Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is Paul Feldwick God?

It seems possible. First of all, he does have a beard. That’s a good start.

But more pertinently, there’s the god-like levels of insight.

This presentation of his totally rocked my socks.

Read the whole thing immediately, if not sooner.

Only if you have an urgent meeting in 3 minutes’ time should you read this paltry summary:

Feldwick’s basic thesis: “Ads must aim for the heart, not the head.”

Yes, we all know that. But Feldwick’s point is that we don’t act on it.

“We know brand preferences usually aren’t rational,” he says, “and yet we still persist in trying to put rational messages into our advertising.”

What’s the rational message in successful brand-building campaigns like the PG Tips monkeys, or ‘Whassup’? There isn’t one.

Let’s face it, even when there is information about the product, that information is not the sell.

For example, in the Rowan Atkinson Barclaycard ads, there was always product information. In the ‘Rug’ execution (“Aah. Smell those Tuareg campfires. Unmistakeable”) there was a rational product message about Barclaycard’s free insurance with purchase; but the ‘real sell’ is the “associations with a fashionable comedian, to sophisticated entertainment, to a contemporary style of humour and to the good feelings that you have when you watch that commercial. One result of that was a significant growth in numbers of younger cardholders for example.”

The lovely thing about Feldwick’s point-of-view is that he leads us straight back to Bill Bernbach – that the success of an advertisement is dependent on creativity, emotion and execution; not logic, strategy and message.

“Suppose”, Bill Bernbach wrote, "Winston Churchill had said 'we owe a lot to the RAF' instead of 'never was so much owed by so many so few', do you think the impact would have been the same?"

Feldwick locates success in “the visual, visceral power of the entire advertisement; its colour, movement, music, timing and every detail.”

I just have one ‘build’ to Feldwick’s approach. I wonder whether the product information – as well as giving the creative team a useful starter – might be necessary as a ‘justifier’? Just like you can’t eat two spoonfuls of honey without a slice of wholemeal toast underneath to justify it, maybe the Barclaycard consumer needs the rational ‘purchase insurance’ message to feel that the rug-based entertainment is justified. I don’t know.

Anyway, Planners needn’t fret. We’ll still need a brief. But it should talk about the desired associations, rather than any information to be communicated. For example, the brief for ‘Whassup’ might have read “Associate Budweiser with feelings of sociability.”

But no more briefs about hops and barley and shit. For real.


Anonymous said...

With the danger of dragging this down to the level of a planners blog...

Scamp, your last point is pretty much spot on..... although people will buy a product based purely on their positive emotional associations with it, they justify their purchase by post rationalising to themselves using a rational product benefit.

Being rational makes us 'feel' good. Hence the post-rationalisation we often for through after a decision (e.g. "i deserve it... it's got a lot of boot space for a 50K sports car...."). This means that consumers do need a rational hook to hang their decisions on - even if they're buying the brands they like the most.

Anonymous said...

and wassups a red herring, its not a campaign, just a happy accident. it didnt do the brand any long term good as it didnt sell the beer. hence fallons dodgy product point billboards.

Stuart Parkinson said...

I don't think anyone who's any good has forgotten this, I just think it's something that's very hard to justify to the majority of clients.

I haven't worked on PG Tips, but I'm willing to be that a client that goes with an agency like mother fundamentally understands Paul's (and many other people's) point, that it's heart and not head. And so, you get the creative licence to re-use a woollen monkey, and it works. Ace.

But this was a client who has been advertising since year dot. Using chimps to sell tea at a price premium - there's evidence that this kind of thing works is there for them, so it's not a hard thing to sell into the board.

Try convincing a multinational brand director that they need to ditch the rational.

Try pitching to a P&G brand team with the words 'have faith, go for the heart' instead of a multi-faceted, interactive brand onion.

I think it was on here that someone said 'all agencies are the same, it just depends on the client', and I more or less, buy it. We're all capable of writing some awesome strategies and some mindblowing scripts or online ideas, but the moment they get eroded by a lack of faith and confidence is the moment they die.

Lots of people are talking about this like it's the 'next big thing'. Which is awful. What's worse, is that we're going to keep dancing around the same issues unless we happen to be working at an agency which has historically attracted clients with balls.

Sell! Sell! said...

It's funny to that it takes a man with a beard to give credibility to the bleeding obvious.

Seriously though, I think there needs to be a good thought about the product at the heart of great advertising, but the 'how it's done' bit is what separates the great from the good.
I'm with Fenton, surely all good creatives know this.

But it don't take a man with a beard to make me feel okay about doing it.

Anonymous said...

John Webster's entire career was built on doing this. I mean Hofmeister? Cresta? Humphries?

So it's not a new idea, but I love the way clients ignore that most of the best advertising of the last few years has very little head but a ton of heart.

And I often use Andy McLeod's quote (slightly tangential): 'the clients who buy the big, different, ground breaking ads arean't the brave ones. It's the ones who buy the wallpaper but expect people to give a shit - they're really brave.'

Anonymous said...

i agree with fenton and sell sell, im constantly amazed and dismayed at how some planners are reverred like this. his argument is long-winded and obvious. he's not a god. give me a decent creative with a strategic mind any day.

jpandtem@googlemail.com said...

you know what the best thing is though, don't you?
that employed advertisers think this is some kind of awakening, but as soon as they see juniors with heart-directed work in their book, it's seen as confusing and 'without a clear message'. i don't particularly think i'm speaking from experience here but surely you must understand how boring it must be for them to hear teams always saying things like; "well, 'gorilla' was fantastic, but you could never put that in your book".
i know, i know, you're all too busy to be entertained or intrigued by anything that doesn't have a strapline if it's inside a portfolio, so i'll just pop home and make this a little bit more boring for you.

