Friday, January 23, 2009

Do The Facts Matter?

Planners and Account Handlers seem to spend a lot of time gathering facts about the product, to put in the brief.

Personally, I don't really care about facts, and I'm sure the general public doesn't either.

Who gives a monkeys how beer is made? Or what type of metal is in a car? I just want products that are cool, fast, economical... etc.

In fact I can't think of one occasion where I've ever used a fact in an ad. And I find factory visits completely boring.

However, there was a brilliant post by Dave Trott yesterday, in which he describes how he visited the factory when he was working on Tower Pans (wonderfully '70s name, isn't it?) and discovered that whereas ordinary pans have a handle-stud welded to 95 psi, Towers are welded to 110 psi. So they're stronger. He then did a compelling magazine ad about an unfortunate woman who tips boiling water in her lap, when the handle of her inferior pan snaps off.

I love the fact that Dave didn't like the initial brief, so went out and found a better one - we Creatives are often viewed as the mavericks within an Agency but the truth is that we are saps, who rarely question the briefs we are given.

But to get back to the question of facts, does Dave's story mean that we should care about them? I still contend that no one cares about handle-stud welding.

But they do want strong pans. So maybe there is a use for facts after all. Not to actually use in adverts. But to make good briefs from.

What do you think about facts? Do they matter?


faris said...

do facts matter. not really. not anymore. messaging doesn't matter. it's how things make you feel.

unless. unless you have made a new thing. most categories have functional product parity - then facts are mostly pointless.

that said, sometimes facts can make you feel....


Sell! Sell! said...

Well Scampi, I think facts are like schlongs. It's not having them that counts, it's what you with them.
Including facts isn't going to immediately make an ad more compelling, but if you use a fact in a way that makes it relevant to the consumer and their purchase decision then it can do.
Plus, as usual it's horses for courses - there are no hard and fast rules that apply to everything. Different kinds of people choose different categories of product for different reasons.
Sometimes emotional, sometimes rational, more often a messy mixture of both.
Plus, on a really basic level, facts give you something to say - and we need something to say - sometimes the way you say it is more important (watch pocket anyone). But still, that fact that you are saying something is important, I think. There are ads out there that are just execution, with nothing to say. And they're just wallpaper.

Anonymous said...

Facts don't mean dick!

Nor does research for that matter.

People just want to be entertained.

SJ said...

I think they're massively important. Ok, so maybe more important to the planner or project manager, or even the client who is writing the brief. However, like Dave, we creatives sometimes get briefs that miss out crucial facts, through laziness or lack of knowledge or whatever the case may be.

It's in these instances where we need to do the work ourselves as Dave mentioned. We should care about our work, and not be lazy.

If you want your ads to work hard in this difficult market, then you need to do the same!

SJ said...

I agree, however, with the above comment that it's not the facts themselves, but what you do with them!

4am said...

facts are critical in the structure of an idea.

but if i build a house, i never want anyone to sit back an admire the foundations.

Anonymous said...

Would someone buy a car if the ad said it was reliable? probably..

How about if the ad said it was reliable but they out later found it was made in Afghanistan? probably not.

How about if the ad said it was reliable and it was made in Germany? probably more likely.

Facts matter. But only if the proposition is interesting in the first place!

Anonymous said...

If you can tell people something they don't know (a little known fact for example)), they're already interested. It makes writing an ad about it so much easier than, for example, trying to find a new way of saying the same old bollocks.

Anonymous said...

People may well only want to be entertained, but unfortunately we're not here to just give people what they want, we're here to get people to do what our Clients want them to do.

Facts matter to the same extent that the product matters. There is still no more effective model of advertising than finding a relevant fact to suggest superiority, and then manifest that fact in a creatively interesting way.

The problem is when Advertisers try to invent some relevant point of difference when there is none. If your product is the same as everyone else's, then I'm afraid all you can do is make your brand the point of difference and sell your product off that.

And also, don't just find any old random difference and expect people to care. It needs to be relevant to the user's demands from the product, whether it be durability, taste, fashionability or whatever.

Is fashionability even a word?

Anonymous said...

A creative director at BBH not liking facts?
What a ridiculous statement.
Facts are our bedrock, without them, we're sitcom writers.
Name a great ad, an award winner, one we all agree on that's not based on a fact.

Scamp said...

