Creative Strategy In Advertising

Creative advertising is inspired by insights about brands, consumers, and how the two interact. It starts with a problem from the client and ends with a solution for consumers. Therefore, before you write a single line of copy, doodle a sketch for a layout, or even begin to brainstorm, you need to under-stand how your client’s brand fits into the lives of its target audience. For example: A real estate company wants to sell condominium units in The Grant, an art deco building in Washington, DC, that’s being updated with hardwood floors and carpet, granite countertops, and new appliances, including a washer and dryer in each unit. The building is centrally located on Massachusetts Avenue and is walking distance to mass transportation and lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs. And the price is reasonable—from $189,000 for a studio—in a city where some condos downtown sell for $1 million or more. They are not big units, however. To further complicate matters, housing and condo sales started to decline just before this condo conversion hit the market.

Clearly, price is the hook. With the client, the Nasuti & Hinkle Agency determines there are two targets for The Grant. The primary target is first-time buyers—young people earning $40,000 a year or more who currently rent and likely live with roommates. The secondary target includes businesses that want to provide housing for extended-stay visitors from out of town, long-distance commuters who want a weekday home, airline flight crews, and so on. The proximity to mass transit and restaurants appeals to both targets. And neither group needs—or even wants—a large unit. But $1 million or more. They are not big units, however. To further complicate matters, housing and condo sales started to decline just before this condo conversion hit the market.

The messages for first-time buyers focus on the evils of renting and on roommates. To add a creative twist to the campaign, Nasuti & Hinkle registered a dozen URLs, which became the headlines for the ads that ran in the local alternative and newspapers and on their websites, as well as on bus shelters in areas near The Grant. The URLs were also printed on 12,000 beer coasters, which were distributed to local bars.

Each URL forwards to the same bridge page, where the copy speaks directly to the needs of first-time buyers. Part of the copy reads: “Condominium pricing in DC these days seems like some sort of conspiracy designed to keep anybody normal and under 35 out of home ownership. But wait. It is actually possible to buy a place of your own and forget about living at home, renting or roommates. We’re talking condos that start at $189,000 for studio units.”

Businesses were reached by an ad in the Washington Business Journal and a direct mail piece. Visually, the ad is the same as the one that targets first-time buyers, but the attitude is different. Here, the big idea is to make the executives feel at home even when they are miles from their families. The URL is The bridge page for business people is sophisticated and invites interested buyers to schedule an appointment with a sales representative. Part of the copy on this page reads, “New again.”

The campaign for The Grant is a wonderful example of creativity in advertising. It understands how its brand relates to its target audiences. It’s unexpected and it’s persuasive.

Creativity Defined

Creative ads make a relevant connection between the brand and its target audience and present a selling idea in an unexpected way. Let’s examine components of the definition.

Creative ads make a relevant connection between a brand and its tar-get audience. Creative director Ann Hayden explains, “I’m convinced that people—all people—want to buy from people. Customers want to know who you are, your habits, your values. They want to be able to predict you. They need to trust you. If they connect with you on some kind of human basis, and believe they have something in common with you, they will give you vast permission to sell them things that make them happy.”

Notice how the messages for The Grant make relevant connections to the two distinct audiences. They seem to say, “We understand your problems, and we can help.” For the younger audience, the problems are the hassles of renting and roommates. For the older, established executives, the problem is the feeling of being disconnected from home when traveling for business.

Creative ads present a selling idea. The method of presenting the selling idea can be rational, emotional, or a combination of both. Because competitors can copy most products and services, emotional selling points are usually more powerful than rational ones.

The Grant uses a rational approach, that the condos are affordable, and an emotional approach, that your life will be better when you have your own place. Likewise, ads for Cheerios cereal use emotional and rational appeals. In one commercial, a little boy sees his grandfather reading the side of a Cheerios box. “What are you doing?” the boy asks. The grandfather explains that he’s preparing for his test. “A test? What subject?” the boy asks as he starts munching on some Cheerios. The grandfather explains that it’s a cholesterol test and that last time he didn’t do so great. The camera zooms in on the cereal box as the voice-over makes the product pitch that Cheerios is the only leading cold cereal proven to help lower cholesterol. As they walk away from the breakfast table, the boy tells his grandfather that he hopes he scores 100. To the boy’s amazement, the grandfather says, “Well, I’m shooting for something like 190.”

Creative ads are unexpected. Look at the ad for Stren fishing line in. The agency could have shown a man reeling in a giant fish. However, it would be so expected that it would blend in with other ads for fishing products. Instead, the close-up of the man’s split pants catches you off guard and makes you wonder what the ad is about. Meanwhile, the copy, “The most dependable fishing line in the world,” delivers the selling message and helps the visual make sense.

Keep in mind that the unexpected element may be the choice of words, visuals, media, or all three. The Grant’s use of URLs as a copy device is unexpected, as is the use of bar coasters. Here, the media choices are part of the creativity.

Media: The New Creative Inspiration

When and where a message runs can be as creative as the words and visuals. To position Adidas as a leader in soccer gear, the TBWA agency painted a soccer scene on the ceiling of a train station in Cologne, Germany, for the 2006 World Cup. To inspire New Yorkers to buy tickets to the Joffrey Ballet, Saatchi & Saatchi placed an image of a life-size ballerina inside glass revolving doors of an office building. And to showcase the tiny size of the Mini Cooper, Crispin Porter Bogusky displayed the car atop Ford Excursion SUVs.

Even everyday items have become media vehicles. L’Oréal Paris pro-moted its Men’s Expert line of products by advertising on dry cleaner dress shirt hangers. The cardboard hangers come with a $2 coupon and the following message: “Your shirt doesn’t have wrinkles, why should your face?” Continental promoted its new nonstop service between New York and Beijing on Chinese restaurant take-out containers that carry the message, “We deliver all over the world.” And the Weather Channel ran the following message on packages of pretzels given to airline passengers: “Trust Us. Don’t Open the Window to Check the Weather.”

A number of advertisers place messages in restrooms in an attempt to capture people’s undivided attention. Greenspon Advertising Southeast took the concept even further and bought ad space above—and inside—men’s urinals to promote the hockey team, the Charlotte Checkers. The agency placed Charlotte Checkers–branded hockey pucks inside urinals in 50 bars and restaurants throughout the city. Above the urinals were messages such as, “The disgusting thing is not that we’re going to play with that puck. It’s that we’re going to shove it down Greenville’s throat Friday night.” Think that’s gross? Well, consider this: rumor has it that men stole the hockey pucks from the urinals. Greenspon responded with a mock public service announcement

How do you convince customers that your fishing line is incredibly strong? The obvious way would be to show a giant fish that’s just been hooked. But that’s been done before. This ad from Carmichael Lynch for Stren is unexpected but relevant.

(PSA) featuring Jeff Longo, the president of the Charlotte Checkers. “Recently we placed Charlotte Checkers hockey pucks in various men’s urinals around town, thinking that no one will steal a urine-soaked hockey puck.” Longo gives listeners the chance to go to the Checkers’ website to receive a clean hockey puck, “in an effort to avoid a public health emergency.” Did men steal the hockey pucks, or was it just a publicity gimmick? Only the agency and client know for sure.

A word of caution: Just because you can run a message nearly every-where, it doesn’t mean you should. (Face it. The bottom of a urinal won’t work for most brands.) You need to ask if the medium is relevant to the brand and the consumer. Also keep in mind that there are reasons people escape to remote islands that don’t have cell service and choose to live in communities that don’t have chain restaurants and stores. It’s called down-time and quality of life. A major fast food restaurant was forced to lower its neon sign on a highway in the Berkshires because it ruined the vista of rolling hills. Likewise, a town in the Netherlands fined an advertiser

1,000 euros a day for putting advertising messages on blankets wrapped on sheep. The reason? It violated the town’s ban on advertising along the highways.

Even media-saturated cities have their limits. Chicago and San Francisco ordered IBM to pay fines and cleanup costs after its advertising agency spray-painted advertisements on the cities’ sidewalks. Nike learned its street decals violated a New York City code that states it is “unlawful to deface any street by painting, printing, or writing thereon, or attaching thereto, in any manner, any advertisement or other printed matter.” Right after the Nike faux pas, Microsoft plastered adhesive butterflies on subway entrances, telephone booths, and newspaper-vending machines throughout Manhattan. The transportation department ordered the butterfly decals to go into hibernation.

And it’s not just city officials that police messages. Consumers can be the worst critics, as Sony learned when it hired graffiti artists to spray-paint urban buildings with images of kids playing with its PlayStation Portable. The attempt to connect with a hip urban audience backfired in San Francisco as real graffiti was painted on top of Sony’s faux graffiti. On one sign some-one wrote, “Get out of my city” and added the word “Fony” to the graffiti plus a four-line ditty slamming Sony. In another location, someone spray-painted the graffiti with the commentary, “Advertising directed at your counter-culture.”

  • Ryan Singel, “Sony Draws Ire with PSP Graffiti,”, 5 December 2005.

Inspiration from Consumers

One way to engage consumers in your advertising campaign is to invite them to create their own ads. Nationwide Insurance invited consumers to tell their versions of how “life comes at you fast” and posted the messages on a giant screen in New York’s Times Square. Emerald Nuts invited visitors to devise their own zany story lines based on words starting with the 11 letters that spell Emerald Nuts. Thousands of people tried their hand at the anagram and the winning entry (Enraging Millions England Repainted Antarctica Lavender During Night Using Tiny Swabs) appeared on the Web and in a newspaper ad.

MasterCard invited viewers to create a “Priceless” ad with a commer-cial that first ran during the Academy Awards. The commercial opens on a man sitting at a desk in the middle of an open field. As he types on an old-fashioned typewriter, the announcer says, “Blank. Nine dollars.” A woman on a motorcycle rides into view. “Blank. Sixty dollars.” Eventually, the man hops on the back of the bike and they ride down an empty road. “Blank,” says the announcer. “Priceless.” Seth Stevenson of Slate discovered that, at least initially, the site allowed people to enter naughty words in the blanks. He admitted, “I got a juvenile thrill from seeing ‘Dildo: $9’ superimposed on that high-budget, cinematographically perfect scene of the man in the open field.”3

General Motors also discovered that consumer-generated ads can be risky. When consumers were invited to post their own commercials for the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe online, some likened the SUV to a gas-guzzler, a con-tributor to global warming, and a warmonger.

