Monday, November 17, 2014

Manifesto Ads: Worthwhile Exercise, Or Spawn Of The Devil?


The phrase 'manifesto ad' seems to make Creatives want to jump out of a window.

Even a brief that alludes to a Client wanting to discuss their values will have teams exploding with righteous rage: "For Christ's sake, it sounds like they want a bloody manifesto ad!"

But is this type of ad unfairly maligned?

It's true they tend to follow a formula. Normally either "Here's to..." as in "Here's to the crazy ones" or "We're for..." as in "We're for dogs."  Or you can take an abstract noun and write an essay about it (see example above).

And Creatives hate formulas.

But they don't have to be done in a formulaic way. Chipotle's last two Super Bowl ads were essentially manifestos, as was Honda's famous "Hate something, change something" epic.

We really should just be grateful that we're getting to make a brand ad for once.

The term 'brand ad' seems to have become a dirty word in marketing circles - they're viewed as fluffy and self-indulgent. I've even seen one marketer quoted as proudly saying he would "never" make a brand ad. This is despite the excellent work by Simon Sinek in describing how people "don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

And it's despite our understanding that you have to pay attention to every stage of the purchase funnel. (I always feel that brands who only do retail advertising, and no brand advertising, are failing to stoke desire for their product, and thus end up communicating to people "Hey, you know this product you don't want? It's really cheap!")

So manifesto ads should surely be welcomed not slated.

I think the key to making them interesting is in not just saying what you're for, but what you're against. That's where they get their energy. It's also the form's history. Take the manifesto of the Communist Party, for example. Those guys were livid. They were convinced that there's something wrong with capitalism, and they gave it a jolly good kicking. The same with the Futurists. They'd had it up to here with boring, traditional art. And that's what made their manifesto so exciting. If slightly loopy.

I reckon you can actually have a lot of fun with manifesto ads.

Confession time: I'm even enjoying the manifesto 'films' that we make for pitches nowadays.

11 comments:

Old CD Guy said...


My two cents worth:

If the exercise of having to define what the brand stands for (to brief the agency) helps a client clarify what their offer/proposition is, it's all for the good. As long as they really come up with something single-minded.

If the exercise comes up with a wishy-washy motherhood 'We want to be liked/Our product exists/Our product/brand makes life easy' manifesto, well, that's not a manifesto and should politely be resisted until you can make them understand that they have to have a genuine position.

Easier said than done, of course.

Trong said...

'after hour athletes' proves that manifesto ads can still make it to the very top of ad world

Scamp said...

True. Great example.

Anonymous said...

yep they can be good but a lot of moving 'design bridge' pdf's popping up lately.

Good for building a long lasting client relationship on, but an expensive way to do so. Unless you get the above mentioned example as an end product.

Not wonderful said...


These things work amazingly if you have something interesting and unique to say and you can back it up.

The pic you have used there for Myer is perfect example of how advertising doesn't match reality.

Myer can think they are as wonderful as the like, but actually, the product doesn't match the advertising.

So many brands with so little to say and so many ad agencies with an inability to find anything other than a good tagline..

Your mother said...

Since when has advertising ever matched reality?

Manifesto films said...


Win pitches because they're easy to create to a high finish - as long as they're of the mainstream nature: driving VO/taking head, nice pictures, uplifting track. Standard fare for a creative and AV guy. Work with the planner to get your angle or get your angle and then work with your planner to post rationalise. Job done, so much so there's a chance you'll be shooting it.

Gentle whisper in your left ear: Your ad won't be very good though.

Anonymous said...

Litany is one of my favourites.

The Myer thing makes me want to jump off a building.

Dougie Walters said...


95% of manifesto-style ads on-air should have never progressed beyond a hype reel. Hype reels are great for helping to explain to an organisation what they are actually in the business of doing (and makes them feel all touchy-feely in the way a "deck" can't), but that doesn't mean Joe Public will give a crap.

The problem with such ads is that without any genuine substance behind them (QANTAS anyone?) they don't tend to offer any real reason to choose, except for the fact that you're banking on the hope that people a) will swoon over your work emotionally, b) have a spare 60 seconds, and c) like music by the Temper Trap/generic anthemic song.

Rare exceptions of course, if and when you pick the right cultural current.

Putney Nope said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWIiEDWvaBE

Just gonna leave this one here ^

The worst example of it currently running on UK TV.

No wonder ad types hate them.

Xiaomeng said...

Hi Simon,

Thanks for creating Scampblog. I just started reading and have been going back to all your past posts too.

Actually, I found your blog while googling "Can Manifesto ads die." I'm one of those people who want to jump most days when I read that so-and-so brand has created another manifesto ad. You're right that they don't need to be formulaic, but so many are! Formula isn't even my biggest gripe. It's that so many of them come off as bad poetry (like the Myer's ad you posted), that I often find myself cringing for the speaker.

I know that manifesto ads have been around for ages. They probably used to just be referred to simply as ads. Probably no one called "Here's to the crazy ones," or Janet Champ's 90s print ads for Nike Women (Which incidentally was feminist poetry) manifestos -- they were just really good commercials and prints.

I've been wondering for a while why manifesto ads have been so popular in the last five years. I've only been working for 3.5 years, and my ad history isn't so good. Have brand ads always employed manifesto-esque/god-sounding voice overs/chicken soup for the soul style copy, and I just haven't noticed? My theory is that post-recession, people have needed more inspiration and reassurance expressed through a Jon Hamm sounding voice. Therefore the manifesto ad. It made sense for Chrysler, and Dodge Ram to be making those ads but not for things like orange juice and bread bowls.

I'm not sure if I'm right or wrong about this. Just wondering about your thoughts? Cheers!