3.41 - How about Wassup, Dunlop 'Tested For The Unexpected' and the current US Skittles work? They are not based on facts.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact of the dunlop one is something to do with how they test the tyres for unexpected things.

That's how the line works, you see?...

Tested: They test the tyres

For the unexpected: for unexpected things.

Hence, "Tested for the unexpected".

It's brilliant really, when you think about it.

Anonymous said...

What bout Gorilla?

Anonymous said...

Not saying every good ad has to use 'em, but of course facts matter. They're raw materials from which to craft your ad.

Seems a bit mental just to turn your nose up at 'em.

And anyway, Mr Scamp, wasn't BBH's 'Hunting' Barnardos ad ( on facts? Seem to remember that what made it so compelling was that all the dialogue had been taken from actual comments in online forums etc.

Hmm? Hmmm? Hmmmmmmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

sorry dude, but tested for the unexpected was based entirely on the dunlop testing process which included 'amongst many other random things' rolling the tyres over molten lava.

you're right of course, budweiser is based on insight and skittles is based on taste incidental colour cues.
but i bet more of the general public remember that 'the milk chocolate melts in your mouth not in your hands'


Anonymous said...

It depends on the brand and the brief.

Sometimes, I need a nice big shed load of facts. And other times, I need to make a shoe out of margarine.

I believe this may be half the fun.

Richard Morris said...

damn you Scamp for bringing out the pedant in me...

while of course you can have great ads without using facts - whassup being a great example - you can't apply this to the Dunlop ad. that brief was laden with facts - how hot the tyres are tested at, how far they go, etc etc etc. they just didn't put the facts in the ad.....

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it coke that tried to launch bottled water - until a small fact got in the way?

anon: 3.41pm "A creative director at BBH not liking facts?
What a ridiculous statement"

In defence of Scamp, it's no worse than the man with the longest title in advertising telling us "do facts matter. not really. not anymore. messaging doesn't matter. it's how things make you feel"

so, do facts matter? yes. no. sometimes. it depends.

Anonymous said...

Great facts make great ads.

Anonymous said...

How exactly did she manage to pour boiling water into her lap? Wouldn't it have just dropped to the floor and scalded her ankles? Unless she was sitting down and cooking at the same time? Surely that was her first mistake.

Scamp said...

All right craig, you can have Dunlop, but what about Gorilla, FT 'St Bernard', Harvey Nichols 'Jealousy' 'Ripped Goods' or 'Calendar', The Lynx Effect, I Never Read The Economist - Management Trainee Aged 46, John Smiths Peter Kay campaign...

I think the anon who said that every award-winning campaign was based on a fact should resign.

Anonymous said...

There are facts and there are facts.

Glass and a half is a fact, that's not used as a fact.

It takes 118 seconds to pour a Guinness is a fact......that's used as a fact.

I suppose, it all depends what you do with them.

I think the bottom line is, if a great fact based stuns people, then great.

If a great un-fact based ad stuns people, then that's great too.

Who gives a fact?

Anonymous said...

I think Tom & Walt and their 'it takes 125 seconds to pour the perfect Guiness' and 'enough awards from one campaign to sink a cross channel ferry' might disagree with your thinking scamp.

Anonymous said...

i don't think i actually wrote that? oh no look, it's still there, go on, read it again.

the point was to start a debate. (as i'm sure was the point of you writing this post in the first place)

you can't hide from the 'fact' that a majority of the great ads, the ones that stand the test of time are based on a truth, a fact. be it a product fact or a fact about how consumers/non consumers react to the product. the best use facts.

of course there are ads that are based almost entirely around attitude that have won awards, but even some of those are created through an interesting fact, even if it may have been lost along the way.

i think the creative director that doesn't believe that facts are important in advertising is a little deluded.

Anonymous said...

Useful facts matter.

The stuff that makes the brand interesting or unique. The founding myths that make the brand what it is. The little things that make a bigger point about a brand.

The Audi A6 has more patents than Nasa.
Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali competed in Adidas shoes.
British Airways flies more people internationally than any other airline.
The Nissan GT-R beats any Porsche around the Nurnburgring.
Lindt chocolate melts at body temperature.

Forget the usual guff that appears in the 'support' box of most creative briefs - ask for the stuff that makes the brand interesting and you're more likely to make something interesting in return.

