Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.51 - Don't Write Ads, Write Strategies

This tip is for those of you taking your book around

It takes a long time to write an ad.

Even longer for a whole campaign.

Then if people don't like it, you may find you've lost an entire day's work (or more) in 30 seconds.

So my tip today is to not write any ads at all, until you have your strategy in place.

Back when Scowling A.D. and I were looking for a job, we used to type up strategies as one-liners, stick them on a page of A4 and send them out to teams for feedback. (This was so long ago, I think we actually used to fax them). Only if a strategy was liked by several teams that we respected would we then go on to turn it into an ad campaign.

Rachel and Debbie e-mailed me some strategies the other day. Very easy to do by e-mail. You could get 10 crits a day, instead of the 3 or 4 a week you can get by going around in person.

And now Wal has very helpfully posted The List, a collection of strategy one-liners from student books collated a few years ago by John & Chris of Fallon.

The system is definitely flawed, because some great ad campaigns of the past probably wouldn't come across at all well in this format, and some strategies that look great written out as 'one-liners' may be shit when done up into ads. Nevertheless, I think you'd gain more from it than you lose.

And why not try writing out your current book as a series of strategy lines? It's a useful exercise - seeing whether your underlying thoughts are interesting, and can be expressed in a single line - even if you don't send it to anyone.

I cringe at some of these now... but for the record, the strategies that Scowling A.D. and I had in our book when we got hired at DDB (in 1999) were:

Frazzles - Made by electrocuting pigs (this has since been done, by a team at AMV)
HMV - Nothing has a bigger effect on people than music
Comptons Bar (this is a bar on Old Compton Street in Soho) - The place for cock
Jet Petrol - Who cares what the shops are like or whether we sponsor a Formula 1 team, our petrol is very cheap
Nescafe - Ideal for those working late, like burglars and prostitutes
No.7 cosmetics - The seventh deadly sin is jealousy
Domino's Pizza - The outside world is a terrible place. So stay in
National Blood Service - London has lots of red paint, like on buses and post boxes, but is running out of blood

Previous Tips:

How To Choose Where To Work; Working Outside London; What Would John Webster Do?; What Would Paul & Nigel Do?; The Hidden Flaw; How To Write Copy; Be Funny All The Way Through; How To Do Virals; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Look At Weird Shit; Presenting To The Client; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Read Iain's Tips; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Be Very; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Should You Take A Bad Job?; Don't Overpolish


Anonymous said...

Strategies are shit. They are a time wasting exercise dreamed up by planners, research companies and clients to justify their jobs.
Common sense should give you your strategy though by far the best way to find a good strategy is to write endlines. You can't tell me the "Keep on WALKING" endline for Johhny WALKER came AFTER the strategy was dreamed up.
Good planners will re-write the strategy to fit good ads.

Anonymous said...

this is fun.

our book (which got us hired at bbh back in the mists of time, nine years ago):

Travelcard - Get Stalking (publishing celebs addresses)
Dateline - Marry them off (aimed at mums with old children still living at home)
Robinsons - Isn't water boring? (since done by hhcl)
Kinder Surprise - eat the egg not the toy
Pringles - For god's sake get your mates round (sad loner types doing obsessive things - since done by Axe in South Africa)
Vision Express - Kid's Eyes Need Watching (the serious campaign...)
The Milky Bar Kids Reunion
Ariel Colour - Be Seen (people meeting a gruesome end because their clothes weren't bright enough - a bit negative that one)
And Tampax - You're not pregnant. Party (the highlight of which was a bunch of pissed girls singing 'Bye Bye Baby, Baby Bye Bye' by the Bay City Rollers)

Have a nice day.
George and Johnny

Anonymous said...

Fucking Hell. Our work is far better than Scamp's was and we haven't even got a bloody placement yet. Outrageous.

PH said...

Maybe that's telling you something i.e. it's not as good as you think it is. Humility goes a long way. In fact, why not post some on here and see what people think?

