Posts Tagged ‘great ads’

Content Comix #7

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Content Comix #6

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Content Comix #5

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Content Comix #4

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Don’t Eff-up Your Content Strategy: #4 Know Your Audience

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


You know that old chestnut about selling ice to Eskimos? Well, if you know they prefer cubes and all they have are blocks, you may get a sale.


It’s all about knowing your audience—both who they are as well as what are their needs and motivations.


Because you’re not selling to everyone. More specifically, you’re not telling everyone the same story.

Technology is a great example: When a company is going to spend millions—or tens of millions—on technology, there are going to be a few direct stakeholders and dozens of other influencers. And each one has a different agenda.


  • Users need to know how it’ll make their jobs easier
  • Managers (LOB) need to know how it solves a business problem
  • Senior managers or executives need to know that its cost will be amortized by efficiencies, or better, by revenues and profit
  • IT needs to know that it will seamlessly integrate with existing systems
  • Developers need to know that it’s stable and manageable
  • Procurement needs to know that it’s features and pricing are competitive

How’re you gonna solve all that with a single headline?

You’re not.

What you need to do is identify and segregate your target audience/s.


Who are your most influential customers? They aren’t always the decision maker or check writer. Sometimes they are behind the buying decision. Your primary audience are the ones who gather info and insist on purchase.


Sometimes the ones who surround a buying decision are as important as your primary audience because their opinion weighs heavily. They can be strong advocates. Secondary audiences can also include outside forces like senior executives, general and industry media, analysts, bloggers and the public.

These can be the kids who want Mom to buy Lucky Charms—Mom’s the buyer, but kids are the target. The non-shopping spouse who wants something. A department that needs new … whatever.

Or the CEO who really doesn’t understand technology but thinks those ads were really cool.


You have to learn about your audiences. You need to do research.

What is their relationship with your general business category, with you, your product or service, with the competition. You need to know.

You need to know what they think and feel. What they demand and tolerate. What they expect and how they’re willing to compromise.

If you’re selling food, you need to know how it’s purchased, prepared and eaten. If you’re selling toys, you need to know who wants them and who buys them. If you’re selling vast enterprise computer systems, you need to know as much detail as possible about their company, their current solutions, their needs and their demands.

Of course it’s different for a $1 impulse item or a multi-million dollar whatever.

But it’s all about the target. You have to know them.

An excellent example is the research Goodby, Silverstein & Partners did for the California Milk Advisory Board. They learned that buyers didn’t need to know about calcium or freshness or vitimin D. All they cared about was having some milk in the ‘fridge when they want it.

Get it: got milk?



Here’s a model I started using a very long time ago to help clients visualize the manifold nature of communications.

You can see how every purchase starts with need, migrates through awareness and understanding, then advocacy, acquiescence, then purchase.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re selling $1 gum or $5 million tiered storage. The only difference is the level or decision-making and the time it takes to make it.


Before you sell anything—before you communicate anything about your product or service—you need to know who you’re talking to, what their needs are. Then based on that, craft a content strategy that positions you relative to the needs or expectations of your audience.


#5: Know what you need to say.

Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy: #10

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

#10: Great copy can break the rules.

Of course, what I mean is that if your work works … then who cares how you did it.

You do have to observe cultural norms and manners—that’s part of communicating effectively. I could do the coolest ad in some arcane code or Martian glyphs, but who’d get it?

Juvenile, sexual, shocking, disgusting and offensive ideas certainly break through, but do they support a value proposition? History proves not.

That’s the art and craft of what we do. Content needs to break through. And the best way is to leverage or play with cultural norms. Tweak our understanding of what’s what. Make us think a little differently.

Rather than pontificating about it all, here are examples that I’ve collected:

This one just surfaced yesterday [08/05/14]. Not so much about breaking rules, but about breaking the wall between advertising and spectacle. Watch here. For TNT by Duval Guillaume, Netherlands.


No headline necessary, it’s the best possible demonstration of their product. Nobody busted the glass and apparently 3M got lots of press. I couldn’t find the agency, so if you know, please leave a comment.


I think this pretty much captures the imagination of the AXE customer. By Lowe Mena, Dubai, UAE.


They don’t have to say “don’t drink and drive.” You think it yourself. For the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) by Publicis Johannesburg.


Normally I find sex-first ads sort of unimaginative in a lowest-common-denominator kind of way. But this ad shocked the living daylights out of the 90’s. It was called vulgar (that’s up to you) and child pornography (the model was not a child). But it did its job, got Calvin Klein a lot of attention and apparently sold a lot of underwear. By Calvin Klein in-house.


Any questions about the product? By Leo Burnett Belgium


So much more is implied than explained. We fill in the blanks. By local heroes Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.