Anonymous said...

What the Bible does with facts is dramatize them and make them compelling, billions of people listen. In fact sod it, they don't necessarily even need to be facts.

Anonymous said...

This seems absurd to me... The only thing I want from a brief is one good fact. Something that no one can argue with. Then you dress it up and entertain people the best way possible. ...Colour like no other ...Full of lovely stuff ...

Anonymous said...

We're all fucked - now thats a fact!

Anonymous said...

You would say that, yer planner!

Auge said...

Rem tene, verba sequentur!!

Facts matter and even more if you still consider the USP of any relevance in your job. I know the research, the importance of entertainment and emotion and so forth. But I still think we should have a bit of both in the trajectory of brand's evolution along the years. It doesn't hurt to know well what you are selling, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

off topic:

Why is nobody talking about Vervroegen's departure from TBWA/Paris? Tried to find out more about it today on the web and it was virtually impossible - just a "no comment" obscure couple of lines in a French magazine. Anyone knows anything?

Unknown said...

Facts matter when they're important to the people using the product, not just to the people making it.

Why? Because people file that information under "News" in the same part of their brain they file the "fact" that "now they've got a grape flavor too"

The ultimate job of the ad agency is to figure out if and how the facts are relevant to the people actually buying the product.

To Faris's point, there often aren't any relevant facts, at which you revert to plan B, pure emotion.

burgess said...

I'm not the one who said it, but there's nothing cooler than the truth. Random ideas that are slathered in fact are killer. What the sponge monkeys sang about for Quizno's comes to mind.

"they got a pepper bar."

Anonymous said...

What the hell does 'You would say that, yer planner' mean. There are some dufusses out there.

Anyway, a South West Trains ad 'Kiss your wife in places she's never been kissed before'. Is it not, in parts, a teensy bit like Legas Delaney's 'Kiss your wife in places shes never been kissed before'.

Forget all this it's-like-that-thing-on-youtube nonsense. This is plain theft innit?

Anonymous said...

I know a campaign based on facts, Scamp.

It's for a well built car (fact).
That is small (fact).

Rings, a bell?

The problem is not the facts, is how you treat the facts. You do translate them into human insights and emotions or you lay them out as in a specs sheet?

A man much wiser than Trott said once:

“Our job is to bring the dead facts to life.” Bill Bernbach

It doesn't say ignore the facts, does it?

So Trott is right, he used the facts and made them relevant using emotions.

Fuck, I should write a paper or something.

Anonymous said...

Facts matter. But that's research. The point of strategy is supposed to be : 'insight.'

Problem with that is this: How can you have an insight, and not be able to communicate it through ads? Or how can you be able to communicate it, but not be able to HAVE the insight?

A great creative should, by nature, be able to go through culled research about the product or the target, and get an insight.

That is my inherent problem with the system of having one person have the insight, and then have to filter it yet again for another to communicate it.

It makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Gorillla - it's candy. Candy, soft drinks, etc. Non need facts. 'Dr pepper solves all your problems' was a brilliant tagline for that very reason.

Anonymous said...

If someone didn't know the answer to this in this business, I'd be worried.

Some people might think things happen haphazardly whilst others believe it's a scientific process. Both are right, and both are wrong. Though so many people might not fully understand how they really got to great work.

First, you need an insight. Be it based on product or usage facts, emotional or rational psychological drivers. Or just based on anecdotal evidence. All those can be considered 'facts' I suppose. I call them 'truths.'

The hard part is then the gut instinct of reading into what all of those mean and distilling it into one very simple insight.

Then the extremely hard part is that having magical spark to make communication that taps into that, and uses in the most creative, engaging and persuasive way possible.

Sometimes that will be 'tested for the unexpected', sometimes 'wassup' and sometimes 'gorilla.' Both seem far away from any 'facts', but they are indeed all built on truths.

Anonymous said...

A fact is only useful if it leads to a benefit, surely? Mr Trott's fact lead to "stronger" which is s benefit. he dramatised the benefit, which is what we're here to do isn't it?

And as for your second question, Scamp, I'd say that there are a lot of creatives who never really interrogate the brief and never bother to put themselves in the shoes of their audience because they expect the planner to have done both.

That's lazy.