Anonymous said...

had a good holiday scamp?

we think, someone who's giving lots of bookcrits should start putting together a new list with strategies, it would be great to compete with other young creatives to be on The List.

Anonymous said...

So if a creative can write a strategy, then why would we need planners? Any good creative should know strategy. The only reason to have planners at agencies is to back up the creative with research. It sometimes works the other way around, but rarely. Yet we all continue to follow this erroneous model.

Rachel said...

Oh I long for the day when i get presented with the research and stratergy and they say come up with some ideas....

Anonymous said...

You wait till you're on placement and you lose all the freedom of writing your own strategies/end lines!

PS how did you fluke into Campaign? I saw ya!

Rachel said...

lol we didn't fluke anything, it took alot of effort! lol only jokin, as they say its not what you know...

Anonymous said...

creative equals strategy. strategy is the idea. far too important to be left to the timid nigels of the world.

PS: keep on walking is the worst global campaign in the world. scotch inhibits walking. duh!

Anonymous said...

phew! thank fuck someone has finally proven that my job is useless.

Now I can get back to futurecasting, cultural anthropology, and finding new and innovative ways to ask people the same questions with my nerdy research buddies.

just one question.. how do you know it's the right strategy? But then I spose that doesn't matter - it gets in the way of traveling to the Caribbean to make your 'art'.

Anonymous said...

wish i was clever enoughh to be a planner.

Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as the right strategy. In the same way as there is no such thing as a good ad. Strategies, like ads, are subjective. For example I think Sony Balls is a shit ad. Other people say I'm "wrong" and it is a good ad. I say they're wrong. They repeat that I'm wrong. I say that they're wrong. This goes on until one of us "proves" we are right by smashing a fist into their stupid smug faces.

The trouble with abandoned strategies, like abandoned ads, is that no one will ever know if they would have been better strategies or ads than the ones that ran, because they never saw the light of day. They might have scored higher on the link tests, sales might have been improved more, parents might have been prouder, more awards might have been won etc etc. But no. Some jumped up CD or poncy Head of Planning dismissed them on a whim, in the absolute conviction that they are right about things when really, they are as ignorant as the rest of us. We may as well stick strategies on a wall and get a blind monkeyfish to throw darts at them. And ads.

Anonymous said...

*Starts new agency entitled Blind Monkeyfish*

Anonymous said...

This is probably the worst bit of advice you've given Scamp. Writing strategies and emailing them to creative directors is really lazy. Students and juniors need to work with different strategies to learn which are more workable - that way they'll learn. What you're advocating is akin to a Nanny State where students are dependant on creative directors approval to even pick up a pen and start writing

Anonymous said...

How does a CD know if a strategy is good? Only by working on them does anyone know if strategies lead anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Strategies from a planner's perspective is to solve a client's business problem.

ie. The shirts I sell are more expensive so lets tell people about our superior quality.

Therefore - Brand X is focused on quality.

It is up to the CD to assess whether this will make good ads or the strategy needs tweaking before allowing it to go to the team.

The CD might think that the original prop is dull to say quality. Cue ads with 'Simply the best' soundtrack.

Send the planner back to do a bit more digging, and he/she might come up with something like,

ie. Our shirts are not mass produced in China like our competitors.

Which is more fertile for a creative.

So basically, have a good planner that can come up with a creatively fertile strategy that solves a business problem.

Anonymous said...

As a creative team looking for our first job we always find that going into an agency with our portfolio is far better than just e-mailing in. For a number of reasons: firstly you know you'll get an immediate response/reaction and not have to wait for weeks after you've dropped your book in at reception, so this means you can talk about your ideas with the team and get a rough idea of whether it has legs or not, secondly you get to meet and see the people you hope to work for, you get to talk to them face to face and hopefully they start to "like" you and vice versa. You don't get that as much with e-mails, we think, as you can't tell someone's tone of voice easily by reading it. And thirdly, we think it shows more effort if you actually go in and meet them, instead of just hitting a few buttons, which is too easy - fair enough if you don't live in London - but if you do we think seeing them is better.