Although it’s important that advertisers connect with their consumers, it doesn’t mean they should give their detractors free ad space. Nor should it mean anything goes. Consumers were given some limits when they were invited to create a 30-second Super Bowl commercial for Doritos. To have a video posted online and compete for a spot during the big game, the amateur ad creators had to follow a theme: the passion Doritos eaters feel about the flavors. In addition, Frito-Lay relied on Yahoo’s editorial review to make sure no posted ads denigrated the brand or sent a message not in line with the company’s values.4

Winning one of these creative challenges is a wonderful way to jump-start your advertising career. Another great way to build your portfolio is to enter a creative competition, such as the Student ADDYs ). To see examples of student work that won ADDYs in the Columbia Ad Club com-petition. For a list of other creative competitions, check out the box on page 16.

  • Seth Stevenson, “The End of a Played-Out Ad Campaign?”, 5 May 2006.
  • The winning commercial, created by 21-year-old Dale Backus, was the fourth most popular spot in the USA Today ad poll.

That’s Entertainment, but Is It Advertising?

Rance Crain, president and editorial director of Crain Communications, quoted a letter to the editor from a father: “My 6-1/2-year-old son cut through the mayhem of murderous lizards, a digitally reincarnated Elvis and dancing tomatoes to offer an unwitting, but telling, indictment of Super Bowl ads: ‘These commercials are cool. Not like the regular ones where they’re trying to sell you something.’”

  • Remarks by Rance Crain to the Columbia Advertising and Marketing Federation, Columbia, SC, 17 March 1998.

Does your work make the cut? There’s one way to find out. Have pros judge it against the best work of other students.

Student Competitions

  • ADDY Awards. Sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, students may enter their work inthe local advertising club’s annual competition. If it wins, it can go on to compete at the district and national levels for a chance at a cash prize.
  • Andy Student Awards. Sponsored by the Advertising Club of New York, any student in an accreditedinstitution of higher learning may enter and compete for a $5,000 scholarship and an invitation to the Andy Awards show.
  • Art Directors Club of New York Student Awards. Students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate pro-grams in advertising, graphic design, photography, illustration, and new media may submit published or unpublished work. Winning work becomes part of a traveling exhibition.
  • Athena Student Awards. Sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America, students submit singleads and campaigns created for newspapers and compete for the grand prize of $5,000.
  • Clio Student Awards. Students enrolled in an accredited advertising, film, or design program competefor the opportunity to win a coveted Clio statue.
  • D&AD Student Awards. Winners receive cash prizes and are invited to the annual British Design andArt Direction competition in London.
  • London International Advertising Awards. Student work is judged by the world’s top creative directorsand the winner receives a trip to London for the London International Advertising Awards Festival.
  • One Show. Undergraduate and graduate advertising majors create an ad from a brief supplied by theOne Club. Winners receive a One Show pencil, cash prizes, and publication in the One Show annual.
  • Radio-Mercury Awards. Students are recognized and rewarded for excellence in college-producedradio commercials with a $2,500 cash award.
  • Young Guns. Students may enter individual ads or campaigns of three executions for a cash prize andan opportunity for an internship with Leo Burnett Worldwide.

Team Competitions

  • AAF National Student Advertising Competition. Student teams develop an integrated marketing com-munications campaign for a national client. To enter, students must be members of their college’s chapter of the American Advertising Federation. Winning schools receive cash prizes, and students gain networking opportunities.
  • Bateman Competition. Teams of four or five students develop a public relations campaign for a spon-soring client. Winning schools receive cash prizes, and students gain experience and networking opportunities. Students must be members of their college’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
  • DMEF Collegiate Echo Competition. Teams of up to four students develop a direct marketing plan tosolve the challenge presented by a national client. Winning teams go to a major industry conference and receive promotional gifts.


  • CMYK. A magazine devoted to student work and judged by pros that invites students to submit adver-tising, design, photography, and illustrations.
  • Communication Arts. The illustration and photography editions accept unpublished work. The advertis-ing and design editions accept only published work seen by a substantial audience. www.commarts


  • How. Annuals feature winning work from the Interactive Design Competition, the International DesignCompetition, and the Self-Promotion Competition.

Like that little boy, most viewers love Super Bowl commercials because of their use of humor, celebrities, and ad critters. Unfortunately, the viewers don’t always express their enthusiasm for the commercials at the cash regis-ter. Super Bowl commercials are hardly unique in this regard—some of the most popular commercials of all time have been tremendous flops in terms of sales. So does this mean you should avoid humor, celebrities, and ad charac-ters in your ads? No. But it does mean you should use them strategically.


Consider this TV commercial: An amateur stage production shows two chil-dren lost in the forest. The good fairy appears from overhead and starts floating toward them. “Not to fear, little children. I will helpppp . . .” THUD! She plummets to the stage. Tag line: “Should have used Stren. Stren. The most dependable fishing line in the world.” The humor takes us by surprise and shows a situation that we can empathize with. It communicates a rele-vant, unexpected, and memorable message about the product. It gives us a reason to buy. It works.

Here are some tips on how to use humor in advertising:

  • Know the difference between humor and jokes. A joke is a one-shot deal.Once you hear the punch line, it’s not as funny the second time. And when you hear the same joke a bunch of times, it can become downright tedious. Humor, by contrast, is subtler and often contains nuances that make you want to see and hear it repeatedly. Many humorous commer-cials become funnier the more times that you see them.

A comedy club understood the difference between jokes and humor when it created a delightful radio spot that promoted what it was selling: laughter. The spot recorded various types of laughter—the chuckle, the gig-gle, the cackle, the sputtering burst, the snort, and so on. You could hear the spot repeatedly and laugh each time because the laughter became con-tagious.

  • Relate to the human experience. One of the things that made the comedyclub spot so amusing was that listeners could identify people they knew who laughed like that. The spot made a relevant human connection.
  • Make sure the humor is central to your product message. Have you everbeen so captivated by a commercial that you could repeat almost every detail of it—except the name of the product it was trying to sell? If the product is obscured by the humor, the ad has flopped. To work, humor must be central to the message you’re trying to communicate.
  • Understand your audience’s sense of humor. Your ads should reflect thetastes, aspirations, and sensibilities of its intended audience. Just because you and your friends find something hysterical doesn’t mean the rest of the world will. People may even be insulted by it. So be sure to test your humor on members of your target audience. Figure 1-6 reflects the sense of humor of its thrill-seeking audience.
  • Avoid humor that’s at the expense of others. Making fun of ethnicgroups, the disabled, and the elderly will likely backfire on you. A car company offended African Americans by running an ad in Jet maga-zine that stated, “Unlike your last boyfriend, it goes to work in the morning.” And a discount clothing store offended Jewish people by saying, “Dress British. Think Yiddish.”
  • Have fun with your product, but don’t make fun of it. Self-deprecatinghumor can work if you turn your supposed shortcomings into an advantage. Motel 6 does this brilliantly. The chain doesn’t try to hide its lack of amenities but, rather, flaunts it. At Motel 6, you’re not going to receive fancy soaps, European chocolates, or fluffy bathrobes. Instead, you’ll receive a comfortable room at a comfortable price. See the “Briefcase” section in Chapter 9 for examples of this long-running campaign.
  • Don’t assume that your audience is stupid. Think of it this way: Wouldyou rather buy something from someone who apparently views you as an idiot or from someone who seems to appreciate your intelligence? Absolut vodka saw phenomenal growth in its sales following the use of smart, subtle humor in its print ads.

The joy. The jolts. The jitters. If you’ve ever gone white-water rafting, you’ll agree that these ads cap-ture the experience. And if you haven’t tried it, go soon—it’ll clear the cobwebs from your brain.

Celebrity Endorsements

Some of the most popular commercials feature a who’s who of pop culture. There are numerous advantages to using celebrities, including the following:

  • They have stopping power. Celebrities attract attention and help cutthrough the clutter of other ads. The “Got Milk?” print campaign makes milk seem cool by showing hundreds of celebrities—from sports figures

Girls, here’s today’s beauty tip. Think about you and your 10 best friends. Chances are 9 of you aren’t getting enough calcium. So what? So milk. 3 glasses of milk a day give you the calcium your growing bones need. Tomorrow—what to do when you’re taller than your date.

Tyra sports a gold string bikini and the signature milk mustache in the ad that ran in Sports Illustrated. Copy reads:

Stop drooling and listen. One in five victims of osteoporosis is male. Don’t worry. Calcium can help prevent it. And ice cold, lowfat milk is a great source of calcium. So don’t sit there gawking at me. Go drink some milk.

Notice how these ads make milk relevant to their target audience?

That’s good advertising.

  • Fans idolize celebrities. Advertisers hope the admiration for the celebritywill be transferred to the brand. The trick is to make sure the celebrity doesn’t overshadow the brand.

The commercial that won the 2006 AOL and CBS poll for “Best Super Bowl Commercial of All Time” features a little boy befriending his idol, Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineman Mean Joe Greene. It opens on Greene hob-bling down the players’ tunnel, on his way to the locker room. It’s quite apparent that the Steelers’ game wasn’t going well and the defensive lineman was through for the day. An awestruck boy meets Greene in the tunnel and asks, “Ya . . . ya need any help?” The mean linebacker snarls back, “Naw.” The boy tries to comfort the defeated lineman: “I just want you to know that . . . that you’re the greatest.” Greene mumbles, “Yeah, sure,” trying to ignore the boy. But the boy insists on making Greene feel better, so he asks, “Want my Coke?” Greene waves him off but the boy persists, “Really, you can have it.” Reluctantly, Greene accepts the offer and guzzles the 16-ounce bottle of Coke in one gulp. The Coca-Cola jingle starts playing, “A Coke and a smile, makes me feel good, makes me feel nice. . . .” The boy, looking dejected because he thinks he has failed to impress his hero, starts to walk away. Greene stops him and tosses his football jersey to him as a token of his appreciation. The delighted boy utters, “Wow! Thanks, Mean Joe!” and the jingle continues, “That’s the way it should be and I’d like the whole world smiling at me. . . . Have a Coke and a smile.”

