In the past few weeks, the industry in which I work has suffered immense scrutiny from my nearest and dearest friends. The fact is they are irritated by most ads everyday. Yes they admit they have come across ‘good’ ads from time to time but it’s these examples that have prompted their question: ‘What determines whether an ad is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?’
In my opinion the answer to this has a lot to do with the thinking behind it. (But then I would say that I guess).
So today I’ve been thinking about my approach to…well… ‘thinking’ in response to client briefs when developing ad campaigns.
Since becoming a Planner, I have found myself increasingly inspired by ads that exhibit “Fresh Thinking”. I want to make it my mission to champion it wherever I end up.
Fresh Thinking is a term I like to use to describe the generation of ideas that are truly different, creative and innovative- they refuse the temptation to advertise product benefits in an obvious, literal or generic fashion. To give you an example, take the legendary Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury’s ‘israelites’ ad for Maxell tapes from back in the day (1989). Rather than default to the conventional approach of shouting about the technical features, instead they focused on using a human truth (misinterpreting incoherent lyrics when singing along to music) to showcase the clear sound quality of Maxell tapes.
As I discussed on Twitter recently, these fresh ideas produce ads that are far more arresting because they show consumers new and different perspectives to things.
You know when you’ve encountered Fresh Thinking because it’s that astonished, excited feeling you get when an ad grabs your attention because it’s executing a message in a way you’ve never seen before and never considered yourself- it’s a welcome surprise. Although some of you may know this as ‘Upstream Thinking’, ‘Disruptive Thinking’ or ‘Zigging when the rest of world Zags’.
To help explain/define what Fresh Thinking is in more detail it’s probably easier to say what it’s not.
At this point it might be advisable if I have a go at providing an analogy since all planners seem to love these…
A Rabbai, a priest and a Scotsman walk into a bar…or something like that.
We’ve all been bored to tears with these classic ‘jokes’ at one time or another and whilst the punchlines may differ slightly they’re all variations of a theme.
Despite being in circulation for years, the joke format has never really changed or progressed- it relies upon same cliches and stereotypes every time. As a result, not only does their repetitive, overfamiliar nature make you groan in painful boredom but it also means you already know what to expect. In the end there’s no surprise, no riotous chuckle and no real interest on your part as the unwitting audience.
This is the opposite of Fresh Thinking. This exemplifies what I would dub as “Straight Thinking” which invariably leads to bad advertising- something my friends see all too often lately.
Why does Straight Thinking make bad advertising? Because Straight Thinking relies on a formulaic approach of volunteering whichever ideas seem like a safe bet – they are characteristically so obvious, easy and simplistic that even my friends (who have no expertise on advertising) feel ‘[they] could have done a lot better than that rubbish!!’.
Whereas ‘good’ advertising is distinctive from the rest because it is never so familiar that you feel you’ve seen it before or so predictable that you know what to expect already. It’s more engaging & impactful to the consumer because it’s based on something new, curious and altogether different. And good advertising is the natural product of Fresh Thinking.
It seems my friends’ commentary has raised an important point- we need to make advertising work harder at being ‘Fresh’ in order to truly engage our audience and level the playing field of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ adverts out there.
I need to stop at this point because my
brain is starting to hurt a bit now with all this
Which brings me neatly on to my final point- if you’re striving for a fresher idea but are struggling to find it, here’s a secret shortcut:
‘Fresher than a Daisy’s Bottom Blend’
- 2.5 heavy spoonfulls of coffee
- 3 spoonfulls of sugar
- 1 spoonfull of cocoa powder
- mix together in hot water
- top with milk
* Best consumed with any variety of chewy sweet (gummy bears or cola bottles ideally) for maximum effect.