It's Not the Creative Process Unless it Sells10 Jul, 2002 By: Wes Phillips imageSource
It's Not the Creative Process Unless it Sells
our advertising agency business was founded, our philosophy has been to apply
the elements of good one-to-one salesmanship to the advertising process. It is
our belief that effective retail and direct response advertising works for the
same reasons an effective sales presentation works. A salesperson is successful
when they are able to address the human and business needs of the buyer with a
focused, logical presentation of the appropriate facts, packaged in an emotional
framework. Yet, as every sales manager knows, some sales people are able to
execute the sales process more effectively than others. Proper execution is
another parallel between effective salesmanship and effective advertising.
heart and soul of human communication is the proper use and arrangement of
words. Whether it is a sales presentation, newspaper ad, radio spot, direct mail
piece, or television commercial; effectiveness of communication is largely the
result of using words that most effectively strike a responsive chord in the
emotions and intellect of the prospect. A common tendency is to judge copy on
the basis of novel words and clever phrases. However, to become a better
speaker, writer, or a judge of good advertising copy, it is helpful to remember
that the object of sales communication is not to be witty for the sake of
entertainment, but rather to motivate people to action.
is not entertainment. The purpose of advertising is not to win awards from other
advertising people or to amuse business associates on the golf course; rather
its purpose is to sell a product. “Creative advertising” is advertising that
creates sales, not something that grabs the consumer’s attention. Certainly,
humor can occasionally enhance a selling message or improve its chances of being
remembered, but more frequently, humor and other “cute” methods of
presenting a sales story distract attention and confuse the issue.
of the most famous advertising themes in the last half of the 20th
century was, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” That campaign was
supported by an aggressive media budget. However, sales of the product fell
dramatically because the prospects lack of association with the product. Even
though, they used the catch phrase, they could not remember that the solution to
overeating and overdrinking was Alka-Seltzer.
years ago, a very large, successful, and respected Madison Avenue advertising
agency, ran an ad for their agency in The Wall Street Journal with the headline,
“ Six Questions To Ask Before You Approve An Advertisement.” Our firm was
sufficiently impressed with the businesslike approach they presented, so we
decided to keep a copy of the ad as a reference to reinforce the creative
process at our agency. Here are five of the key issues they addressed, providing
a set of criteria by which to judge advertising, along with some observations on
application to dealer advertising:
IS THERE A BIG IDEA?
piece of advertising should have one thought, one idea that “emerges clearly,
emphatically and single-mindedly.” Stated another way, after you have heard
the commercial or tossed aside the ad, there is one theme which so precisely
answers your prospect’s need that you can repeat it in your own words. The
fundamental question we all ask (as consumers) of every piece of selling
communication is, “what’s in it for me?” The “big idea” should
precisely and completely answer that question.
IS THERE A THEME LINE?
we explored the need for an umbrella-positioning theme, which provides the focal
point of all communication your company has with your public on a daily basis,
including your sales contacts and your advertising messages. The Madison Avenue
agency defined a theme line as “presenting your selling idea in a memorable
set of words that make it easy for the customer to remember your selling
message.” A couple of examples are “please don’t squeeze the Charmin”
and “Just Do It.” Note that in addition to the umbrella theme, each specific
piece of communication within your marketing program should also have its own
sub-theme, a specific selling point that augments the overall selling premise of
IS IT RELEVANT?
the Madison Avenue agency, “jokes that steal attention from the selling idea,
inappropriate entertainment devices, celebrities who have no logical connection
with your product, and other irrelevancies can be devastating.” At our agency,
we guide the creative process by constant repetition of the question “What’s
the point?.” Every word, every phrase, every sound and every picture must
connect the selling point of the advertiser to the defined need of the prospect.
IS IT HACKNEYED?
is a tremendous temptation to use ideas and words that you have already seen or
heard elsewhere. Moreover, there are several fallacies in the “if it works for
them, it will work for us” approach. Because every prospect is inundated with
selling messages, there is tremendous risk of confusing the prospect, thereby
benefiting the competition. Also, much of the motivation, which takes place as
part of the selling process, is on a subconscious emotional level. Experience
has shown that people resent imitation. Demand that your advertising expresses
the unique character, feel and look of your company.
IS IT BELIEVABLE?
as candor is an effective motivator in human one-to-one verbal communication,
advertising must also feel and sound real. Again, quoting the Madison Avenue
agency, “does your advertising over-promise? Does the selling idea sound a
false note?” An advertisement can be accurate; they feel real, yet sound
in both the sales and advertising process occurs in a sequence of steps.
On an emotional basis, in order
to get attention.
Logically, in order to satisfy the intellect of the prospect.
Emotionally, again to make the prospect feel like buying now.
cumulative effect of these three steps is to motivate the prospect to take some
physical action like making a phone call or signing an order. Therefore, it is
important to use words that the prospect uses on a daily basis and thoughts that
occur in the mind of the prospect regularly.
company has a personality, just as it has a method of doing business. Let the
emotional feel of that personality and the way of doing business permeate the
way your advertising copy is written. Then be specific. The ability of an ad to
get attention is in direct proportion to how quickly the ad comes firmly to grip
with the heart of the message. The ability of an ad to hold attention and
motivate to action is directly proportionate to how few words are used.
and simplicity are two reasons why poetry is such a powerful method of written
communication. Legend has it that Robert Frost, one of America’s most famous
poets, ended an exceptionally long letter to a friend by writing, “I’m sorry
this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.” It
is difficult and time-consuming to plan how to convey ideas concisely, yet
precise communication is essential in order to achieve impact.
has their own definition of creativity, in salesmanship and advertising. The
fact of the matter is that there are certain fundamental rules, which all
successful salespeople follow and all advertising copy should adhere to. In the
final analysis, it is not creative unless it sells.