This endearing message, which ran in the 1980 Super Bowl, still res-onates with viewers. And it makes the product, not the celebrity, the true star of the ad.

  • People are fascinated about the personal lives of celebrities. Sometimeseven the foibles of celebrities can inspire ideas for persuasive messages. Willie Nelson, who got into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), appeared in a commercial for H&R Block. In the commercial, he’s forced to be the spokesperson for a fictitious shaving cream company as a way to pay off his back taxes. In real life, he released an album to pay his debt. Even if you don’t know this little tidbit about the folksinger, the commercial makes sense. More important, there was a relevant connec-tion to the advertiser. The commercial closes with this message: “Don’t get bad advice. Let H&R Block double-check your taxes free. We’ll find what others miss.”
  • Their unique characteristics can help communicate the selling idea. Seven-foot five-inch basketball star Yao Ming appeared with Verne Troyer (“Mini-Me”) in ads promoting Apple’s 12- and 17-inch laptops. Yao is shown with the smaller screen, and Verne has the big screen. The two celebrities help further the selling idea—size—in a dramatic way.
  • They’re perceived as experts in their fields. The trick is to make a rele-vant connection between a celebrity’s expertise and the brand being advertised. An athlete is a natural spokesperson for sporting goods but doesn’t seem credible when promoting junk food that’s high in fat and calories.

Before you think a celebrity is the answer, consider these drawbacks:

  • They’re expensive. Many top athletes, actors, and musicians commandcontracts in the millions of dollars. Smaller companies shouldn’t even dream of spending this type of money, nor should companies trying to pro-mote their low prices. Even large companies should think twice before plopping down millions of dollars. Two Super Bowl commercials for Pepsi showcased Britney Spears doing musical numbers from bygone eras. The commercials, which cost $5.8 million to air in 2002, got terrible rankings in the annual USA Today Super Bowl Ad Poll. The 90-second commercial came in 43rd and the 30-second version was ranked the third-lowest spot of the 52 ads rated in the poll.
  • They’re often a quick fix, not a long-term strategy. Celebrities go in andout of fashion, and as their popularity level shifts, so does their persua-siveness. Look at a People magazine from a decade or two ago. How many of the former superstars are still super popular?

Rapper MC Hammer made it big in the 1980s and spent money as if his star power would last forever. Soon he was out of the limelight and in debt, which prompted an idea for a Nationwide Insurance ad. The

  • “Super Spots from the Super Bowl: USA Today’s 14th Annual Ad Meter,”, 4 February 2002.
  • They may lack credibility. Sixty-three percent of respondents in a studypublished in Advertising Age said that celebrities are “just doing it for the money,” and 43 percent believed celebrities “don’t even use the product.”

A commercial for Champion sportswear shows images of obnoxious professional basketball players. One dribbles a ball imprinted with the front of a dollar bill. The voice-over inquires, “When did the logo on your shoe become more important than the heart on your sleeve? When did the word ‘renegotiate’ move from the business page to the sports page? Where have all the champions gone?” The images on the screen change to plain folks playing football and running just for fun. The voice-over continues, “You’ll find us in places where the lights don’t flash and the only contract you sign is with yourself. We are the champions. . . .”

  • They may endorse so many products that it confuses people. Tiger Woodsgot into hot water for bouncing a Titleist golf ball on the wedge of a Titleist golf club while shooting a Nike commercial.
  • They can overshadow the message. Although a celebrity may drawattention to an ad, some consumers focus their attention on the celebrity and fail to note what’s being promoted. In one spot, Yao Ming tries to pay for a souvenir from New York City by writing a check. The cashier responds, “Yo,” pointing to a sign that says “no checks.” Yao corrects her, “Yao.” They go back and forth with the Yo, Yao routine and the spot closes with a brief pitch for Visa’s check card. The com-mercial is a clever spin on the “who’s on first” routine. The audience will likely remember Yao’s name, but it’s not as certain they’ll remem-ber which credit card company paid for the ad. The Visa brand name could easily have been made dominant if the cashier had asked the Chinese athlete to show his visa and passport and he presented his Visa check card instead.
  • Bad press about the celebrity can hurt the sponsor. Nutella dumped KobeBryant as its spokesman after the basketball star was accused of raping a woman. Kmart canceled its contract with golfing veteran Fuzzy Zoeller after he joked about Tiger Woods eating fried chicken and collard greens.
  • Dave Vadehra, “Celebs Remain Entertaining, if Not Believable,” Advertising Age, 2 September 1996, p. 18.

“Having a highly paid, highly visible celebrity endorser is like having an expensive beach home on the Florida coast. It’s swell, if you don’t mind lying awake all night worrying about approaching storms,” says Bob Garfield, ad critic at Advertising Age.9

At least initially, you should avoid using celebrities in your ads because it’s unlikely you’ll have that type of budget on your first account. Also, it doesn’t show original thinking. Your portfolio should show how you can solve problems creatively, not how a famous personality can do it.

Advertising Trade Characters

Giggling doughboys. Talking dogs. Dancing raisins. All of these whimsical characters have pitched products and ideas over the years. Creative guru Ted Bell notes that characters like the Jolly Green Giant and Colonel Sanders are part of the “fabric” of their companies and that consumers have an emo-tional attachment to them even after they’ve been on hiatus. “You see the Colonel, and it’s instant recognition, with no explanation necessary. When the old characters reappeared, the new cynical audience seemed to like them. Younger consumers enjoyed them because they were corny and campy; for older viewers, they had nostalgic appeal.”10

Done right, the character will communicate a selling feature. Snap, Crackle, and Pop reinforce the unique sound that Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal makes when milk is added to it. The AFLAC duck and the Geico gecko have made their insurance companies seem more approachable and have put their companies’ brand names front and center in consumers’ minds.

Because they don’t age, advertising characters can appeal to different generations of consumers. Smokey Bear, Tony the Tiger, and the Jolly Green Giant are more than 50 years old. The Quaker Oats man has been around since 1887 (his cholesterol level must be great). And to celebrate Mr. Peanut’s 90th birthday (and Planters 100th anniversary), ad agency FCB invited con-sumers to vote for a new look for the famous icon. Ads showed Mr. Peanut in outrageous getups instead of his signature top hat, walking stick, and mono-cle. Even the comic strip Bizarro had fun with the challenge and showed Mr. Peanut dressed as a rapper.

Perhaps the best thing about animated characters is the control you have over them. Unlike a celebrity, they won’t be caught shoplifting, driving under the influence, or saying something stupid in public. But like a celebrity, they can attract a loyal fan base. Burger King’s king was a guest

  • Bob Garfield, “Champion Forgoes Endorser and Scores a Couple of Points,” Advertising Age, 14 July 2003, p. 29.
  • Warren Berger, Advertising Today (London: Phaidon Press, 2001), p. 285.

Still, many creative directors find advertising trade characters to be gimmicky and old-fashioned. In some cases, they’re right. The trick is to make the character relevant to consumers. This can mean cosmetic surgery and a personality makeover. The old M&M candy characters from the 1950s were cutesy by today’s standards. Thanks to a makeover by Vinton Studios and BBDO, the candy characters developed personalities—faults and all. Red is self-absorbed and views himself as the leader of the M&M pack. Yellow is sweet but a bit simple. Green is oh-so-sexy, especially when she wears her white go-go boots. And Blue is cool in his dark shades.

Likewise, the king from Burger King underwent a makeover. The 1970s king was a cheery cartoon character who performed magic tricks with cheesy sidekicks like Sir Shakes-A-Lot and the Wizard of Fries. In 2004 Crispin Porter Bogusky reintroduced the BK King as a quirky, and some say creepy, character that appeals to young men. Russ Klein, chief global marketing officer of Burger King, told Adweek the campaign has “remysti-fied” the brand and has made it a pop culture leader.

Like humor and celebrities, advertising trade characters must be rele-vant to the consumer and the brand. Also, keep in mind that just because people love your character, it won’t necessarily mean they love your brand. Most people loved the singing sock puppet from, but few under-stood why they needed to order pet supplies over the Internet. The loveable sock puppet is now traded on eBay as a collector’s item.

Ethical and Legal Issues

How Far Will You Go to Be “Creative”?

Ask yourself these questions about advertising:

  • Should profit or prudence prevail as surveys indicate women, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans are prime targets for cigarettes and alcohol when most consumers are consuming less of both?
  • Should a commercial for a popular pain reliever reveal that the reason “more hospitals choose our brand” is that it is supplied at a reduced price?
  • Should consumers who have no medical background be told to ask physi-cians about specific brands of prescription drugs?
  • Should an automobile maker show a sports car outracing a jet plane in an age when speeding motorists are killed daily?
  • Should advertisers cast TV commercials using such imperatives as “she should be blond—or if brunette, not too brunette—and pretty, but not too pretty”; “midwestern in speech, middle-class looking, gentile”; or “if we’re using blacks, make them upscale”?
  • Is even a mock representation of violence and domination appropriate in commercial speech?
  • What about sexual innuendo? If sex sells, should there be limits?

Advertisers can go too far in their attempts to be creative. In some cases, consumers become so outraged they start a boycott. The media may choose not to run an ad they find offensive, as Elle magazine did when it ran a blank page instead of running a Benetton ad that showed a man dying of AIDS. And sometimes the ad goes so far that it breaks the law and results in sub-stantial penalties.