I’m guessing this is exactly what the Wonderbra customer expects. By Publicis Conseil, France


I don’t like ads that use violent or hateful imagery, even if their message is noble. The World Wildlife Fund often uses shocking or revolting imagery. But in this case they make their point using subtlety and even sad humor. I couldn’t find the agency that did these. If you know, please leave a comment.


And of course there, this gem for Reebok which was actually banned in the U.S. Watch it here. By Goldberg Moser O’Neill.

And setting the bar impossibly high …

I’ve showcased some of these ads before, but they’re the ones I like creatively and were successful:

This program violated every rule of polite recruiting: overt poaching, acknowledging that Cisco was popular and hot, inviting people to solicit jobs from friends. It was the first program of it’s kind of drive traffic to a web page. And it was fabulously successful. People in companies throughout the country had the full-page print ad [We know where your friends are!] pinned to their cubes, because it was true. Their friends were all flocking to Cisco. It scared the heck out of recruiters from Cupertino to RTP. For TMP Worldwide, art directed and designed by Russell Miyaki, shot by David Papas.

This is from a series of ads for O’Connor Recovery Center. Of course, the rule of such institutional—and delicate—advertising is don’t point out the problem, just the solution. That’s why there’s so much depressing “light at the end of the tunnel” stuff. But we felt this was more honest. It was super-cheap to produce and helped book their alcohol, cocaine and prescription recovery programs for months.

I’ve shown this one before. Rather than the usual threats or scare tactics, we just remind women that they need a breast exam, so why not get one free. We thought a little charm would be much more convincing than some awful statistics or whatever.

Finally, for Cambridge Technology Partners, rather than pleading with people to check out jobs, we challenged them. Maybe you’re not good enough to work here, we implied, but why not find out. It peeled candidates out of their corner offices and plum technology positions to apply for jobs. For TMP Worldwide, art-directed and designed by Russell MiyakiScott Kim created all the puzzles.

So the point of all this, of this whole 10 rules thing is that marketing communications—advertising, blogging, posting, tweeting, pinning and every other new channel that arises—is about people.

It’s not about copy points or client strategy. It’s about getting through meaningfully.

My 10 rules are not rules at all. They’re reminders about communicating. Keeping things fresh and alive and focused.

And anyone, including myself, who tells you there are rules to follow or a way to do things is full of it. Ignore them. Ignore convention. Ignore the style guide.

Nobody cares what you have to say. Yet you as the communicator need them to hear you. You must remind them of an itch and tell them how to scratch it.

Messages that say “Do this” or “Do that” or “We have this or that” or “Compare our this to their that” is not advertising at all. It’s just posting information in a commercial setting.

Great copy does much more than that. It tells something important to someone. It makes them want to know more or take action. Sometimes without even asking.

An invitation is much more compelling than a command. It makes you want to take action.

And that, I believe, is what great copy should do.

Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy: #9

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

#9: Great copy leaves the reader understanding

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of course the reader should understand.” My challenge is this: understand what? Because they should understand more than your tactical message. Buy this. Do that. Not good enough.

They should understand you—and why doing business with you is better.

Buyers purchase cachet not just product. They buy a brand.

Why buy an iPhone when Samsung is so similar? Because it’s cool! When I buy that iPhone I’m buying a little piece of the Apple legacy, of Steve Jobs. Damn … I want all that and I’m willing to pay a premium.

In my last post, I moaned about losing a bunch of ad samples.

Well I found a couple that make this point perfectly.

The first is by Oceanworks, a Berkeley mechanic. It was a small-space ad that ran more than 20 years ago in the East Bay Express. I’ve been inspired by it ever since.

It doesn’t say anything about rates or factory authorization. No coupons or specials. Just a sweet, simple message that conveys an idea bigger than the words.

I talked to these guys after I first saw the ad. And while the shop got booked for weeks in advance, I heard how everyone started telling them car stories. How their car speaks to them, too. And how they felt like these guys must be trustworthy based on a car’s gentle review.

Right? People took it seriously. I’m sure not literally. But what they came to understand is that this is a mechanic who cares, and that their car will notice the difference.

The next is from a campaign by Chiat/Day San Francisco for UC Berkely, by art director Mike Moser and copywriter Brian O’Neill (who went on to create Goldberg Moser O’Neill). It’s one of a series they did for alumni magazines and related media.

This may be a perfect ad. The headline is arresting, but honest, not hyperbole. We learn the science building at Cal is full of scientists who are mad at the conditions they work in. Call to action: contribute now and stop the madness.

Ad poetry.

