Turn it on its head

The other day, one of my clients asked my advice about an ad they’d designed for a local magazine. It had their logo at the top, then a picture and some text, then their phone number. It looked nice, but it was upside-down.

First it needed a headline at the top that answered ‘What’s In It For Me?’ for their potential customers.

Then the picture and the copy.

Then the phone number. Big. As a call to action.

And finally, their logo.

Why does it have to be this way up? Because no-one cares who you are until they know what you can do for them.

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What a let down

I remember an ad I saw when I was a child, with a Scalextric car that whizzed through the air with sparks flying and fireworks exploding all around it.

I told my parents, ‘I want one of those’.

They said, ‘It doesn’t really do that, you know.’

But how could they show a car that flew with fireworks if it didn’t really happen? I wanted to see for myself.

I pestered my parents. They bought me the car. And of course it didn’t.

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Food porn

There is an M&S ad with a lovingly shot close-up of a double chocolate pudding … lush, dark sponge … smooth, melted filling … dribble of thick rich cream … Santana’s sexy Samba Pa Ti or Fleetwood Mac’s The Albatross playing in the background … and the slow female voiceover: ‘This is not just food. It’s M&S food’.

I was watching it with my 13-year-old ‘sort of’ step-daughter, and she said: ‘I don’t like these ads – what are they all about?’

Luckily for M&S, she’s not their target market. But I am. And I think they’re delicious!

P.S. You know an ad’s made an impression when it gets spoofed on YouTube, here!

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Definition of a bad ad

I really don’t like those shampoo ads with the strapline: ‘A Totally Organic Experience’. You know the ones, where the girl is washing her hair in the shower (or under a waterfall) and moaning: ‘Yes, Yes, YES!’.

They say that sex sells. And it does! But these ads are not sexy. Not funny. And not clever.

In fact, they put me off soooo much, that I absolutely refuse to buy the product.

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Definition of a good ad

A good ad is not an ad that wins awards. A good ad is an ad that makes you want to buy the product.

There is a great series of TV ads featuring a dancing or ice-skating robot that transforms into a car.

I love the ads. And they deserve to win loads of prizes. But, no matter how I try, I just can’t remember what car the ad is for.

(By the way, the grandmother of my ‘sort of’ step-daughter said to her, ‘Did you know you can now buy a car that transforms into a robot?’ She didn’t have the heart to disappoint her.)

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The Planet Sweet

Do you remember your first job interview? One of mine was for an advertising agency, and I had to do a copy test. That is, they set me a load of questions and I had to write inspiring copy in response.

One of the questions was: ‘What is the most recent product you have bought, in response to advertising?’

I remember snootily replying that I wasn’t taken in by any of the usual advertising tricks. I was wrong. Since then, I’ve been conscious of adverts influencing what I buy.

For example, I have recently been on the lookout for the new sweets from Mars, called ‘Planets’. A great name for them, on so many levels!

According to the TV ads, the packs include chocolates with soft, crispy and chewy centres – almost the same ingredients as a classic Mars Bar.

They show the first filling, soft nougat. ‘Yum,’ I thought, ‘I like nougat.’

They show the second filling, crispy wafer. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘I don’t like wafer much.’

They show the third filling, chewy caramel. ‘Yum,’ I thought, ‘I like caramel. Two out of three ain’t bad.’ And I went to three or four sweet shops until I found my first packet to taste.

Mars is very clever.

They have stretched their brand into big bars, small bars, ice-cream, and now packet sweets. And they’ve launched their latest product with advertising that made me search it out and buy it.

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