Here are regulations you should know before you create ads:

  • Know the difference between puffery and deception. The legal definitionof puffery is “an exaggeration or overstatement expressed in broad, vague, and commendatory language and is distinguishable from misde-scriptions or false representations of specific characteristics of a product and, as such, is not actionable.” For instance, an ad for spaghetti sauce may claim it’s “as good as mom’s.” Few people would believe this to be a statement of fact. If your mom is a bad cook, you may hope it isn’t true.
  • If you make a claim, be prepared to substantiate it. You may be temptedto promote a health benefit or state your product is better than another company’s. Before you do this, be aware that the Federal Trade Commis-sion (FTC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Association of Attorneys General require that you can substantiate your claims. If you can’t, they can order you to do a variety of things, including pulling the ad in question and running corrective advertising.

In 2006, a federal judge ordered tobacco companies to stop using the terms “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” and “natural” in selling cigarettes, saying they “implicitly or explicitly convey to the smoker that (light and low tar cigarettes) are less hazardous to health than full-flavored cigarettes.” In addition, the judge ordered a year of corrective ads by four tobacco companies.

Competitors can sue if your ad misrepresents the nature, characteris-tics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities. John Deere & Co. stopped MDT.

Pepsi sued Coca-Cola over a Powerade commercial that showed two Amish-looking fellows having a drag race with their horse-drawn carts. The cart carrying 10 bales of hay beats the cart loaded down with

50 bales and the commercial cuts to a chart that shows total calories for Gatorade (50) and Powerade Option (10). The announcer says, “Ten is less than 50. Powerade Option, the low-calorie sports drink.” Pepsi, which makes Gatorade, protested on the grounds that people need more calories when they work out. Coca-Cola quickly settled out of court and stopped running the ad.

  • Don’t copy creative ideas from other campaigns. Regardless of what youmay have heard, imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery. Nike forced Volkswagen to pull a print ad that used an “Air Jorgen” headline because it was too close to Nike’s Air Jordan trademark.
  • Don’t copy other people’s likeness. Tom Waits won a $2.4-million lawsuitagainst Frito-Lay and ad agency Tracy Locke after they used someone who sounded like Waits in a radio campaign for Doritos. Vanna White won $400,000 from Samsung after it used a female robot dressed in an evening gown and blond wig, standing in front of a letter board.
  • Respect other companies’ trademarks. Tony the Tiger and the Exxontiger coexisted peacefully for more than 30 years. But when Exxon started using its tiger to sell food, Kellogg’s sued for infringement of its tiger trademark. See Chapter 2 for more information on trademarks and how to protect them.
  • Watch what you say in front of children. Advertising that may be suitablefor adults may be unacceptable for children. The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus asked Quaker Oats to modify a commercial for Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal because it featured the captain throwing a jar of peanut butter overboard as he states, “Who needs it.” CARU’s concern was that children might believe the cereal is nutritionally the same as, if not better than, peanut butter.

CARU asked Kellogg to discontinue an advertising campaign for Apple Jacks cereal because of references to a “bad” apple. The commer-cials in question featured an agile, easygoing cinnamon stick, referred to as CinnaMon, and a short, devious and grouchy apple referred to as Bad Apple. Bad Apple is always scheming, but ultimately fails, to beat Cinna-Mon to the bowl of Apple Jacks. CARU determined children could reason-ably take away the message that apples are bad for them and do not taste good and that cinnamon, by itself, gives Apple Jacks its sweet taste.

The Creative Challenge

Good advertising doesn’t come easily. Anyone can dash off an ad in minutes; you see or hear those every day in print, on radio or television, in your mail-box, on billboards, and on the Internet. And anyone can come up with an idea that’s rude and offensive. But unless the idea relates to the selling mes-sage and to the intended audience, it’ll be a flop.

Creative advertising makes a relevant connection with its target audience and presents a selling idea in an unexpected way. The relevance comes from the facts, whereas the unexpected connection is the inspiration of the writer and art director—the added ingredient that gets the message noticed. That’s what this book is all about: identifying the advertising problem, gathering the facts, and—through a process of critical and creative thinking—adding your own insight to create a memorable ad that not only commands attention but also delivers the right message to the right audience in a language that audi-ence understands and accepts.

Look at some of the ads in this book. See if you can identify the unex-pected element in each ad, and see if it passes the test for relevance. Note whether the idea of entertainment has fused with the factual message so that you now want to read the ad. Did the people who created the ad do everything possible to attract the audience they were seeking? Or did they sacrifice a good idea to a funny punch line or an outrageous statement or image? That is, did the entertainment content intrude on the message or reinforce it?

Suggested Activities

  1. Take inventory of the number of advertising messages you see or hear in a single day. How many did you count, how many do you remember vividly, and what were some of the more unusual places in which you found advertising?
  • Find examples of advertisements that you believe are in bad taste. What could the advertisers have done to eliminate such qualities without diminishing the effect of the selling message?

Gorman adds that he called the Pencil Makers Association in Moorestown, New Jersey, and discovered “pencils are doing fine.” U.S. companies make about 2 billion pencils each year, he learned. He also discovered pencils got their start in 1564, when a large graphite deposit was uncovered in England. Gradually, folks figured out what to put around the graphite, what to mix it with, and how to cook it to make it stronger and better for writing. Ernest Hemingway and Walt Whitman used pencils, not pens or typewriters (or computers). So did Vladimir Nabokov and Herbert Hoover. Henry Thoreau ran a family pencil-making business. Finally, Gorman learned “you could eat one every day without harming yourself,” mainly because the “lead” in a pencil is not lead but graphite.

If Gorman can take three full pages to entertain you about pencils, can you create a single advertisement to provide the pencil with a per-sonality so appealing that readers will clamor for more pencils? Try it.

  • Find an ad in a national magazine, or describe a commercial from radio or television. Write a critique of it using the following guidelines:
  • Does the ad gain your attention without confusing you? Would it stand out in a magazine or newspaper full of ads (or on television or radio)?
  • Does the ad show empathy with the target audience? Is the target clearly defined? Is there a sense of involvement—that is, does the ad make you exclaim, “That’s me they’re talking about”?

moves hurt more than just egos. Although the injuries may not be life threat-ening, they often need immediate medical attention. So what do you do? Go to the emergency room where people with life-and-death injuries are being rushed in by ambulance? Take a chance that your doctor will squeeze you in between appointments? Lexington Medical Center offers a better remedy.

The Lexington Medical Center has six urgent care facilities that treat non–life-threatening injuries such as sprains, broken bones, and cuts that need stitches. Created to take some of the burden off the hospital’s emer-gency room, the facilities are strategically located so that urgent care is only 15 minutes from anywhere in Lexington County, South Carolina.

Despite the convenient locations, the facilities were not reaching capac-ity. So Lexington Medical Center’s marketing department turned to the Riggs Agency and Mad Monkey production studio to create a campaign to increase visits to the centers by 5 percent.

Riggs and Mad Monkey developed an award-winning campaign that uses humor to grab people’s attention and resonate with its audience. Unlike most medical center ads that boast about state-of-the-art technology or a caring medical team (yawn), Lexington’s ads focus on the mishaps of real people. Because none of the injuries featured in the ads is life threatening, the humor is quite appropriate.

“While brainstorming for this campaign, we realized that most of us had hobbled, limped or carried someone into an ER. More times than not, we were there due to a ridiculous lack in judgment. In other words, we were the target—the accident waiting to happen. More importantly, we realized that whether it’s a sprain or an unexplained rash, when it happens to you, it’s urgent. Thus the tag, ‘Whatever Urgent Means to You, We’re Here,’”explained Lorie Gardner, president of Mad Monkey.

Gardner described how the creative team pitched the idea to the client. “Due to the turnaround time, we wrote scripts and acted them out. Some-times we create concept boards, with various photos or faces that help us paint the drama. For this project however, we simply became thumb-sucking ‘acktors.’ Quite scary, I know.”

One of the first TV spots in the campaign opens on a mischievous boy who’s dressed in a superhero’s cape and goggles. We hear his mom calling for him in the background: “Sam . . . turn down the TV. Sammy . . . Sam . . .

Oh, please tell me you’re not trying to fly again!” As she pleads with him to be careful, he takes a flying leap off the porch, straight into the bushes. A voice-over delivers the tag line: “For whatever urgent means to you.” Undaunted, Sam gets up, brushes off his cape, readjusts his goggles, and climbs back on the porch to do it all over again.

The story of the young superhero’s misstep came from the life experi-ence of one of the vice presidents of the medical center. Margaret Gregory, marketing and public relations manager at Lexington Medical Center and mother of a young boy, commented on the commercial: “This spot appeals to parents who know better than anyone what imaginations their children can have and that the end result often means a trip to the urgent care facility.”

Another commercial opens on a close-up of a brother and sister, argu-ing over who’ll be the first to try out a new sled. You get the sense that it’s just snowed because the kids are bundled in jackets, scarves, and mittens. The boy wins the argument because, as he reminds his sister, “I built it.

It’s my sled.” The sister, nonplused, rolls her eyes and mutters, “What-ever.” As the camera pulls back you learn there’s not a speck of snow on the hill. And to make matters worse, this is no ordinary sled—it has wheels on the back and sled runners on the front. As the sister gives him a push, you hear the familiar urgent care message: “For whatever urgent means to you.”

As the teams from Riggs and Mad Monkey brainstormed, they found themselves showing their scars to one another. Copywriter Michael Powelson mused, “Interesting things happen when you get four or five people around a table discussing the scars they’ve accumulated. It starts out innocently enough. But at some point the show-and-tell gets pretty competitive. I’m sur-prised more clothes didn’t come off.”

A TV commercial features three men around a campfire, each bragging about the ordeal that led to a scar. For one man it was a fishhook gone wrong. Another had appendicitis. And the third guy got his scar from third-degree burns pulling his prize chocolate soufflé out of the oven. As he says this, his marshmallow is burned to a crisp. Guess he won’t be a guest chef on the Food Channel anytime soon.

