Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday Tip No.34 - How To Write Press Ads

See Tip No.31 - How To Do Posters.

That's right. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a press ad.

What there is, is an utter myth - and I wish I knew who invented it, because I would send round my man to administer a sharp slap around their chops - that there's a special type of ad that consumers are 'willing to spend a bit more time with', 'can legitimately require some working out', or 'does not have to be instant.'

Horse shit.

Press ads have to fight harder for attention, in my view, than any other medium you could name. Let's take radio. The consumer will inevitably listen to your ad - it is too hard to reach out and switch the thing off while you are ironing. Take cinema. The consumer is in a darkened room, staring at nothing except your ad, on a giant screen.

But press? Your ad is competing directly against Britain's wittiest columnists. Against news stories about wars, financial collapses, rapists and amnesiac canoeists. Against a paparazzi picture of Lindsay Lohan falling out of a taxi.

Unless you can place your ad on Lindsay Lohan's knickers, how are you going to get it looked at?

The answer is you have to make it simple, with a never-seen-before visual and fresh design.

Don't write headlines until you've miserably failed to come up with a purely visual solution.

And whatever you do, don't write copy. This isn't 1959, when a chap would sit in his armchair, puffing on his favourite pipe, and have a good old mull over some finely-crafted advertising copy.

A press ad should be a poster on the page. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tip No.33 - How To Do TV
Tip No.32 - How To Do Digital
Tip No.31 - How To Do Posters
Tip No.30 - Look At Weird Shit
Tip No.29 - Presenting To The Client
Tip No.28 - Presenting To The Team
Tip No.27 - Presenting To The Creative Director
Tip No.26 - How To Deal With Rejection
Tip No.25 - Look Creative
Tip No.24 - Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Tip No.23 - Your Idea Has To Be 120%
Tip No.22 - Read Iain's Tips
Tip No.21 - Don't Behave
Tip No.20 - How To Discuss Ideas
Tip No.19 - Read Hugh's Tips
Tip No.18 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job
Tip No.17 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7)
Tip No.16 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together
Tip No. 15 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ
Tip No. 14 - Make Friends With Traffic
Tip No. 13 - Get Reference
Tip No. 12 - Don't Stop Too Soon
Tip No.11 - Be Very
Tip No.10 - Breaking Up
Tip No.9 - Working Well With Your Partner
Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner
Tip No.7 - How To Approach Agencies
Tip No.6 - Never-Seen-Before Footage
Tip No.5 - Dicketts' Finger
Tip No.4 - Two Blokes In The Pub
Tip No.3 - Play Family Fortunes
Tip No.2 - Should You Take A Bad Job?
Tip No.1 - Don't Overpolish


Anonymous said...

scamp is right. press=posters. long copy is long dead (if it ever was alive). punch 'em in the eye.

Anonymous said...

Funny, you could argue almost the opposite. That true press ads are the ones that are actually winning these days in the outdoor and poster categories. Outdoor awards should be reserved for those ideas that can truly only be accomplished in that medium (Economist Lightbulb, Time Pendulum, McDonald's Sun Dial), not just oversized press ads.

Anonymous said...

Press ads? Posters? who gives a fuck really, only people who work in the Industry, just stick a picture of the product on a page, thats enough, NO ONE CARES A FUCK about how beautifully art directed or written it is. Thats why after ten years at a top five agency I'm out of here Bye and have fun, and don't waste your time and energy on below the line.

MOP's only care about the TV/moving stuff, hence the top ten ads of the year wont feature a page in the sun they saw back in fucking April.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the kind of dogmatic approach I'd expect from someone at BBH, Scamp. While I'd say you're right a high proportion of the time, I'd say it's horses for courses.

Anonymous said...

