Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.39 - Tell The Truth

I don't think much of McCann's.

But I do like their logo.

And 'Tell the truth' is great advice for young creatives. Now, let me be clear : this isn't for moral or ethical reasons. But purely because it will help you create better adverts.

1. It's more interesting. Telling the truth can often make an ad nicely raw, fresh or edgy - especially in staid categories.

2. It's more persuasive. Something that contains a genuine truth about the product, the world, or the target will always be more persuasive than flim-flam. And persuasiveness doesn't just make an ad effective, it's a quality that awards juries value too.

3. It's quicker. The list of true things about the product is much shorter than the list of all the possible things you COULD say. So you save time in your workings.

4. It's easier to sell. Ads based on a truth about the product automatically have 'relevance' and are therefore easier for the client to buy.

5. It gives you more creative licence. If your ad is based on a solid truth, then executionally you can stretch it way, way far - and it will still make sense. Example: Carling have been able to set recent ads in the Antarctic, or even in space, because they're grounded in a solid truth about mate-ship.

N.B. It is possible to be EXCESSIVELY truthful. For example, the real reason that men buy Porsches is that they believe the car will make them sexually appealing to women. But this is an uncomfortable (possibly even unconscious) truth, that would be embarrassing and counter-productive to reveal. I call it 'saying the unsayable'. If you find yourself saying the unsayable, you have gone too far.

Tip No.38 - Playing To Lose
Tip No.37 - How To Write Headlines
Tip No.36 - How To Do Direct
Tip No.35 - How To Do Radio
Tip No.34 - How To Do Press
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...

Very good post. And something we should always remember as we endure the onslaught of client comments, planner comments and crazy unqualified account man comments as we push our work forward, but what is more interesting is the time you put this post out at and that I'm the first one to comment at 7pm ish. Is that to catch all the crazy people in America first or the strange werdo's in the UK who should be in the pub or at home having great sex with their other halv'es?
No, thought not, must get back to the blow up doll!

Anonymous said...

This is a bit uncomfortable. Truth is never an easy subject. Book or reality. A product truth is not such a great strategy at times, or it's not a useful one.

Anonymous said...

agree. advertising's biggest problem is that people think it's full of shit. and they're right. so not being full of shit always works.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

I would also add 6:

The online world means it's now so much easier to find out when you or the brand is lying.

Telling the truth means less worry.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

On my first placement (at McCann actually) this was one of the first things impressed upon me.

An ad based in fact often has so much more impact. I'm working my book now, looking for that first job and I know that currently my best ad is based on a truth (the guncrime lollypop ad in case anyone has a look).

Anonymous said...

rob is right. the internet means the end of bullshit. bad news for those in the bullshit industry. like McCanns, ironically.

Lunar BBDO said...

Copyranter's 'Lies well-disguised' is ironically much more truthful than McCann's bullshit endline.

Anonymous said...

Kind of agreed with that until I got to the Carling example. Is it really a product truth that Carling is associated with 'mate-ship' more than any other lager? Isn't it more of an aspiration at best, or a planner's wet dream at worst?

In my book, a product truth is something more tangible - like Innocent being made of nothing but fruit, or Apple being a simpler, more user-friendly product than Microsoft.

The problem with the majority of products is that there is no distinctive truth to build on, so you have to dream up slightly spurious things like mate-ship. That can still make for a good ad, but it’s nothing to do with the truth.

Scamp said...

It's a truth about the target - nothing is more important to them than sticking together as a group of mates.

Yes, any brand could have latched onto this. But Carling did. So they get credit.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but that’s a great advertiser’s definition of the truth, isn’t it? Identify an external fact that is true (beer drinkers generally value their mates), then try to artifically attach your product to it, in a way that basically involves lying.

I like Carling's campaign and this isn't an argument against it. I'm just saying it's got nothing to do with truth-telling. Likewise, Heineken doesn't reach the parts other beers can't. Carlsberg probably isn't the best lager in the world. All lies, but brilliant ads.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Scamp. Do Chickens really cross roads to get to Audi's?


Anonymous said...

Of course, truth is important. Ethical and moral reasons don't hurt either - no need to flee from them. We are humans after all. We still have a soul.

But what gets me is when truth becomes shite philosophy. Lame dictatic copy that states the obvious.

"Precious thing, time"

(no shit)

"Isn't it great when good things never end?"

(actually, no, it's a Nietzschean nightmare)

Ads are full of them (and it).

What next?

"It's blue, the sky, and has clouds in"

"Oxygen. You breathe it in"


Scamp said...

Carling are not lying. They are stating a truth, and then saying "we agree with that". And if you share those values, you will no doubt feel some affinity with Carling.

Okay, so Heineken and Carlsberg ARE lying. I guess telling the truth isn't the ONLY way to come up with a great ad. But it's still a good tip, I feel.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

we can't even agree on what truth is, surely that's a sign that this is a no go area.

It's all a bit hip hop, this idea of being truthful. A bit like green marketing. We're in the age of guilt-ridden accountability and everyone is obsessed in doing the right thing. Hell there's even a quiz show rewarding truth. What's more, I find it all a bit protective, kinda nanny stateish.

Let the consumer decide on what he thinks is fact or fiction.

I'm going out on a limb here, but this is a fad and it will pass, probably around the time we remember brands need opinions first, truths second.

Unknown said...

it´s more on the copywriters side of things, as "stretching" things may be on the AD side, if we could say nowadays that we´re on one or the other.

i think it´s true that whoever "attaches" a truth to a product first gets credit. say it first.

as well as telling in original ways a product feature or doing the epic concept ad; these are strategies and we can´t get stiff with that. we gotta keep that hip movin´.

but what´s truth? how do you get to it?
truths about ourselves. and part of our work is discovering these things. we can´t ignore how wonderful they are.
a great excercise for young creatives: listening to people talk shit in bars, see people shop in supermarkets, what fruits do they squeeze the most? :)

discover truths about how they are. until their no longer targets. then see where you can "stretch" it.

and as creatives i think we should embrace this tactic, the world is a wonderful place, it´s stranger than fiction. and as a CW what better tactic to get close to someone, get to know them! discover their truths and build on that.

does all this make any sense to anyone? is this a good tactic in countries where people are "colder", less sociable?

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

MM: That was my point earlier though, we should let the consumer decide. But communication is so open now that if you tell a significant lie they will know, have told their friends, started a Facebook group, and stopped buying your brand before you even know they know.

Anonymous said...

successful ads rely on truths for the same reason jokes do. so we can all smile and relate and go "Ain't that the truth!".

the most spectacularly successful campaigns all have a human truth at their core.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, where is "truth" in Levis "Original"? Or JW "Keep walking"? It depends: sometimes "truth" is a tool sometimes your freaky dreams:) there are no rules.

Scamp said...

Levi's are the "original" jeans. That is true. And people who are "original/unconventional/a bit different" make the forces of conformity (e.g. cops, cheerleaders, dads) feel uncomfortable. That is true.

Different JW ads have picked up on different truths relating to personal progress. For example, the Harvey Keitel ad explored the truth that a key part of success is being able to face down your fears (represented in the ad as lions etc).

Of course there are no rules. Only tools. And the truth is a powerful one.

Cleaver said...

Truth's all right.

Plausibility is better.