Posts Tagged 'classics'

More Than Creativity, Advertising Is About Business

Dave Trott is a true master of common sense: he has a knack of explaining things you (thought you) already knew, in ways that help you understand them in a totally new light.

I learned so much from this talk he gave a while back at the APG that I feel compelled to share the whole thing here.

It’s an hour or more long, but make time to watch it all – sit down with a drink and give it your full attention.

And take notes – I guarantee you’ll want to refer back to things. I took so many notes, I ran out of space in my notebook.

Take it away Dave.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 8 [there doesn’t appear to be a part 7]

Part 9

Part 10

Thanks very much to Gwen for introducing me to this great talk

great to share

It’s been a while since I posted something in the classics series, but I’ve found myself referring to this spot quite a lot recently, so I thought it was probably worth sharing here too.

This ad does a great job of extending the product’s benefit into a compelling new territory.

Up until this, most gum ads talked about ‘freshness’ and alluded to the romantic advantages this could bring.

But this ad reversed the allusion, putting the romance centre stage, and so making the overall benefit much more emotional.

This turns the promise into a more engaging story that people can relate to, and crucially, it makes it much easier to recall (20 years later I still remember it clearly).

I really like the way the final product shot feels like a natural part of the story too.

What about you – what do you think makes it work?

soap operettes

This is a fantastic Nescafé campaign from the late 1980s.

It’s an interesting variation on the leitmotiv approach: evolve a creative concept over time to deliver increased depth and duration of audience engagement:

The same technique was harnessed in the equally wonderful Nicole, Papa work for Renault Clio a few years later.

Such storytelling is a powerful communications proposition that brands can deliver through conventional media like TV.

However, the proliferation of storytelling media like the Web means we now have many more opportunities to engage people than we did in the 1980s; which brand will be the first to refresh this approach and deliver the first epic  transmedia story?

I’d love to see more examples of these brand ‘soap operettes’ – please share any links via the comments section below.

planning for the future (2): use communications to deliver value

add value to everything

In yesterday’s introduction to planning for the future, we saw that planning is evolving into:

The process of identifying the most relevant and engaging times and places to deliver specific brand benefits, and the most efficient and effective ways to deliver those benefits in that context.

The first step in this evolution involves a fundamental shift in how we view brand communications.

Rather than merely promoting other forms of value delivery like products, brand communications can become a viable means to deliver benefits of their own.


People don’t actually buy products or brands; they buy things that enable them to achieve specific aims.

As a consequence, brands that help people to achieve their aims more comprehensively are more attractive, and therefore more valuable.

Planning can help add to this value by enabling brands to create more opportunities to satisfy.

Our challenge is to turn every single interaction – including communications – into an opportunity to help people achieve their aims.

Nike already champions this approach.

It understands that people don’t buy ‘sportswear’; they buy things that enable them to participate in sporting activities.

So the brand focuses on creating more opportunities for people to enjoy those activities.

Run London is a great example, creating deeper engagement not just with the brand, but also with running:

Run London doesn’t just build engagement either: over 30,000 participants pay to take part, and the event generates more than £1million in revenue.

Given this, it’s easy to understand why Nike employs the same approach in football with Joga3, and in fitness with the Rockstar Workout.


When everything a brand does helps people to satisfy their wants, needs, and desires, it becomes a much more valuable part of their lives.


Identify the core benefit that your brand offers, and then identify ways to deliver it through every interaction – including communications.

a world of great advertising

world map

Something alarming struck me as I read AdAge’s  Top 100 Advertising Campaigns of all time.

They’re all American.

And they’re all TV or print campaigns.

That doesn’t seem right; I’m sure great advertising exists beyond the realm of US print and TV.

But, when I started to think about it, I realised that I don’t know many non-US examples.

And that’s probably because I rarely get to hear about them.

That needs to change: diversity of influence is a critical ingredient in continued innovation.

So I need your help.

I’d like to hear about your ‘rest of the best’: brand communications from the rest of the world, from any channel, that dramatically improved a brand’s success, or that significantly improved our approach to advertising.

Simply drop your suggestions into the comments section below, along with a few details and a link to the relevant work wherever possible, and I’ll consolidate them into a best of list.

Here are a couple of suggestions to get things going:

Nike’s ‘RunLondon‘ (W+K, United Kingdom, multichannel, starting 2001)

Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ (Sapient-Nitro, worldwide, online PR-led, 2008)

What else deserves to be on that list?

get the message?

cadbury gorilla

Simon Law shared some thoughts in response to the recent measures of success post that alluded to another interesting question:

Does advertising always need a message?

Much like ‘big ideas’, advertisers increasingly question the validity and relevance of ‘messages’.