The ads hit home with people from all walks of life because they trigger memories of similar incidents in our own lives. The campaign began in the summer of 2005 and has won numerous awards. More important, the urgent care centers have seen an average increase of 7 percent in the number of acute care visits over the same period of the previous year. Individual centers have seen increases in ranges from 6 to 14 percent. And that’s no accident.

Think for a minute about the Apple campaign featuring Justin Long as a Mac and John Hodgman as a PC. Long is portrayed as laid-back, young, and cool, and Hodgman is portrayed as middle-aged, dated, and stodgy.

Anyone who has ever experienced either type of computer knows Apple is making a statement about its computers: that they are simple to use, are protected from viruses, and will look great on any desktop. By using Long to portray these attributes—and an opposite person to portray the compe-tition’s negative attributes—Apple is reinforcing the personality of its brand.

Branding Defined

A brand, much like a person, has a personality, and all of what you know and think about a brand comes through in this personality in two ways: through its identity and through its image. A brand’s identity is its strategically planned and purposeful presentation of itself to gain a positive image in the minds of the public. Basically, this is the company or brand’s presentation of itself, including its name, logo, tag line, color palette, architecture, and even sounds. So everything the brand presents to the public—everything people see and hear—is part of its identity. You could say that this is like a person: name, appearance, clothing style, and mannerisms make up someone’s identity.

How the public perceives that identity is another story, which in advertising is called the image. A brand’s image is the public’s perception of the com-pany or brand. Generally, the image is a direct result of the associations people have with the company or brand identity. If you think about this from a communications perspective, the image is formed every time a consumer sees an ad, goes into a store where the brand is sold, or has an interaction with the brand’s service staff.

A brand’s identity—and subsequent image—form the core of a brand, and both are considered important when it comes time to advertise the brand. After all, without an identity, a brand would have no public persona, because its identity is its public face in the marketplace. The identity ele-ments used in advertising serve as shortcuts that help consumers form an image of the brand:

Identity Image Reputation

All of the individual identity elements—the name, logo, tag line, colors, and architecture—taken together are often referred to as the brand’s “gestalt,” which means a whole is more than the sum of its parts. Take Target. From the ads on television to the décor in the stores, the experience is the same: a clean, hip, cool experience that elevates the image of discount shopping. The same is true of Apple—its TV ads, with the white background, match the clinical white feel of the retail stores, which reflects the clean white of the company’s personal computers. This consistency and symmetry contribute to the feelings of loyal Mac users: that there is no better computer.

A brand’s identity, however, is about more than just visuals. If you begin to think of a brand’s identity as the way it projects itself to the public, and its image as the way that projection is perceived, then it’s easy to take the next step and say that a brand’s identity and image are directly related to the brand’s reputation.

The reputation of the brand is less fleeting than its image and a lot harder to shape: it is formed over time through the overall impressions of the brand image. This means an investment in a positive brand identity could pay off in the form of a positive reputation, which often translates into customer loyalty. For example, Saatchi & Saatchi has coined the term “Lovemark” to refer to brands “inspiring loyalty beyond reason.” Lovemarks represent those brands, like Mac, that almost defy logic in terms of loyalty.

Just as loyalty can be won, it can also be lost. In some cases, it might even come back. Lacoste, the once-iconic “alligator” brand named for famous tennis star René Lacoste, was introduced in the 1930s and became a pervasive brand among the preppy set. Allegedly the first logo to be displayed on clothing as a design element, the brand was mass marketed

  1. Kevin Roberts, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands (New York: Powerhouse Books, 2004).

Although it’s not possible for every brand to reach legendary status, it should always be a brand’s aspiration. That said, reputation starts with the identity. Given that the reputation of a brand is derived from its image, mar-keters can at least indirectly control the image and the reputation of a brand by directly managing the visual identity.

Brand Identity Elements


A brand’s name is one of its most important assets—and one of its most mar-ketable ones. Naming brands has become such a big business that some agencies do nothing but name brands. Think about some brand names you like: did you ever think about how they were created? Naming companies may have created some, others might have been created by advertising agencies, and brand owners—maybe even the chief executive—might have created some.

Today, the Nike brand name is so pervasive that you probably don’t even think about how perfectly it fits the brand: Nike was the goddess of victory. Would “Dimension 6” have catapulted a sneaker company to same type of success? That was Nike founder Phil Knight’s choice for a name. Legend has it that the Nike name came to an employee in a dream. And who says sleep is unproductive?

A good name breeds success, but even the best name can’t shield a com-pany from poor performance. A name is just one part of the brand identity.


A logo is the visual symbol a brand or company uses to identify itself to con-sumers. A logo might be simply a graphic element, or it can be a word. The latter is typically called a logotype.

Think about Target’s red bull’s-eye logo. The red and white symbol is an example of a simple logo that realistically reflects the brand’s name. Now picture the bull’s-eye logo with three bullet holes through it. Does it work the same way? Would the store be as successful with a bullet-riddled logo?

  • Vivian Manning-Schaffel, “Lacoste: The Alligator’s Back in Style,” BusinessWeek, 13 September 2006. Rumor has it that the alligator logo appeared on shirts as a joke. René Lacoste was dubbed “The Alligator” by the American press after a bet he made. Lacoste asked a friend to draw a crocodile, which he then had embroidered onto the blazer he wore on the court.
  • Karen Post, “Brand naming,” Fast Company, 6 June 2005.

Two strong brands that employ a logotype as their primary identifiers are jetBlue and FedEx. The origins of jetBlue are somewhat quaint. The team developing the start-up airline had been struggling for a name. The chief executive officer, David Neeleman, wanted the word “blue” either as the air-line’s name or in the airline’s name. Trademarking such a generic term, however, would have been difficult. In discussing the name with Neeleman, the airline’s communications person suggested incorporating “blue” into the name. “‘I just kept babbling,’ she said, ‘and I said, “you can call it ‘fly blue’ or you could call it ‘jet blue’ or you could . . .” ‘Jet Blue,’ conjured seemingly from nowhere, was, clearly, what they’d been groping for.” Later that evening, the communications person sketched out a simple logotype on a napkin. It was as simple as that.

The FedEx logotype was designed by Landor Associates. It was designed in 1994. If you look at it quickly the purple and orange logo seems very sim-ple and straightforward. When you look a little more closely at the white space between the “e” and the “x,” you see very clearly an arrow pointing to the right. Landor designed the logo this way, but FedEx chose not to promote the arrow. Instead, finding the arrow, which has been said to connote speed and precision, is a “hidden bonus”.

Tag Line

A tag line is the short phrase typically used with a brand name or logo. It might also be called the brand’s slogan or even motto. Some recent famous tag lines include “Can You Hear Me Now?” which identifies Verizon Wireless.

More than any other identity element, the tag line will change over time. It will change on a number of occasions: when there is a new creative cam-paign developed, when a new advertising agency is hired, or just when the tag line has outlived its usefulness. Some tag lines, however, remain—and even become a part of the vernacular.

Having a tag line that becomes a part of popular culture can be both pos-itive and negative. In the short term, having a popular and memorable tag line, such as “Can You Hear Me Now?” helps people associate the tag line with the brand. That’s the positive side. On the negative side, a tag line that has become a part of popular culture is close to becoming a cliché. Over the long term, the tag line becomes less about the brand than about being a punch line. If people start quoting the tag line but can’t name the brand, it’s time to dump the line.

Think about your favorite brand. Is the brand strong enough that you can identify it with just a color? It might seem strange that just a single color can help market a product, but think about your college. It probably has one or two colors that it uses as its primary means of identification, and those colors are worn proudly by athletes, fans, and anyone stopping at the bookstore to buy a T-shirt. In some cases, schools’ athletic programs adopt names that include their major color. Syracuse University’s official color is orange, and the athletic teams were renamed in 2004. The new name? You guessed it: The Orange.6

This isn’t simply a collegiate phenomenon, however. Companies have begun to understand the power of having their brands associated with col-ors. For example, UPS began an advertising campaign in 2002 that asked, “What can brown do for you?”

  • There are several schools that include their official color in their team names. A few examples include Tulane University Green Wave, Marquette University Golden Eagles, DePaul University Blue Demons, Cornell University Big Red, Duke University Blue Devils. St. John’s University Red Storm, University of Alabama Crimson Tide, and Harvard University Crimson.

In 1994, Coca-Cola’s number one competitor, Pepsi, decided it didn’t “own” a color the way Coke owned red, unless you counted its heavy use of white on its cans and signage. Instead, Pepsi decided it could build on blue as its color. The company did research and determined blue was a color that “consumers viewed . . . as modern and cool, exciting and dynamic, and a color that communicated refreshment.”7

Color alone is also a marketable element of identity. For example, Glidden and Home Depot partnered in 2006 to offer “Team Colors,” a collection of licensed paint colors that are exact matches to the colors of professional basketball, football, and baseball teams, as well as NASCAR drivers and colleges.

If you still don’t believe in the power of color associations—and the marketability of color—think about how it would feel to receive a diamond ring in a red velvet box. And now think about how it might feel to receive a ring in a Tiffany & Co. robin’s egg blue box. Tiffany & Co. has developed such a strong brand association for its packaging that empty boxes are regularly sold on auction sites.

Architecture and Interior Design

The next time you enter a company’s building or headquarters, think about what the building or office says about the company. Could you tell (without looking at a sign) what the company does? If the answer is “yes,” the com-pany or brand is doing a good job projecting its identity onto its architecture and interior design.

Nike’s 178-acre “campus,” a.k.a. corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, contains 16 buildings, all of which are named after the company’s high-profile athletic endorsers.8 The campus also contains a cross-country running trail and a “Tour de France simulator”: four bicycles are mounted to the floor in front of a large map of France. Employees who want to work out—four at a time—choose a specific stage of the bike race, and a computer automatically adjusts the tension on the bicycles.

Perhaps one of the most prevalent uses of interior design to reflect iden-tity is in the communications industry. Advertising agencies often decorate their offices to reflect what they do. Because advertising is a creative field, it’s not unusual to walk into an agency and see theme décor.

