Advertising (2) — Creativity

If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative. David Ogilvy (O&M)

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. David Ogilvy.

Is creativity in brand communication getting better, getting worse or staying the same?

Ad agency execs will tell you that creativity is alive and well and that memorable and effective advertising is as prevalent today as it was in the past. They will also add that the fragmentation of media creates an environment whereby delivering a highly effective message is diffused and expensive. And, the new media options (digital) require new forms of creativity.

The detractors will take the view that the demise of mainstream media has hurt creativity but not as much as the changes in the advertising business itself. They point out that only small, independent shops can replicate the talent of the past. The large agencies are too busy worrying about overhead and financials than concentrating on the quality of the work.

An ad agency executive friend of mine who sold his shop to one of the conglomerates tells the story of an annual agency-wide meeting a few years ago:

All the company Presidents were asked to report on the activities of their business unit. Speaker after speaker – from New York to New Delhi – talked about revenues, profitability, new business development, overhead, etc. Finally one exec from a highly creative firm couldn’t stand it anymore and got up and shouted, “Are we ever going to talk about the f*****g work we produce?”

What’s your view? Is the advertising creative in the booze business better or worse than it used to be? Hit the comment button to the upper right of this posting and let me know your view. Or, send me an email.

Finally, the most appropriate quote from David Ogilvy for this blog…

Many people – and I think I am one of them – are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Advertising – The Client

Two of my favorite quotes about advertising:

“Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol, which is the brand image.” David Ogilvy (O&M)

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes…” Phil Dusenberry (BBDO)

Years ago when I was in marketing research, the CEO of a midsized company and a good friend asked me to conduct some focus groups on a new campaign his ad agency had developed. After doing the work, I came back with the recommendation that he proceed – the message was in line with the strategy and consumers liked the creative effort.

He kept challenging me on each and every positive insight I shared with him. Finally, in exasperation I asked my friend/client what is the problem. He looked at me and said, “Arthur, there is nothing you can tell me that will change how I feel. I hate the campaign.” “So why did you bother to hire me to test it,” I asked. “I was hoping consumers would hate it as well. Now I’ll just kill it on my own.”

Our debate continued. “What don’t you like about it?” “I just don’t like it,” was the reply. “Well why not give your agency some guidelines for what you’re looking for?”

“Listen” he said, “I’ll know good advertising when I see it.”

Oh, it’s good to be the CEO.

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Find a hole and fill it

This blog has given me the opportunity to re-connect with friends and to make new ones like David van de Velde whose business motto is the headline for this posting.

In addition to being a very smart and affable fellow, David is an interesting entrepreneur and created Ketel One and Van Gogh Vodkas. In that regard, he changed the spirits industry.

I hope one day to write his full story but here are a few things that make him so interesting.

Let’s start with the motto. In an age of me-tooism, finding a hole and filling it speaks volumes about brand development strategies.

Not long after Seagram got Absolut Vodka, I kept hearing about this new brand, Ketel One, which was unique in its packaging, name, underlying concept and one other “outrageous” factor… a price at a significant premium to the category.

In addition, they concentrated on bartenders and servers and used videos and events to tell the story and even special olives for a martini. Everywhere I went at the time, all I heard was how we needed to learn from the Ketel One folks.

Many people think that the ultra premium vodka market was created by Grey Goose when, in fact, by the time Grey Goose came along, Ketel was already doing 200,000 cases.

David’s understanding of consumers is very impressive. He describes the target customer for high-end vodkas at that time as someone who wears Armani suits without pockets. Someone who walks into a bar and is holding the following – car keys with a Mercedes or BMW logo, an expensive cell phone and a wallet chocked full of goodies. No pockets. The question he asked himself is – would this person drink anything but a top shelf brand?

After Ketel One, he created Van Gogh vodka and brought the flavored category to new levels.

A little birdie told me he will be celebrating a milestone birthday this week so congratulations and keep finding and filling those holes.

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