But I believe much of that criticism is unfounded.

Every advert – and indeed, every communication – needs a message.

The issue in advertising is not the relevance of messages, but what the word ‘message‘ has come to mean.

People use it arbitrarily to mean a variety of different things: slogan, tagline, theme,…

Strictly speaking, however, it’s none of those.

Defining the term

Communication is all about exchange.

The word’s linguistic root means “to make common” – i.e. to share.

Modern definitions have evolved to encompass a slightly broader context; this is‘s perspective:

The imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.

It’s clear from this that communication should always involve some kind of sharing.

And that’s where ‘messages’ come in.

Sharing what?

In an advertising context, the message is whatever we hope to share: thoughts, opinions, information, etc.

Put more simply, the message is

The subject of communication.

However, this is still a little too ambiguous.

The role of a message

We’ve seen before that the purpose of brand communication is:

To create a shared understanding between a brand and the people it wishes to influence.

In that context, the ‘subject‘ of brand communication is the understanding that we want to share.

So, fundamentally, a message is

The thing we want people to think, believe, or perceive as a result of experiencing our communications.

So why do we need one?

Some people have suggested that a ‘message’ isn’t necessary – that advertising can work perfectly well without one.

But that makes no sense.

All advertising must have a purpose: an objective that relates to the brand’s success.

Furthermore, that purpose will always involve sharing something with an audience that will influence their attitudes and / or behaviour.

So, in light of how we’ve defined ‘message‘ above, it’s logical to conclude that all advertising must have a message.

Deciding the message

Deciding exactly what that message should be is a lot more complex.

As always, the most appropriate message depends entirely on what the brand wants to achieve, and whom it’s talking to.

Let’s look at an example that many detractors cite when asserting that advertising doesn’t need a message:

I’ve heard many people suggest that ‘Gorilla‘ doesn’t have a message.

But, together with a group of very intelligent people*, I worked on the strategy that inspired Gorilla (and the subsequent ‘Trucks‘ and ‘Eyebrows‘ films), so I can confidently assert that it did have a message.

The expression of that message even appears in the clip, albeit subtly.

At the time we began development of this strategy, the Cadbury Dairy Milk brand faced an interesting dilemma: although it was still the nation’s favourite chocolate, it had become a category generic: Cadbury Dairy Milk was ‘chocolate’, and people didn’t perceive it standing for much beyond that.

Meanwhile, competitors were gaining ground with highly targeted positionings that appealed to specific audience desires.

A thorough exploration of the Cadbury Dairy Milk brand revealed that there was a generosity that ran through everything the brand did – from its cooperative roots, to the fact that Cadbury continues to use fresh milk in the production process.

Coincidentally, we already knew that the audience aspired to be more optimistic: they were tired of the constant cynicism that surrounded them, and they wanted to break free from that by surrounding themselves with more optimistic people.

We saw a relevant connection between generosity and optimism.

Then, when we reflected on the brand’s heritage of ‘a glass-and-a-half of milk in every half pound‘ (a well-known claim used in much of the brand’s historic advertising), the somewhat obvious line was too good to ignore:

See the world as a glass-and-a-half full.

The play on seeing the glass half empty versus half full is obvious: Cadbury Dairy Milk offers people an exceptionally optimistic outlook that counters the cynicism that pervades their lives.

It’s not rocket science, but then, choosing a brand of chocolate isn’t too complicated either.

I wasn’t involved in the specific development of the Gorilla film,  so can’t comment with authority, but I think the intended ‘message’ is pretty clear:

Cadbury Dairy Milk’s communications bring you a moment of optimistic joy – just like Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

Simple, but very effective.


Communications always need a message: something that the brand wants its audience to understand, and that will help it achieve its objectives.

That message doesn’t need to be complex, and it doesn’t need to be expressed explicitly.

But we’ve always got to share something.

Even if that’s just a moment of joy.

*As a consultant at ascension strategy consulting, I helped to develop the proposition and subsequent positioning for the Cadbury Dairy Milk brand. Publicis were Cadbury’s agency at the time of this development, although the brand’s account subsequently moved to Fallon, who created the Gorilla film featured above.

legends of the dark black


A few weeks ago, over on the wonderful Noisy Decent Graphics, Ben shared some history relating to the oldest logo still in use today.

He came to the conclusion that it’s the S.P.Q.R. mark, which dates back to Ancient Roman times:


This started me thinking about the world’s longest surviving brands.

The world’s major religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – would probably all make it into the top 10.

Surprisingly, this Wikipedia page suggests that they might be joined by a few hotel brands.

Less surprising was the fact that breweries would probably make the list too; I can think of a few beer brands that have been around for more than a couple of centuries.