Anonymous said...

re anon 9.32.

A good CD knows from experience if a strategy is any good. If there is a great insight for a team to bite onto and great good ads from. And he should also know from experience that just accepting any old crap from a Planner will only end in either a blank layout pad or terrible ideas which only leads to arguments and stress with the account team as the deadline looms.

Anonymous said...

My old boss:

'If you're having trouble coming up with ads then there's something wrong with the brief.'

Anonymous said...

... or you should look for a job in IT.

Anonymous said...

If a CD of any experience rejected every brief without an interesting insight in them, no one would ever get briefed. I've only ever had one decent brief in 15 years. The thing is to listen to the brief, understand the problem, then brush the brief aside as you dream up your own strategy. Briefs do serve as good strategy springboards.

Anonymous said...

"Strategies are shit"

That's the funniest thing I've read all week.

Sell! Sell! said...

A strategy is only good if you can make good advertising off the back of it. Some strategies appear to be interesting, but they don't lead anywhere in terms of communication.
Also great advertising doesn't HAVE to have an original or insightful strategy - many companies in the same business have very similar strategies, but some execute it much better than others.
Also an innovative or more complicated strategy, or a strategy that is more of a leap often needs quite simple execution to work best.
Where does strategy end and the creative idea begin?
I think the best strategies, or the best creative ideas are often just great 'advertising ideas'.

Carb Free Creativity said...

Go in for crits, take scamps, take ideas, take loads of strategy lines.

I've taken little human truths/ ideas to teams and worked out a campaign from their input.

Do it all, don't rely on one way to get your work seen or done.

Email teams you've seen before with lines and then go see a new team at a different agency.

Writing end lines doesn't mean you've got a core thought for the campaign, you might get a poster or an one off.

Creative strategies should be an interesting way of looking at the product, such as Scamps or George and Johnny's.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I read these comments and it honestly feels that a significant minority of Creatives employed in our industry know totally eff-all about advertising.

And I don't mean they know too little. I mean they don't know, literally, anything about how advertising works.

I can only hope they are arrogant students masquerading as real creatives, because otherwise we are mostly doomed.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Well I know fuck all about advertising and I've been doing it successfully for years. The thing about advertising is no one can ever know how it works. It's subjective. And if they think they know how advertising works they clearly don't.
Frankly if you can bullshit in advertising you can go a long way. I'm anonymous because I don't want anyone to know I know fuck all about advertising. I want them to continue to labour under the misapprehension that I'm very clever. It's not how good you are that counts. It's how good people think you are.
Anyone who thinks that advertising is clever and important too proud to admit to themselves that their entire career depends nothing more than some people (a lot of them idiots) having a bit of a good guess.

Yours sincerely

Mr..... oooh I nearly let it out there.

Anonymous said...

is it you proxikid?

Anonymous said...

i'd be interested to hear what a client thought of these strategies, are there any clients reading this?

Ted said...

Domino Pizza isn't the same of Play Station famous film "Stay at home"?

Scamp said...

I don't know that PlayStation ad. But if it came out after 1999, they ripped us off. If it came out before 1999, we ripped them off.

Anonymous said...

To hold the initial strategy up as the holy grail is wrong. Unfortunately, many planners can only come up with a mediocre strategy, and don't create anything.

Strategies must be tweaked as the work is created. Otherwise, we are trying to forcefit ideas into a logic box just for the sake of process. However, humans are illogical creatures and communication does not always need to work A-B-C, in black and white, in order to connect (See Cadbury Gorilla.)

Any good creative can (and should be able to) naturally come up with a solid strategy. It's a basic foundation for a piece of communication.

The best use of planners is to validate work in the presentation room, to help sell it.

The idea should always be king, not the process.

Anonymous said...

"Keep walking" is not a strategy.
It's a headline. Maybe a good one, but just a headline.
That's why it was born as such.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.