Thursday, July 3, 2008

Zig while your competitors Zag

It doesn’t matter how right you are, if no one notices your communication, you are just tipping money down the toilet.

Most brands in the same category are advertised in pretty much the same way. Look at car advertising! Is every brand done by the same creative team? So while your competitors are trying to be noticed by being identical (huh?), you can be noticed by being different.

To use an advertising cliché, cut-through is as simple as zigging when others are zagging: or just being different to what is on air at that moment. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, be bizarre, just different.

On the one hand there are marketers who create ‘company’ ads. That is, ads that fit the company mould. Their target is their boss or head office. The consumer and the Australian environment are scarcely considered. This is one reason most ads in a category are similar.

But ironically a lot of creative people are just as much to blame.

Most creatives slavishly refer to ‘Shots’ reels, which are a collection TV spots from around the world, deemed to be ‘creative’ or ‘breakthrough’. Some have better communication than others, but most are pretty ‘fresh’ ideas. So creatives start to copy creatives … who copy creatives who …

Technique trends quickly become popular, then ubiquitous. They go from being fresh to being unnoticed, because the whole creative industry is doing it. It’s a kind of cannibalism. And cannibalism is not good for your health.

One example is the rise of the quirky geek in beer ads. I don’t know who started it, but if I see another beer spot staring an obviously ugly guy with bad hair doing odd things, I’ll switch to Pimms and lemonade. What began as a different and engaging way of creating beer ads has become a cliché. If all beer ads are quirky then by definition, none are quirky.

Recently I noticed some commercials that really did break the mould, in an entirely appropriate way. They were for a brand of Tip Top bread. The bread market is essentially aimed at ‘Mums who want to give their kids good food’. The ads used funky low-tech animation. It looked like paper cut outs. Running in a popular gangster TV show among the slick ‘samey’ car ads, the simple animated bread ads stood out like nothing else AND as a result planted the message.

Using animation to sell bread is new. Using jiggly paper cut outs is really new. Result – instant cut through!

Another technique that will guarantee attention is quiet. Yes quiet. A 30 second spot can comfortably have about 60 spoken words. A lot squeeze in more. I created an ad for Tek Toothbrushes that used 16 words total: 5 for dialogue, 11 for the pack shot VO. The silence became the technique and had a devastating effect.

The idea was that a dentist had no patients because the toothbrush was so effective. We had a single shot on a receptionist in a large empty waiting room. After 25 seconds the dentist pops his head around the corner and asks, ‘Any patients Emma?’ The receptionist replies, ‘Sorry Rob’.

We always knew it had a lot of quiet. But when it ran on air surrounded by hundreds of shouting and overly busy spots competing for attention, the effect was sensational. People looked up from their magazines. People left the kitchen to check on the TV. And people bought Tek Professional in droves.

So to create cut through and maximise your production and media spend, ask your creatives to chuck out the Shots reel. Then get them to watch TV commercials in the shows your consumer watches. Then ask for something … different.


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