Finally, some of a company’s identity—and its interior design—results from its history. The Leo Burnett agency in Chicago keeps a bowl of apples in every reception area to remind those working there that Burnett was told he would end up selling apples on the street when he opened an advertising agency during the Great Depression.


For years, motorcycle company Harley-Davidson had an application pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the sound of its “common crankpin V-Twin engine.” Harley-Davidson thought its engine’s roar was unique enough to distinguish itself from other motorcycles, and the company wanted to make sure no other company was able to copy this unique sound.9 Although Harley-Davidson eventually withdrew its applica-tion, the government has recognized that sounds make up an important part of an organization’s identity.

In 1950, NBC was allowed to register its chimes as a trademark. Still in use today, the musical notes G, E, and C instantly identify the peacock net-work. Another soundmark you might recognize is the roar of the MGM lion, which you have likely heard at the beginning of movies.10

Today there are few sound trademarks, but many companies and brands recognize specific sounds can be an efficient—and memorable—part of their identities. Think of the sounds you hear as you enter a Starbucks—anywhere around the country. Or think about the type and volume of music you hear as you walk by the Abercrombie & Fitch store at the mall. Chances are good that you can describe it, even if you don’t know the exact musical composi-tion, because the sound has become so closely associated with the store.

A specific example of sound being part of a brand’s identity is the “zoom zoom” campaign for Mazda. Although the campaign is relatively new in the world of advertising, the sound of the whispered “zoom zoom” has become indelibly linked with the brand, and hearing it makes people think of Mazda.

Another great example is the advertising campaign for the American Family Life Insurance Company. Don’t think you know the campaign? Sure you do—it’s the AFLAC campaign where the duck quacks “Aflaaaack!” to remind people that they need supplemental insurance. If you’re like many people, you’ll find yourself quacking—not saying—the name of the insurance company.

The type of research required to build a brand’s identity involves looking at two different audiences: internal and external. The internal audience is generally employees and perhaps other people who have a close connection to the brand. The external audience is made up of customers, shareholders, vendors, the community, and other stakeholders.

For example, recalling the Pepsi example, when Pepsi wanted to learn how consistently its identity elements were being projected to consumers around the world, it hired an agency to perform a visual identity audit. The agency collected 2,000 photographs of Pepsi identity elements (in this case, the name and logo as it was used on signage and on soda cans) from 34 countries. What this collection of elements reflected was startling: there were a number of inconsistencies in the identity elements being used both within some countries and between countries.

Projecting a Unified Message

Think about how you learn. Most people need to hear, see, or experience something more than once to really understand it. For example, when an ad appears on television, you might not see the entire spot the first time or you may hear the spot while you’re doing something else so that you don’t actu-ally see the ad. It may take a few times before you can actively process what the ad is trying to achieve. Marketers generally understand this, and most have come to embrace the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC), which refers to the idea that a brand will communicate most effec-tively if its sends a unified message through multiple media.

The pioneers of IMC developed the concept based on how consumers process the information they receive. Just as you learn by building on the knowledge you have in memory, rather than starting from scratch each time, marketers now understand information is not replaced but is combined with existing messages stored in memory. What this means for you as an advertis-ing professional is you need to remember consumers are receiving—and trying to process—not just the messages you create but also those being created by all types of communications professionals. You see, the average consumer doesn’t care about differentiating among the various forms of communication: advertising, public relations, promotions, and so on. Rather, consumers tend to view all of a brand’s communication as one flow of indistinguishable media.

In terms of media, brands today have a number of choices when it comes to deciding how to send a message to consumers. Each of these media choices should be viewed as a consumer touchpoint, an opportunity to com-municate with the public and reinforce the brand message. Often, individual or a group of identity elements will appear in a number of the following media: advertising, websites, product packaging, building interiors and exteriors, signs, clothing and uniforms, stationery, forms, publications, auto-mobiles and other vehicles (including airplanes and blimps), promotions and giveaway items. These are traditional elements, but marketers have begun to use more creative ways to reach people with brand messages, including inserting identity elements into TV shows and films.

Translating an Identity for Different Media—and Cultures

If you’ve ever traveled to another country, you’ve probably noticed the existence—some would save pervasiveness—of American brands. Perhaps the brand names and logos were the same as you’ve seen in the United States, or maybe the brand names were translated into the local country’s language or dialect and the logo was different from the one used in the United States. Either way, the decision to standardize (maintain consistent identity elements across countries and cultures) or localize (translate and design identity elements for the local culture) is an important one for marketers.

The decision to standardize or localize includes many considerations, including how consumers in a particular part of the world view the brand and whether the name of the brand will translate effectively. Whatever the decision, it is not made lightly.

Protecting Brand Identity

One of the best ways to protect the investment in a brand identity is to build support for the identity from the inside out. Employees who truly embrace a brand become brand champions or brand ambassadors, and these employ-ees can typically be counted on to protect the brand’s identity. One good way to motivate all employees is to reward employees for spotting infringement or potential infringement of any elements of the identity.

At a minimum, however, all employees should be educated on the impor-tance of brand identity. This education should focus on the importance of consistency day to day. Even minor inconsistencies over a long period can harm the brand’s equity—and may result in a diminished brand image.

The law can also be a powerful ally for those responsible for protecting a brand identity. As stated earlier, the brand identity’s “owner” is accountable for the integrity of the identity, so every available method should be used to protect it before invoking the protections of both trademark and copyright law. But if the need arises, the law can provide a powerful defense.

An identity is considered intellectual property, and the three areas of the law that protect intellectual property are trademark law, copyright law, and patent law. Trademark law and copyright law are the most relevant in the context of advertising and to issues of identity.

Trademark Law

The law defines a trademark as “Any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof . . . used . . . to identify and distinguish . . . goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others.” This means logos, colors, and tag lines are protected under trademark law.

I try desperately to have people understand they should follow the identity rules. If you don’t, you’re compromising the brand image. . . .

It’s a continuing task to get folks to understand why it’s important. I simply explain that every time you see the . . . logo, it’s an exposure. It works singly, but it also works cumulatively. Don’t compromise it; [if you do] you’re destroying the synergy of the program.

In a recent case, Apple, the consumer electronics and computer com-pany, was sued by Apple Corps, a multimedia company formed in 1968 by The Beatles. In 1991, the two parties had come to an agreement that Apple, which uses an apple with a bite taken out of it as its logo, would not use its apple logo on anything related to music. That probably seemed like a fair arrangement to Apple back then, when the iPod and iTunes had yet to be developed. In 2006, Apple Corps sued Apple in a British court for using its apple logo to promote iTunes, saying the use was unfair and went against the prior agreement. The judge disagreed, however, saying Apple’s logo “does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work.”15

Strong Brand Weak Trademark?

There is a fine line between a strong brand and a weak trademark. Think about aspirin, escalator, nylon, and kerosene. These are all simple words you use often in conversation. What most people don’t realize is that these were all once trademarks, which had the power of exclusivity. Other manufactur-ers could not call their medicine “aspirin,” their bathing suit a “bikini,” or even their toy a “yo-yo.” Today people don’t know what else to call these things. These words lost their trademark status because their owners didn’t protect them. Although it may seem tempting to have your brand name on the tip of everyone’s tongue when talking about the product category, it’s damaging to the trademark.

In many cases, brands will advertise their trademark status in journalism trade journals to ensure the media knows to use the trademark as a “proper adjective” in stories—rather than as a noun. Think of the value a brand name brings to its owner next time you need a Kleenex® Facial Tissue or you reach into your pocket for a ChapStick® Lip Balm. And give some serious thought to trademarks when you’re standing in line to make a photocopy on a Xerox® photocopy machine.

To test your knowledge of trademark and copyright law, think about the following three scenarios. Try to figure out what issues of intellectual prop-erty could affect a brand’s identity strategy:

  1. You’re out at a restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday. You tell the waiter or waitress about the big day (perhaps to get that free piece of cake) and all of a sudden the entire waitstaff descends upon your table, clapping and singing a made-up birthday song. Did you ever stop to won-der why the waiter or waitress doesn’t just simply sing “Happy Birthday?”
  • It’s later the same night, and you’re thirsty, so you order a Diet Coke. One of three things might happen: (1) the waiter brings you a Diet Coke, (2) the waiter asks you if Diet Pepsi is OK, because the restaurant doesn’t serve Diet Coke, or (3) the waiter brings you a Diet Pepsi. Which of these three actions could get the restaurant into legal trouble?
  • On a Sunday evening in early February, your favorite professional foot-ball team will play in the biggest game of the season, the Super Bowl. Because you’re a loyal fan, you decide to have a party and invite some friends. In preparation, you go shopping for theme plates, napkins, and cups. The problem, you find, is that nothing says “Super Bowl.” Instead, everything is just football themed. After a while, it occurs to you that none of the advertising for Super Bowl parties even mentions the phrase “Super Bowl.” Why isn’t anyone calling it the “Super Bowl?”

Each of the preceding scenarios illustrates a legal issue in which the identity elements of particular people or companies are at stake—and so are being protected. In the first scenario, the waitstaff doesn’t simply sing “Happy Birthday” because copyright law protects it. What that means is no one may publicly perform the song without paying a royalty to the copyright holder. This doesn’t prevent you from singing the song in your home, but it does mean you will probably have to wait until 2030—when the copyright expires—to hear the song sung royalty free in restaurants.17

The second scenario presents a tricky issue for restaurant owners because they can be held liable for their employees’ mistakes. In the sce-nario, the best outcome for the consumer is option 1, but option 2 is also acceptable from a legal perspective. The reason is simple: restaurants typi-cally serve either Coke or Pepsi products; rarely do restaurants serve both. If a patron orders the opposite of what the restaurant offers, the restaurant waitstaff is obligated to tell the consumer that what was ordered is not available but that a substitute is.