Perhaps the best example of this is Guinness – a brand which, fittingly, celebrates its 250th birthday this week.

It’s by no means the world’s oldest beer brand, but it’s certainly one of the most widely recognised; indeed, it enjoys such cult status that people happily wear Guinness T-shirts, even if they’re not big fans of the drink.

So what is it that has helped Guinness to survive and continue growing for so long, and what can other brands learn from its success?

Here are a few thoughts:

The brand is a story

Many people still believe that the recipe for Guinness was discovered by accident when Arthur accidentally burnt a batch of his normal brew. The story goes that he sold this batch at a discount to porters at the local docks, who all came back asking for more. Regardless of whether this story is true*, it’s exactly the kind of trivia that the brand’s core consumers love to share in pubs and bars, inspiring talkability at the point of purchase and consumption.

In a similar vein, I’ve heard many people retell the more accurate story that Guinness was regularly prescribed to new mothers, people who gave blood, those with heart conditions, and for a variety of other ailments. A variety of functional qualities, not least the drink’s high iron content, mean that many people still believe the brand’s historic claim that “Guinness is Good For You.”

The product is highly distinctive

In a market saturated with hundreds of lager brands that all look, smell, and taste the same, Guinness offers something different. It’s thick, dark, and bitter, and as a consequence, it stands apart from all the competing offers at the bar.

What’s more, outlets invariably serve Guinness in distinctive, branded glassware – vessels so prized that drinkers often ‘forget’ to return them once they’ve finished their pint.

It’s part of numerous consumption rituals

To many people, Guinness is Ireland, and vice versa. Every year, people make a point of visiting bars on March 17th to drink a Guinness in honour of St Patrick. A good proportion of them will do so in an Irish Pub – another ‘brand’ which has successfully travelled the globe, invariably taking Guinness with it.

And then there’s the product ritual itself. The real Guinness pour – ‘119.53 seconds to perfection’ – is a brand ritual like no other. It’s an unparalleled intangible social object, reinforced by barstaff and brand fans the world over. Not only is the ritual observed, but people share the story themselves, citing the brand’s famous “good things come to those who wait” explanation.

Crucially, consumers can be a part of all these occasions – indeed, the brand is often merely a facilitator in their occasions – and that draws people deeper into the brand’s franchise.

It delivers a strong expressive (emotional) benefit

Guinness is often seen as a ‘real man’s beer’. The strong, bitter taste takes some getting used to, and more than a couple of pints in one sitting requires determination. The associations vary subtly by culture, but most relate to strength, courage, and masculinity, as well as a sense of mystery and intrigue.

It delivers inconic communications

The brand has built on its talkability through a long-standing association with iconic advertising. From the famous “Guinness is Good For You” slogan and the instantly recognisable toucan, to more modern incarnations such as the Rutger Hauer “Pure Genius” campaign and the award-winning surfer (both below), Guinness’s advertising regularly inspires conversations.

Guinness toucan

It’s an experience

It’s hard to rush Guinness, even if you could find a reason to want to. It’s a stout that’s meant to be savoured, not guzzled. The rituals, the distinctive glassware, the experiential settings all combine to make a Guinness so much more than a “quick pint”. Because of this, Guinness actually helps the drinker to slow down, which makes it a relevant choice at the end of a long day.

It’s tasty

While taste is a matter of subjective interpretation, it’s unlikely the brand would sell 1 billion pints around the world each year if it didn’t tickle the right taste buds. And that makes a big difference; no matter how much hype surrounds a brand, if it delivers fundamental utility, it stands a better chance of surviving in the long run.

I’m sure I won’t be alone in raising a glass (or two) in celebration of the Dark Black on September 24th.

*Apparently this story is pure legend, but I think I’ll stick with it anyway.
Remember that alcohol is only fun in moderation – don’t ruin the occasion by having too much.

total recall

I’ve always loved adverts, so I’m not really representative of ‘normal people’.

But I’ve been thinking about adverts that I remember, and there’s a a theme that runs through most of them: a line or a phrase that became part of my everyday conversations.

Oddly, I’d forgotten which brand most of these were for, except for the Dime advert.

It seems so obvious, but basing the ‘sharing element’ on a direct reference to the brand will significantly improve  attribution scores.

Anyway, here are some of the lines that I remember best:

creature comforts

Today’s classics are actually a series of adverts.

Ironically, many people thought they were for one of the actual brand’s key competitors.

But the attribution discussion is a different matter; it doesn’t change the fact that they were very popular.

So what makes them classics?

it might just change your life…

This is one of my favourite adverts of all time; a beautiful parody of advertising promises.

Once again, it’s all about your perspective

Hope you have a great weekend!


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