Trouble is, writing is hard work. Much harder than coming up with a visual/design led solution. And it's no surprise that D&AD is full of the same old stuff. Visual puns with a rather straight line in 10 point type next to the logo in the bottom right hand corner. Creatives today follow the pack, they look at what got their CD into the book and do the same - so much for originality. We should embrace words and visuals in equal measure and while I agree, the long copy Albany Life ads from yesteryear are not what's needed today don't confuse that with the death of writing. Sure the Economist is an easy example to pick out but why not? That's brilliant writing. Young creatives out there - we're bombarded with millions of examples of design and visual stimuli on a daily basis and to break through we have to be brave enough to be different - and maybe that amounts to a few well chosen words

Anonymous said...

Don't be so stupid Scamp - Lindsay Lohan doesn't wear knickers.

]-[appy Thought said...

Considering you're telling us not to use copy in press ads, I find the title of this post ironic, but its content seems true enough.

I know this isn't exactly linked, but I thought I'd write it anyway, that one of the best ways to advertise in press is to get your product written about by the people the viewer paid to read in the first place. A good stunt, cryptic bit of PA etc can go a long way for a bit of insidious promotion. As they say, no press is bad press.

Anonymous said...

To tell people not to write copy is utterly ridiculous, small minded, patronising to the general public and naive, considering you're creative directing work.

If Paul Silburn, Sean Doyle or Nigel Roberts presented copy ads to you, would you dismiss them immediately? Somehow I doubt it.

Scamp said...

Well, I say it's naive to think the public have got time to read copy, or that a long headline will magnetize their eyeballs.

Of course, maybe a brilliant headline from Sean Doyle would work a treat.

But as a general rule, I happen to think visual solutions work better than copy-led solutions. Sorry if that makes you cross...

Cleaver said...

Absolutely agree that your real competition isn’t other ads, it’s the editorial content.

But does it not then follow that, if your copy is as interesting as that editorial content, it’ll get read?

I realise that sets an absurdly high bar, but it’s not impossible. For example, I reckon the Indra Sinha ad you posted a few weeks back clears it.

Anonymous said...

I thought there were no rules in advertising.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, I know what you're saying - we're living in a visual world. But I honestly believe that the best posters and print ads are a relentless combination of great visuals, brilliant and appropriate design - and yes - incisive writing. The final result may not have all three of those elements. But to sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper and dismiss writing before you even start is just, well, wrong.

Nick Asbury said...

This isn’t about visual-led or copy-led solutions. It’s just about what works. After all, if everyone went ahead and did purely visual ads, wouldn’t you immediately advise your clients to go for long copy? The old ‘when everybody zigs, zag’ principle?

The fact is that the written word is a brilliant invention for conveying complex ideas in a few squiggles. Which makes it an incredibly handy tool for advertisers. (Newspapers understand this – that’s why the tabloids use great big headlines on their front pages.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should set out to use as many words as possible, but nor should you deliberately try to avoid them. It’s as absurd as deliberately setting out to avoid illustration or using the colour purple – it just removes a useful tool from your armoury for no good reason.

And to say press ads are the same as posters... well, posters aren’t even the same as each other. It might be opposite a crowded bus stop, or on a road where the average speed is 50mph. Likewise with press ads. A long copy ad in the Daily Star might be a waste of time (although it could be fun). But if you’re stuck on a train with a copy of London Lite for half an hour, it could be a godsend. As long as it’s well written, nicely designed, relevant and entertaining. But that’s our job, isn’t it?

Anonymous said...


Martin said...

One the one hand, they don't have time to read copy. On the other hand, your press ad is competing with columnists, articles, news etc., which are still principally communicated via copy.

Is what you are saying that we can't compete with the vastly superior copy that fills newspapers, so don't even bother, and pretend to the client that it's to do with a demographic shift and that people are "time-poor" nowadays?

That's a bit depressing.

Anonymous said...

This whole debate reminds me of the famous Howard Gossage quote: "People read what interests them, sometimes it's an ad."

Scamp said...

martin, it's not that journalists are better writers than ad men are.

it's just that ordinary people are a lot more interested in reading about murders and celebrities' love lives than they are interested in potato waffles or new types of washing powder.

that's why the competition is so tough

Anonymous said...