A modern legend has it that Coca-Cola has sued about 800 retailers since 1945 for contributory trademark infringement. Employees of the Trade Research Department would go into these retailers, ask for Coca-Cola, and then send suspicious drinks back to Atlanta for chemical analysis.

Finally, in the third scenario, the use of the term “Super Bowl” is nowhere to be found because it is a registered trademark of the National Football League and may only be used by the league’s paying sponsors.

The Identity Strategy

Identity strategy includes all processes and decisions made relating to how a brand projects itself in the marketplace. The specific decisions related to identity include choosing a logo, developing a tag line, deciding which color or colors will best identify the firm, and determining whether the brand should have a sound or particular architectural style that will help differenti-ate it in the marketplace.

A brand’s identity is its primary source of identification, but it’s also the source of a consumer’s associations, which are the links between values and a brand. These can be positive or negative, and the way to help control these associations—this image—is to carefully manage identity strategy.

To help develop or enhance a brand’s identity, a company should engage in appropriate research—from perceptual research with consumers (if devel-oping a brand identity) to a brand audit to ensure consistency (if enhancing a brand identity).

Once a strong identity is achieved, brand owners need to protect the iden-tity to ensure its exclusivity. Protection can include preventative measures, such as training employees on the proper use of the identity, or invoking legal means, such as through trademark or copyright law.

Suggested Activities

  1. Think about two brands that compete in the same category, such as Coke and Pepsi or UPS and FedEx. Investigate which is the stronger brand from a market share perspective. In your opinion, how much of the brand’s dominance is derived from its identity and its image?
  • Think of your favorite brand and make a list of its identity elements. What is the brand’s name? What does the logo look like? Can you
  • J. Koten, “Mixing with Coke Over Trademarks is Always a Fizzle,” Wall Street Journal, 9 March 1978, p. 1 and 32.
  • Now think about the same brand’s image: what do you perceive when you see any of the brand’s identity elements?
  • Do you know if the brand generally has a positive, neutral, or nega-tive reputation?
  • Like Pepsi did, perform a brand identity audit: choose a brand and then gather as many items—or pictures of items—as you can find that include the identity elements. Once you have the items and pictures, spread them out and see if the elements are used consistently or inconsistently. What are the benefits of consistency? What are the problems with inconsis-tency? If the elements are used inconsistently, what could the brand do to fix the problem?
  • Read the Dove case study in the “Briefcase” section at the end of this chapter and answer the following questions: Does the success of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty hinge on the nature of the brand? Would it work as well for a brand like Mac cosmetics? Or fashion house Dolce & Gabbana? Why or why not?

Throughout its nearly 50-year history, the Dove brand single-mindedly stood for gentle facial cleansing. The mantra “one-quarter cleansing cream” became “one-quarter moisturizing cream” in 1977, but little else changed over the years.

The brand positioning remains unchanged. Since its inception, the brand has always used real women in its advertising. So why the buzz?

Resonance. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty connects the brand with women in a way that had never been done before. Its breakthrough lies in the difference between concept and creative execution. Using real women means one thing when it’s a face being splashed with water and quite another when it’s wrinkles or a full behind. The portrait-style photography adds to the communication. The copy’s “voice” further adds to the overall effect. Simple, but powerful—the copy resonates with its female audience. It gently defies the conventional definition of attractiveness and celebrates that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty follows the mandate of all great cre-ative work: it “zigs” where others “zag.” By showing women in a way that no previous advertiser dared, the Dove ads commanded attention in women’s publications and as outdoor billboards. You couldn’t help but look.

Now, imagine the stopping power of an emotional 45-second spot high-lighting young girls’ insecurities about their appearance. The Dove Self-Esteem commercial “Little Girls” ran during Super Bowl XL in 2006 amid a buffet of humor, shock, beer, and boys. Talk about breaking through the clutter.

Advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather juxtaposed ‘tween self-doubt with the song “True Colors” sung by the Girl Scouts Chorus of Nassau County, New York. Its poignancy clearly struck its audience. By the end of the game, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty website had 25,000 hits. After 48 hours, 500,000.

Then there’s perfect timing as a contributor to success. Women were ready for this campaign.

Before launching the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, Unilever conducted in-depth interviews with women in 10 countries. Despite their cultural differ-ences, women responded with a frighteningly consistent voice. Nearly all were profoundly insecure about their looks: only 2 percent thought they were “beautiful,” 6 percent said they were “pretty,” and only 9 percent felt “attractive” in some way. Numerous critics blame the idealized vision of beauty shown in advertising and women’s magazines for the average woman’s poor self-image. The “Dove Global” survey showed real women resoundingly agreed—they were fed up with size 2 models dominating beauty and fashion.

U.S. marketing director for Dove, Philippe Harousseau, says the team found depth of emotion in that research; they didn’t develop an advertising strategy but a mission. “We are dedicated to debunking the stereotypes—that beauty is only young, only blond, only thin, only white.” Accordingly, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is built on three pillars:

  1. A commitment to understanding both the meaning and the consequences of “beauty” for women.
  • Actively promoting a more inclusive, more democratic ideal of beauty by using real women.
  • Being an agent of change positively affecting the lives of young girls through a global initiative, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund.

From corporate to product advertising, to a dedicated website, to public relations, to support for a huge Girl Scouts of the USA self-esteem initiative called “uniquely ME!,” the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty reverberates in truly integrated fashion.

Defying conventional wisdom is certainly working for Dove, the recipient of eight advertising and public relations awards since the campaign’s incep-tion, including the 2006 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Best of Silver Anvil Award and advertising’s Grand Effie award, positive proof that the campaign is not only highly regarded but also highly successful.

Dove added a twist to its campaign in 2007 by inviting real women to create a commercial for its new Cream Oil Body Wash. Hundreds of women entered their ideas, and the winning submission, created by 22-year-old Lindsay Miller, aired during the Oscars. The commercial features Lindsay taking a shower. After a brief product pitch, she says, “A woman’s shower is her sanctuary. For some of us it’s the only alone time we have all day. But let’s be honest. Your shower is your concert hall, your sold-out auditorium. Try new Dove Cream Oil Body Wash. Cause what’s better than knowing you’re beautiful even when no one’s looking. That’s real beauty. Love, Dove.”

Adweek’s ad critic Barbara Lippert, calls the commercial “deeply strate-gic. It feeds into the whole doing-it-for-yourself-not-worrying-who-approves sensibility that the Unilever brand has so carefully crafted since 2004.” Lippert adds, [Lindsay’s] spot is the perfect synthesis of the brand ethos––it’s as if it were in her DNA. Indeed, if the agency made a spot on a $200 (give or take) production budget, this would be it.”

A major event happened at 7:46 a.m. (eastern daylight time) on Tuesday, October 17, 2006. This was the moment the U.S. population officially sur-passed 300 million people. The last time the U.S. population hit a major milestone was in 1967, when it reached 200 million. As you may have guessed, the U.S. population today is more diverse than it was in 1967. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 9.7 million foreign-born people in the country in 1967, which represented less than 5 percent of the U.S. population. By 2006, the number of foreign-born people living in the United States reached an all-time high of more than 35 million, which rep-resented more than 11 percent of the population. The age of citizens had also changed. The median age in 2006 was 36.2 years, compared to 29.5 years in 1967.

Advertising cannot do business today the way it did in 1967. As you will remember from Chapter 1, effective advertising makes relevant connections with its target audience. To be successful, advertisers must understand, respect, and embrace the diversity of American consumers.

Today, one-third of Americans are people of color. And four states—California, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico—are what demogra-phers call “majority-minority” states, meaning that more than half of their population belongs to a group other than non-Hispanic whites.

The buying power of ethnic Americans is growing dramatically. The Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia predicts the com-bined buying power of ethnic minorities in the United States will exceed $1.7 trillion by 2010, more than triple the 1990 level of $454 billion. Furthermore, ethnic groups dominate the purchases of numerous products and services. Not only that, but white consumers, particularly those ages 12–34, are increasingly influenced by the fashion, dining, entertainment, sports, and music tastes emerging from minority communities.

These figures should make it quite clear that advertisers must under-stand the attitudes and behaviors of an ever-changing marketplace. So how do advertisers reach these important segments?

African Americans

African Americans are 39.7 million strong and have an annual purchasing power of $646 billion. Unlike some of their white counterparts, many African Americans love to shop. American Demographics reports that 43 percent of African Americans find it “fun and exciting” to shop for clothes, whereas only 35 percent of white Americans feel the same way. Furthermore, a study conducted by Mediamark Research found 58 percent of African American consumers say they enjoy wearing the latest fashions, compared with 46 percent of Asians and Hispanics and 36 percent of whites.

American Demographics reports that African Americans have two priori-ties in their budget: buying food to eat with the family at home and buying clothes and personal care items to help them look their best. According to the report, African American households devote 75 percent more than the average American household on pork and poultry, 50 percent more on cere-als and processed vegetables, and 33 percent more on beef, fresh milk, and processed fruits. They spend 47 percent more than the average American on personal care products, 67 percent more on apparel for boys and girls ages 2–15, and 33 percent more on laundry and cleaning supplies.

When it comes to housing, they spend 91 percent more on rented dwellings, 52 percent more on telephone services, and 25 percent more on tel-evision, radio, and sound equipment than the average American household.

The median income for African American households is $29,470, which is considerably less than the $42,228 median income of the population as a whole. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that African Americans lag behind the U.S. average in academic attainment. Just 4.8 percent of the African American population holds advanced degrees, compared with 8.9 percent for the population as a whole. However, the education level is improving. Census data show that the proportion of African Americans with high school diplomas rose by 10 percent from 1993 to 2003, and that gain was the largest reported for any group. If it is true that income follows educa-tion, then this market will be even more important to advertisers in the future.

Hispanic Americans

The nation’s 42.7 million Hispanic Americans represent 14.5 percent of the U.S. population, making them the nation’s largest minority group. By 2010, the Hispanic population is expected to grow to nearly 48 million. The His-panic population is gaining strength not only in their numbers but also in their spending power. Hispanics’ economic clout has risen from $212 billion in 1990 to $736 billion in 2005, and the Selig Center for Economic Growth predicts it will reach $1,087 billion in 2010.

