Friday, June 23, 2006

If, It, whatever.

Has anyone else noticed the remarkable resemblance between Met Life's new "If" campaign and eBay's "It" work?

Squint slightly, or have a couple of mojitos, and the two ads will appear identical...each with two giant, Stonehenge-like letters dominating the page.

Seems to me they'd be better off swapping, though. Wouldn't Met Life rather be about "it" than "if"? So much more certain-sounding. And wouldn't eBay's serendipitous nature be nicely captured by "if"?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm sorry, what was the question?

An ad currently running for the Lexus ES starts off with this headline-as-question:

“Is it possible to engineer desire?”

I’m guessing the answer they’re looking for is yes-- even though the copy never says so--and that the Lexus ES is proof. Well, fine, this wouldn’t be the first car ad that tries to juxtapose emotion and science, heart and steel, etc etc etc.

But that just makes this execution derivative.

What vaults it past derivative to silly is that question mark. It’s that school of thought that says “Don’t just tell people things. Ask them instead—it’s more involving.” Ask the right question--Allstate's "Are you in good hands?" comes to mind--and the effect can be unsettling...or illuminating...but never boring. But ask the wrong question and the opposite happens. What better way to signal you know nothing about me and don't care to learn than to ask me a question I see no reason to answer? Here’s another example, for a new Canon DSLR:

“When Canon created the new EOS 30D, what were they thinking?”

I don’t know. I don’t care. But what was that copywriter thinking? That the implied meaning—Canon’s done something terrible, Canon’s gone off its rocker—would give this ad a frisson of danger?

Lawyers have a sacred rule when it comes to courtroom witness examination:
Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. The object, obviously, is to maintain control, avoid surprises and keep a witness from going in an unproductive direction.

Copywriters might consider a different rule: Never ask a question if people don’t care what the answer is.

Monday, June 05, 2006

How to be a better client.

There's an old saying in this business that clients get the advertising they deserve. Here are some things they don't teach in business school or discuss in marketing conferences that can increase the odds you'll get your agency's best efforts--and deserve them.

Don’t buy a dog and then bark for it. The reason you hire an ad agency is because their people can do things you can’t. Tell your agency team what your advertising needs to do, agree on how you’re going to measure it, then let them work. Telling advertising professionals how to do their job wastes their talents and your company’s money.

Value our Otherness. While an agency needs to understand its client’s culture, business model and products, they are not you. That difference is valuable. There’s already an expert on your company and its products and it’s you.

Be straight with us. All companies have politics. All employees have bosses. If either one is the reason you’re reluctant to embrace a good idea, tell us. We will respect you, empathize and work with you to deal with the problem. If you don’t tell us, we’ll have no choice but to think you don’t know a good idea when you see one.

Do not ask: Is there a better shot/take/word/phrase/layout? The creatives don’t think there is, or you would have already seen it.

Get out from behind the glass. You’re a successful young professional. Living someone else’s life, even for a few minutes, beats watching it every time. Go to a NASCAR race (not comped). Watch Fox. If you already watch Fox, listen to NPR. Walk around a neighborhood you don’t know. Eavesdrop, always. And whatever you do, when looking at the agency’s work…

Don’t think like a marketer. You were born with all the training you need to look at an ad and figure out if it’s good. Your humanity and your life experiences will steer you right. The minute you start analyzing, you’re in trouble.