakes if you were told to use the metaphor of a personal computer? How would you describe a popular shampoo or toothpaste in terms of the Caribbean Sea? How many other product-metaphor combinations can you come up with, and how far can you take them?

Looking for a new way to open a can, you might ask: how does nature deal with openings? After considering such cases as the opening of a flower, a mouth, or the earth in an earthquake, you might eventually come to the peapod, which opens easily because of a weak seam.  It was from the peapod, so the story goes, that the idea of the pop-top can was born.


3.         A Sense of Humour.  A fair amount of research links humour and creativity.  Creative people, for example, tend to have better senses of humour than non-creative people.  Humour appears to create an atmosphere conducive to the kind of risk-taking necessary for creativity, for humour requires the same kind of shift in perspective-or new slant, or sudden, unexpected change of direction-that is crucial to creative problem solving.


There is no way in the world to order a person to “Be creative!” In fact, this sort of ultimatum is a sure-fire way to inhibit creative thinking.  So if your advertising professor refuses to settle for adequate work and tells you, “This won’t do.  Try something new.  Take a risk.  Be creative,” take heed.  Receiving permission to take a risk is wonderful motivation for doing so, and the result is usually a step in the right direction.


Advertising as Storytelling

All your life you have heard stories, read stories, and told stories.  When you think about what makes a story interesting to an audience, you’re on your way to discovering how to create effective advertising.

A good story has an interesting opening.  It develops interesting and memorable characters.  It places logical stepping stones along the path from start to finish to guide the reader from one point to the next effort­lessly.  It has a climactic moment when something significant takes place, and it has a resolution at the end.  Other characteristics you might add to stories include uniqueness, suspense or surprise, consistency (theme con­tinuity), clarity, simplicity, purpose, reader empathy with characters, and action.

Here is another kind of story, from a television commercial.  The opening shot consists of tight close-ups of something golden and rich.  We soon realise we are looking at cheddar cheese.  In a series of aesthetic, slow dissolves, we watch the cheese in slow motion: breaking, crumbling, being sliced.  The music is romantic and “important.” The male announcer’s voice is warm yet authoritative.  “Not quite 100 miles north of New York City,” he begins, “and throughout the great dairylands of upstate New York, the local farmers have been creating a very special blend of natural cheese.” He continues to impress us with the fact that this is no ordinary cheddar, and, finally, we get the punch line: ‘lt’s just one reason Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese is as good as it can be.” In the next-to-final shot, the product is ready to eat on a simple white platter.  Dissolve to the final shot: the product package and a super title: “As good as it can be.”

The copy is lyrical.  The commercial tells, in classic story form, that this is exceptional frozen food without actually saying that this is exceptional frozen food.  It addresses young urban professionals without saying it’s “for you young urban professionals who don’t have time to cook but demand the best.” It avoids all those tired clichés, such as: “Want the best but don’t have the time to fix it because you’re a working professional?” Most important of all, it works because it does its job in a relatively unexpected manner.

Like the elements of a good story, the elements of good advertising are essential for success.  In broad terms, these essential elements are:

Attracting the desired audience

Maintaining interest once you have attracted them.

Stressing consumer benefits over product selling-points (features).

Concluding with a thought that tells the consumer what you want him or her to do next.


Attracting, the Desired Audience 

Through some device-words, pictures, sounds, voices, and usually some combination of these-the advertising copywriter and designer must find a way to break through the clutter of advertising-and of life!-and make certain people want to get involved with an ad’s message.  Who are these “certain people?” Quite simply, they are those people who have the greatest potential for investing in the product, service, institution, or idea that you are promoting through your advertising message.  If you don’t capture their attention from the start, nothing else much matters.  In print, you do this with a provocative headline and visual.  In radio and television, the opening seconds of a commercial are critical.  In outdoor advertising, you have only seconds to make a connection, and that is probably all you should try to do.  In direct mail, something on the envelope needs to shout, “Open me!”


Maintaining Interest Once You Have Attracted Your Audience 

Somehow, once you have your audience in the palm of your hand (so to speak), you must maintain a delicate balance between entertaining them and delivering your advertising message.  Most importantly, the device you used to attract your audience in the first place must somehow be relevant to what follows.  If not, you’re going to lose many of them right away.  If you command attention with sexual innuendo, for example, and it doesn’t relate to the selling message, you’ve managed to titillate your audience for about two seconds, and then you’ve lost them.  This is not what advertising is designed to accomplish!


Stressing Consumer Benefits over Product Selling-Points 

To accomplish this, you must understand the difference between the two terms and the nature and purpose of advertising.  A selling-point is an attribute of a product (goods and services) that makes it attractive to the prospect, whereas a benefit is the satisfaction gained by the prospect from the purchase or use of a product or service.  As cosmetic magnate Charles Revson has said, “Women don’t buy lipstick because they want to colour their lips.  They’re not buying lip colouring, they’re buying hope.” A man doesn’t buy a tyre because of its radial design; he buys it because he wants performance or a safe and smooth ride.  You may want a smart television because of the added benefits of accessing the internet, but you probably don’t care as much about the circuitry that makes it possible.  It’s important that you begin thinking and talking in terms of benefits to the prospect; otherwise your advertising will be talking to itself and to the product manufacturer instead of to the intended audience.


Concluding With A Thought That Tells The Consumer What You Want Him Or Her To Do Next. 

Call it the urge to action, call it the wrap-up, call it the “hook”; the concluding message in any advertisement is just as critical as the other three components.

2 thoughts on “Creativity in Advertising

  1. Great points!

    However most clients have a hard time getting past rule/point 1.
    Even young clients because they’re concerned that they’ll lose their job. No one is willing to risk their job, so they hammer down any creative that doesn’t fit a specific mold. Blendo!
    For clients who take risk? God Bless em! May you make a ton of money!!

  2. Great article Brian. Creative content is foundational for success. Your comment on stressing Consumer Benefits is what sales is all about. One must explain to the consumer, why the product or service is worth more to them than the money in their pocket!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s