After 25 years in business, sometimes I feel like the guy in the Farmers Insurance commercials who is never surprised by even the craziest of scenarios. "We know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two," he proudly proclaims. In the coming weeks, we'll be reflecting on a quarter century in the business of advertising, design, branding and overall creative services. We may even take the opportunity to opine on life in general.
Today, some of what I've learned about the essential rules of advertising.
- There are no rules
- If any ingredient in an ad is low-quality it will stand out so much that it distracts from everything else about the ad. And it will destroy a brand. Put a great concept and clever headline with a crappy photo and your ad bombs. Likewise, pair a breathtaking photo with a lame headline (Like "A wonderful place to eat, shop, play.") and once again, no one will take your brand seriously. In broadcast advertising, if you hire the wrong voice talent (or get a relative to do it free) you might as well just play that annoying Emergency Broadcast System test tone for 30 second because no one will be listening.
- Creativity matters. I refer you back to the afore mentioned headline: A wonderful place to eat, shop, play. It might be the perfect sentiment for so many small towns. Unfortunately, thousands of small towns and chambers of commerce already use it. From this day forward, no one should.
- Research makes the creative work better. At first it may sound counter-intuitive because you might assume that free-thinking creative people don't want to be encumbered by facts and data. Wrong. If you challenge truly creative people to develop ideas that advance specific goals and reach certain target demographics they will rise to the challenge. Always.
- There is always something bigger at stake. Even if the objective of an ad or campaign is quite specific, like increase web traffic or sell tickets to an event, there is always the chance to enhance or damage a brand. "Every ad is an investment in the long-term image of a brand," according to advertising legend David Ogilvy.