Anonymous said...

You could never put Gorilla in your book because it's all in the execution. You could probably put 'a glass and a half of joy' in there, though, if you did it well enough.

Anonymous said...

Ahem... boy are you in trouble now.

Anonymous said...

I echo fenton benton's argument.

It takes 2 to tango (15 to do a conga if we include the planners, suits, CDs, ECD, marketing director, asst marketing director, marketing manager, irritating guy who has an opinion all the time).

But more often than not the clients go for the 'safe' option, to protect their jobs and fall in line with the mysterious guy at the top.

The suits then go for the 'safe' option, to protect their jobs and fall in line with the mysterious guy at the top.

The ECD then go for the 'safe' option, to protect their job and fall in line with the mysterious guy at the top.

Then I realised, fuck it. can't be bothered.

Bentos said...

Yeah, but..

..surely there's a danger of going down the 'gag with a tag' route. Like that 4 On-Demand ad with the guys on the bus. I remember laughing when I first saw it but then realised that though the content, the conversation the two passengers have, is about 4OD, really it could be an ad for anything with a 4OD logo at the end.

And it would be a mistake to confuse 'how it's done' with 'craftsmanship' too. Compare and contrast Jonas Odells pretty but meaningless films for BMW with Barry Scott shouting at us about Cillet BANG!! I know which I think is the better advert.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean, you need a slice of bread to justify eating two spoonfuls of honey? Am I the only person who eats it out of the jar?

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Faris posted this a while ago, its great stuff that really deserves proper thinking.

Stuart Parkinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stuart Parkinson said...

What I said about clients has also had a big influence on the majority of agencies today.

Having grown organically WITH the type of clients I'm talking about, agencies are now the perfect vehicles for manufacturing the kind of crap we're all so against making. There's a huge amount of process, we're slaved to briefing templates and the creative/planning division is usually huge.

For the agencies that don't have the heritage of attracting clients who'll 'take risks', the only option is dancing around a brand onion with a client who (rightly said by someone earlier) either doesn't have enough autonomy to make a decision based on faith, is scared of losing their job or just looking not to cock things up so they can do 2 years and then move on.

You also can't forget the fact that in a lot of cases, the people who are your clients, think they can, and possibly COULD do our jobs as well as us - it's just there aren't enough agency jobs to go round. The labour market's is as fucked as the agency/client dynamic.

I forgot to post this in my first comment, but Rob is right - Faris' post is here (with my equally posed rants in the comments):


Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

What was genius about John Webster was that he could take that huge piece of long winded but intelligent writing, and distill from it a charming 30second ad that still sold the product values that the client wanted.

Anonymous said...

In never realised Churchill was talking about the RAF there. I thought he was talking about the forces in general.


Anonymous said...

anon 10.35,

Wassup was a campaign. Not a traditional campaign perhaps, but so what.

i worked on it. to dismiss it as merely a "happy accident" might make you feel better but the truth is we knew what we were doing. we recognized the power of Charles Stone's short film and saw how perfect it was for the brand. we knew it would be a hit.

And it did work. It reversed a years-long decline for the brand in the US market and god only knows how much beer it sold worldwide.

i read mr. feldwick's piece. he's dead right. there was no actual brief for Budweiser at the time other than to create the most popular advertising in the USA.

Scamp said...

As you say, Vinny, it was successful and popular.

It was also "right". In Feldwick's terms, it created "the right associations."

As you put it, you saw that Charles Stone's short film would be "perfect for the brand."

Sociability is a perfect message for a beer, and has always been a cornerstone of Bud. In the UK, Carling are now successfully banging the same drum.

I would just love to see briefs about "the associations we want to create" not "the information we want to communicate".

Anonymous said...

Is it significant that the headline Raymond Snoddy wrote - the one that this thesis is based on, "Ads must aim for the heart, not the head" - actually doesn't say that at all?

Anonymous said...

or no brief, judging by what the Bud guy is saying - at least when the brand is a familiar one.

Maybe even when it isn't - could be interesting. But dream on.

Guinness 'Surfing' - voted the best ad ever on Channel 4 - is still not Diageo's favourite Guinness ad. Why? Because for some reason it didn't tick all their internal brand onion boxes. that accolade goes to some forgettable ad, which I've forgotten.

Anonymous said...

They prefer Swimblack. Not sure if that's down to the onion or not.

they might just lack taste.

Anonymous said...

they prefer swimblack because everyone's really happy at the end.

Anonymous said...

Everyone's happy at the end of every Guinness ad.

I'm not sure this is a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

I hope you pronounce 'for real' properly:


faris said...


lazbash said...

Hi Scamp,
I work for a small clothing company called Plain Lazy and I was wondering if you knew the legal rules etc for spoofing? It strickes me that Plain Lazy would be the perfect company to spoof all sorts of ads, at least my heart says so, my head says we'll get sued and we can't do it. Tne most recent example is some new toiletries we've made and 'the lazy effect' came to mind? How did tango get away with it in their Sony Balls spoof? Any insight would be most appreciated.

Scamp said...

Hi Larry. Plenty of spoofing does seem to go on, but I'm afraid I don't know what the exact rules are.