Better still, it’s not just a whiny, institutional call for donations. It’s cheeky and wry. Helps the reader understand there are people who need my support, not just a stalwart school that wants my money.

Here are a couple of my own campaigns.

I discovered that sushi lovers all have their favorites, so this campaign focuses on that sublime pleasure. The reader understands that it’s more than just sushi—it’s the peak experience of enjoying what they love.

 The wonderful illustrations were done by Steve Lang, before he became an award-winning fine artist.


This campaign for St. James Hospital and Health Centers in Chicago was meant to remind women to get a breast exam and to remind their partners to remind them about it.

Sorry in advance for the crappy scans that follow.

This was for women’s magazines throughout Chicagoland.

This was for men’s magazines.

We could have just said, “Make your free appointment today.”

Instead, readers understand there’s more at stake than a long afternoon in the clinic. It was a bold departure because it didn’t pose a threat, but rather presented an opportunity.

It’s worth mentioning that these were presented to  a panel of nuns.


Lastly, a campaign for Oracle recruiting. I’m a little mixed about this one. After seven years working there, it’s a little hard to look at these without being cynical.

The Oracle workplace has always had a bad reputation. Oracle eats its young. Only the strong survive. Getting noticed equals getting fired. Etc. We turned those things into a positive and helped Oracle far exceed their university and professional hiring goals, even in the midst of an employment boom.

Because we helped readers understand there’s a method to the madness. That there’s something to do that’s so important, so vital that it’s worth the grind.

Semi-truth well told, I guess. These were done for TMP Worldwide, art directed by Gary Buck.

In all these cases, the net take of the ads is greater than the concept or the words on the page. They communicate implicitly that there’s something bigger, more important, more urgent than a product or offer.

Which is exactly what I think great copy should do.

Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy: #2

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

#2: Great copy is relevant and unexpected.

Mike Koelker was CD at FCB during a creative peak in the 80’s. He championed campaigns like The California Raisins and Levi’s 501 Blues. Sadly, he passed in 1995.

He said great advertising is “relevant and unexpected.” I believed it then and still do. It’s my mantra. A recipe for advertising alchemy.

So, props in order, here’s my point:

When people are exposed to advertising that’s pointless, self-serving or hackneyed they ignore it. You have to demand, compel, seduce and amuse the world into noticing you.

Great copy is relevant.

Most copy isn’t.

Here are a few of the worst offenders:

  • Borrowed interest: Skiing sure is great and so are Floovidor hard drives.
  • The contrived definition: Floovidor, n: What you think of when you think of super-cool hard drives.
  • The non-claim: Floovidor—Tough as our name!
  • The non-logic: When it comes to Floovidor, there’s just no denying it.
  • The forced celebration: Floovidorosity!!! [image: happy people, usually a group of mixed-race gladhands who would never under any other circumstance be together]
  • The sexy model: Not that I mind a sexy model, but what does she have to do with Floovidor?
  • The false promise: Floovidor is Tomorrow!

Good communications is directly relevant to the prospect. It speaks to their needs and desires.

Here’s a model called the Bullshit Cluster. It’s a map of how we interact with advertising. My theory is that we create filters based on a lifetime of learning to ignore all the countless irrelevant messages we confront daily.

The Bullshit Cluster: How we learn to filter irrelevant messages.

Great copy is unexpected.

Apple’s 1984 commercial is generally considered the best commercial ever made. Whether it is or not, it certainly broke through because it was unexpected in the category (computers), the tone (sci-fi noir) and the promise it made (1984 won’t be like 1984).

Another favorite example is this Yamaha motorcycle commercial. There’s an unexpected surprise and one clear message: it’s fast. Yeah, there’s a babe for babe’s sake. At least she’s doing something.

More examples:

Here are a few more commercials that I love. Note all of these commercials, including 1984 and Yamaha, were made by TBWA\Chiat\Day under the direction of Lee Clow. He’s my hero.

So, with the bar set impossibly high …

As Oracle ramps up for Oracle OpenWorld, we are tasked with creating a series of banner ads. Usually, those ads say “Register Now and Save.” Relevant, sure. Unexpected? Hardly.

So I’m pitching this:

expanding brain man banner
It’s relevant and unexpected.

The slider makes his brain expand and so by direct demonstration Oracle OpenWorld makes his brain expand. The user gets to play with it and watch the guy’s head expand and contract, which is fun and silly. BTW, this is just a comp.

The whole ad is basically just a bunch of copy points. In fact, there is more info here than in most banners. But instead of being talked at, users are talked with.

It’s relevant, because it tells the prospect exactly what they’ll experience at the event. It’s unexpected because the message is delivered in an unconventional way.

It doesn’t take that much to make something interesting.

And I think that’s what great copy should do.