Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Someone, I don't know who, once said that all of Western literature consists of basically seven plots. I know for a fact that there are about seven jokes in the world with variations, all of them told one summer evening by my cousin Slappy Schlesinger at a resort in the Catskills.

By the same reductio ad absurdum I have come to believe that there need be only seven or so briefs for the entire ad industry. Nothing should come to be more complicated than this.

Problem 1: Nobody knows who we are.
Brief: Create advertising that tells people who we are.
Problem 2: Nobody knows what we sell.
Brief: Create advertising that explains what we sell and how it helps.
Problem 3: We are being vastly outspent by much larger competitors.
Brief: Create advertising that gets at least as much attention as said much larger competitors.
Problem 4: We sell, essentially, a parity product. A product with no point of difference.
Brief: Create advertising that differentiates the company as superior.
Problem 5: We are in a low-interest category.
Brief: Do something interesting.
Problem 6: Nobody knows how to use what we make or what it's for.
Brief: Create advertising that demonstrates the products.
Problem 7: My product is hard to get, so people don't try it.
Brief: Create advertising that makes the product easier to get.

My point, I hope, is so simple a CEO could understand it. Advertising is all about making things simple. Lowering barriers. And making brands likeable. There is not much more to it.

Unless you hire entire marketing departments and agencies who need to complicate.


Anonymous said...

I was with you until #7. Advertising can't make a product easier to get. That's a distribution problem. But it can explain how to get it or why it's worth the effort.

geo said...

I meant advertising can simulate and stimulate trial. and 6 out of 7 ain't bad.

Anonymous said...

Read Dave Trott's book. He makes advertising so easy to understand even a person who works in an agency can get it.

geo said...

Ya. I am a fan of Trott and have been for 25 years. I have his book "Creative Mischief" and highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of a company called AWAI (American Writers and Artists Institute)? They have a direct mail piece online with the headline 'Can you write a letter as simple as this one?' They then go on for twenty pages teasing you about how you can retire a millionaire buy writing advertising copy and it only takes an hour or two a day. I never laughed so hard. and every thing they tell you to do is the worst hack crap you could imagine. It reminds me of the ad you posted above your article. Over promise. Hype. it's what killed our business.

CK said...

Dave Trott is one of the truly great advertising geniuses of all time. I was always afraid of him. He would rip one of my ads apart in one minute, but he was always right. Today's creative directors rip work apart but never know why. It's usually because they're in a bad mood. When Dave helped my put my student book together and said it was good, I knew iI would get a job, because I could defend everything in it with logic. He should be in an advertising hall of fame, if he isn't already.