Between this and "How to Present to Clients," it paints a pretty lazy and uninspiring picture of what goes on during a day. A bunch of creatives sitting around, waiting for the account handlers to return from the client with news, all while refusing to attempt to write an ad because they can't compete with the excitement of an article about council tax.

Scamp said...

Oh but you're so wrong! If we stay in the office, it's so we can do MORE WORK, while the account handlers are nattering in the back of a cab/ getting pissed on the train. Or playing with their blackberries.

And as for 'waiting for news' - we got 5 other briefs on, mate! Making you think that yours is all we are working on is just a little bit of politeness, which I didn't realise you'd fall for.

Anonymous said...

i like recent barnardos press campaign. beautifully written, beautifully art directed. saw a dps of it in the metro and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

Anonymous said...

scamp is right. words are a pain in the arse.

it's a print ad. newspapers are a fast read and magazines are bought for the editorial. so posterizing print ads makes complete sense. the word-less visual ad being the ideal. but if you have to put words in, you have to. i guess.

Anonymous said...

Keep it visual.

Anonymous said...

Seen the Wispa long copy ad Scamp?
Do you want me to help wipe the egg from your face when it gets recognition next year? (And wouldn't it be ironic if that egg had been laid by your chicken crossing the road)

Scamp said...

I have seen the Wispa ad but I haven't read it and I doubt anyone else has either.

Anonymous said...

"Long copy is long dead"

"Words are a pain in the arse"

What lazy uninspiring people you are

Anonymous said...

not lazy. just dealing with the reality of the medium. people read ads, if they read them at all, for information. how much? where can i get it? etc.

the role of the medium has changed and the way it's consumed has changed. so the ads have to change too.

people doni' want to read ads for the same reason people don't like talking to salespeople. makes sense.

J said...

I do agree that people are less willing to read ads but you know what, I think it is creatives who are less willing (able?) to write interesting press ads anymore.

Everybody talks about how the internet is going to kill the tv star when in reality it's far from happening.TV commercials benefit the most from the internet.

Print is the one in danger.
There's a disregard for print in agencies that is just disappointing. And for press in particular.

Take fallon's or wieden's. Brilliant TV work but 99.9% of their print work (entirely visual, btw) is not that great. Some are just stills from the telly ads.

How can you explain that the same brief that originated "Music like no other" ended up looking like a re-run of a Yamaha Instruments poster campaign from the 80s?

Now, take CP+B's work for mini.
They did good work for every media including brilliant long copy press ads (Let's motor).
And they went as far as writing 20 page booklets.

Many would argue that we can't do that in England.

You may be right.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Anonymous said...

agree with j. the thing about CPB is that as much as anything they are exploiters of media as opposed to just being traditional craftsmen.

the mini work being a great example. their booklets actually got read. but they wouldn't had they at all resembled ad inserts. they were good content that happened to be in print form. as opposed to achingly "clever" print ads/posters that tends to fill UK creative awards lately.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, why don't you just post us a nice pic on your blog instead of all these irritating words?

Scamp said...

Oh, I still like words, don't get me wrong. Love 'em. I mean, I read lots of blogs. And newspapers. Even books. I don't read many press ads though. Do you?

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous above. Sorry, it was just a cheap dig I couldn't resist. As for reading press ads, yes I do. But I'm a copywriter so it's not a straight answer really, and I'm afraid I'll have to sit on the fence on this one. I've enjoyed your theory and the correspondence it's created, though. Richard

Anonymous said...

Sorry Scamp, I don't know who you are and you might be a bigshot in the industry with lots of awards, but you have no freaking idea how ads really work!
Just asking, if you were to buy a nice home theater, what would look for? A half page space in an ad with a clever visual idea and a smart one-liner or solid info on the product, said in a way which you find beneficial?

Scamp said...

I'd get my solid product info from the internet, not a press ad. Which brands would I research on the internet? The ones I like. And maybe a cool idea expressed with an interesting visual in a press ad could make me like a brand. Too easy!