I recently pitched for a relatively small campaign targeted at C2DE mums with kids. We were against 3 of London's biggest agencies. We found out that we were the only ones to produce a campaign specifically to appeal that demographic. What's that about?

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Facts do matter, sometimes they aren't relevant to what is said in an ad; but they sure as hell matter to the overall branding and tone of voice.

Without facts we wouldn't have had The Guardians Points of View Ad, Honda Grr, The Economist ads, or hundreds of other classics that whilst creatively inventive; use the facts to make that creativity all the more impactful.

Scamp said...

I'm glad someone mentioned Guinness.

It's an interesting example, to me, of the fact fallacy.

Some might say it's 'based on a fact'. And in a way it is. But not in any significant way.

The fact is a mere pretext, for the entertainment.

The fact isn't even a benefit (who wants to wait 119 seconds for their pint?)

The real sell is the image that's created, by the original, clever, high-quality entertainment.

Not the fact.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Aren't you missing the point that the reason Guinness is poured that way is to make the best pint.

There is a benefit, its a fact that was turned into a good insight and then good creative.

Anonymous said...

Facts are a tool. Sometimes they're the appropriate tool.

I don't think carpenters spend this much time arguing over whether hammers are needed or not. You can make something with them, you can make something equally good without them.

The creative mind, I'd argue, is a flexible one. Look at McGyver.

]-[appy Thought said...

For me it depends on what you call a fact. All the Budweiser ads are based on the fact that guys like to have fun and drink beer. OK, you can argue that's a strategy or an insight, but those have to be based on facts too. I think this argument depends on the definition of the word. But I would say that facts do matter, but don't always have to be the center of the ad i.e. shoving a fact down a viewer's throat.

I present as an argument the Honda "hate something, change something" ad. An ad that had the team not gone to hear the chief designer make a speech about the facts of the new engine adn taht he hated diesel engines in general, would never have been produced. And that would have been a shame.

There is also a difference between a fact and a factoid. One is powerful and compelling, the other is more of an "oh, really?" kind of feeling; the kind you get when you watch an Attenborough documentary. I'd say that after the throbbing Leftfeild track and white horse effects the guiness ad could have told you its made by filter coffee through kittens and you'd jump off your chair and punch the sky.

Never underestimate the power of factoids. they're what a lot of comedians kick their material off with, like "I heard that..." or "did you hear...?"

Anonymous said...

hmmm. didn't think you'd put my last comment up.
didn't contravene you house rules though?

Scamp said...

It did. You called me a plonker. Lovely word, but personal attacks aren't allowed any more.

Anonymous said...

i didn't say you were, i said like.
a simile.
still, admit you're wrong and lets move on.

and you're right plonker is a great word. not used enough. when i manage to get it into an ad i'll send it to you.

Scamp said...

When you manage to get plonker into an ad, I'll admit anything you want. Try to get twat in as well.

Anonymous said...

Which word is better; 'plonker' or 'twat'? There's only one way to find out. FIGHT!

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? For any differentiated product, facts make all the difference. Compelling communication matters too, of course (the truth well told and all that). I no longer wonder why your industry is in the dumper - communication people that don't believe in messages of substance. Y'all are digging your own grave.

Anonymous said...

Of course facts are important! It's what differentiates one product from another. It's all well and nice to be entertained--but what you want most is to be remembered.

As someone here said, it's how you present the facts that count.

Anonymous said...

The only time I ever received a brief that I thought was great the account manager apologized for it saying that it was the worst brief he'd ever written.

Anonymous said...

Well. Facts are important to the actual product. And they might be useful in advertising. But only if they allow you to say something that makes the consumer connect emotionally to the brand. Otherwise, they are just in the way.

Anonymous said...

Without facts, we're just making pretty pictures.

Anonymous said...

interrogation of your brand/product sorts the wheat from the chaff.
Advertisers are here primarily to give information.
The more interestingly we do that the better.
We're not here to randomly think up funny things and apply them to any old product.
Isn't our job to find out what's interesting and compelling about the thing we're advertising and then tell it to people?
Granted if your product has absolutely nothing to say then you're in trouble and so is the product.
I don't think you have to aimlessly trot out irrelevant facts either. But you do have to understand the brand and the tone of voice, and you can't do that by simply guessing at the company's ethos and having a stab at something.
I always enjoy the factory visits too. They have always helped me gain a better understanding and feeling.