Hispanics originate from many places, including Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central and South America, and Europe. The majority live in large cities, particularly Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami, and when it comes to advertising, most prefer to read and hear ads in Spanish. According to Strategy Research, 55 percent of Hispanics prefer to see ads in Spanish, 30 percent would choose English, and 13 percent don’t have a preference between the two languages. However, Christy Haubegger, the founder and former pub-lisher of Latina, says, “Income is closely correlated with language ability. It’s rare to see an affluent household that is Spanish-dependent.” Chiqui Cartagena, author of Latino Boom!, believes it is wise to advertise in both lan-guages because acculturated Latinos live in two worlds: the English world of work or school and the Spanish world of family and friends.

As a result of the diversity of their roots, Hispanic Americans have var-ied tastes in food, clothing, and music. Advertisers should pay attention to these cultural subtleties, as Coca-Cola did when it ran three versions of an ad for Hispanics. Each ad featured the Coca-Cola logo and a can of Coke, along with the words y su comida favorita (“and your favorite meal”). But the food next to the Coke was changed to reflect different cultural prefer-ences. Tacos were featured for the western Mexican American segment, pork loin for the southeastern Cuban American segment, and arroz con pollo (“rice with chicken”) for the northeastern Puerto Rican segment.

  • Humphreys, “The Multicultural Economy 2005,” p. 6.
  • Laurel Wentz, “Reverse English,” Advertising Age, 19 November 2001, p. S2.

People from all over the country have stories about loved ones killed by a drunk driver. This urgent plea to stop friends from driving drunk runs in English and Spanish to reach all seg-ments of Hispanic Americans.

Although it’s complex, the Hispanic American market is attractive to adver-tisers. Hispanics go grocery shopping three times as often as non-Hispanics and spend 43 percent more per household on food than non-Hispanics, according to the Food Marketing Institute. American Demographics reports that Hispanics allocate 100 percent more of their budget on apparel for babies, 67 percent more on apparel for girls, 33 percent more on apparel for boys, and 22 percent more on apparel for men compared with the average American household. And like African Americans, they spend 91 percent more on rented dwellings than the average American household

Part of the reason for these expenditures is that Hispanic Americans tend to have larger families, with almost 3.5 people per household compared with the national average of just greater than 2.5.13 To reach Hispanics success-fully, advertisers should recognize the importance placed on the family and tradition. A radio station learned this lesson after it promoted a sweepstakes that offered a prize of two tickets to Disneyland and received a limited response from Hispanics. The reason? Hispanics didn’t want to choose which family members should go.

Marketers must also pay close attention to the ages of their target groups. Nearly 70 percent of the Hispanic population is younger than age 35, represent-ing more than $300 billion in purchasing power.14 As you might expect, age plays a major role in shaping attitudes, styles of dress, and choice of music. But there’s an interesting twist: the younger generation of Hispanics is often more in tune with its ancestry than the older generation is. A special Newsweek poll reports those older than age 35 are more likely to identify themselves as American, whereas those younger than age 35 are more likely to identify them-selves as Hispanic or Latino. To reach Hispanic American youths, advertisers should stop thinking in terms of Generation X or Y and instead think Generation

  • Bill Teck, who coined the term Generation Ñ, explains: “If you know all the words to [the merengue hit] ‘Abusadora’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ if you grew up on café, black beans and ‘Three’s Company,’ . . . if you’re thinking of borrow-ing one of your father’s guayaberas, . . . you’re Generation Ñ.”

Asian Americans

Asian Americans, at 14.4 million, represent 4.3 percent of the U.S. popula-tion and are one of the fastest-growing segments. The median income for Asian American households is $53,635, which is significantly higher than the $42,228 median income of all U.S. households. Asian Americans are also bet-ter educated than the overall U.S. population. Forty-nine percent of Asian Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28 percent of the general U.S. population. Furthermore, 17 percent have an advanced degree, compared with the national average of 9 percent.

Despite the affluence of this market, advertisers have been slow to target Asian Americans because of the complexity of their varied languages and cultures. Many nationalities are included in this minority group, among them Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Asian Indian. And there’s not a common language among them. People of Chinese origin, the largest subgroup, speak dozens of different dialects, with Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese being the most common. Elliot Kang of Kang

  • Lee Advertising explains, “If your father is Japanese and your mother is Korean and you lived in Taiwan and then your parents got divorced, moved to Los Angeles and your father took up with the Filipino woman next door and married her—well, that’s almost like being Asian American.”17

As you can imagine, horror stories abound about advertisers who have inadvertently alienated this market. Marlene L. Rossman points to a number of such stories. One advertiser wished Chinese Americans a “Year New Happy” rather than a “Happy New Year.” Another used Korean models to target the Vietnamese community, oblivious that the two groups rarely look anything alike. And a footwear manufacturer depicted Japanese women performing foot binding; as Rossman observed, this not only stereotyped Japanese people as “shogun” characters but also displayed the company’s ignorance about Asian cultures, given that foot binding was practiced exclusively in China.

InterTrend Communications, an agency specializing in the Asian mar-ket, offers the following tips on its website. From Japan: It’s bad luck to write your name in red ink and good luck to dream about Mt. Fuji. From Vietnam: Never take a picture with only three people in it because it is unlucky for all. From China/Taiwan/Hong Kong: Don’t give clocks as gifts to Chinese people because they are a symbol of death, and try to avoid dining with seven dishes because it symbolizes a funeral meal. From Korea: Never shake your foot because it drives out good fortune. Colors and numbers have special meaning. Red means prosperity, happiness, and luck to the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. White means death and bad fortune to the Vietnamese and Chinese. The number 7 means wealth to the Japanese and luck to Koreans. The number 8 means wealth and luck to the Chinese.

Although each nationality has distinct cultures and traditions, there are two important commonalities: the importance of family and tradition. In Asian cultures, it is inappropriate to call attention to oneself; therefore, tactful ads targeted at Asian Americans don’t show an individual standing out from the crowd or achieving personal gain by using the product. Instead, culturally conscious ads focus on how the family or group benefits. With the importance placed on tradition, “new and improved” claims are far less effective than those that stress a company’s or a product’s many years of excellence.

Native Americans

The estimated 2.5 million Native Americans make up less than 1 percent of the nation’s population, and nearly 42 percent earn less than $25,000 annually.19 As a result of its small size and limited spending power, few mar-keting efforts are aimed at this group.

Although companies don’t often target this group in advertising campaigns, they use Native American names and symbolism. For example, Chrysler uses the name Cherokee for one of its jeeps, Land O’ Lakes butter features a Native American on its package, and fans of the Atlanta Braves buy toy tomahawks to show their team support. Ironically, Crazy Horse malt liquor was named after the Sioux leader who was opposed to alcohol consumption among his people. Needless to say, these images are insulting to Native Americans.

Gail Baker Woods, author of Advertising and Marketing to the New Majority, points out that Native Americans are becoming better educated andthat tribes have begun to develop their own businesses and to use their land as an economic resource. If, as Woods says, these economic and educational trends continue for Native Americans, “marketers will surely find them in their search for new consumers.”

The Selig Center for Economic Growth seems to concur with Woods’ pre-diction. Native American buying power rose to $51.5 billion in 2005, up from $39.1 billion in 2000 and $19.3 billion in 1990. The Selig Center predicts Native American buying clout will reach $69.2 billion in 2010. Furthermore, the Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2001, showed that the number of Native American–owned firms increased more than 12 times faster than the number of U.S. firms and their receipts rose 4.5 times faster than those of all firms.22

Arab Americans

There are 1.25 million Americans with Arab ancestry, according to the

2000 census. As with other ethnic minorities, Arab Americans are extremely diverse, with ethnic roots tracing back to Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Morocco, and Jordan. Roughly two-thirds of the Arab American com-munity is Christian. Arab Muslins represent 23 percent of the Arab American population and are the fastest growing segment. Although bilingualism is disappearing in most assimilated groups, nearly half of Arab American households report some Arabic use.

Arab Americans live in every state, but more than two-thirds live in just 10 states. The metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population. Twenty percent of the population of Dearborn, Michigan, is Arab American, and more than 40 percent of the public school students are of Arab heritage.

As is often the case, high income correlates with a high level of educa-tion. More than 40 percent of Arab Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 24 percent of Americans at large. Seventeen percent of Arab Americans have a postgraduate degree, nearly twice the American average of 9 percent.

Although advertisers traditionally seek segments of the population that are highly educated and have high incomes, Arab Americans are often ignored in advertising. Even worse, they are often the victims of negative stereotypes. A commercial for an Ohio car dealership called for a “Jihad on the automotive market” and said salespeople would be wearing burqas, a traditional garment in some Muslim nations, and children would receive rub-ber swords on “fatwa Friday.” The radio script said, “Our prices are lower than the evildoer’s every day. Just ask the Pope.” This spot didn’t make it on the air because several radio stations refused to run it.

Likewise, objections from the Arab American Institute put a stop to a bill-board that the Missouri Corn Growers Association planned to run to promote ethanol. The objectionable billboard asked, “Who would you rather buy your gas from?” and showed a farmer standing in a cornfield and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

Boeing and Bell Helicopter apologized for a magazine ad that showed their CV-22 Osprey and members of the U.S. armed forces descending by rope from a plane onto a mosque surrounded by smoke and fire.

In an ad designed by the New York-based Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, a man was wearing a kaffiyeh, a traditional Arab headscarf, and clutching a grenade in one hand and a driver’s license in the other. The headline read, “Don’t license terrorists.” Lamar Advertising, a national bill-board firm, refused to run the ad.

How to Reach Ethnic Minorities

Savvy advertisers know several methods for reaching ethnic minorities:

  • Feature minorities in starring roles, not just in the background. In addi-tion to making a positive connection to the ethnic group portrayed, research shows general audiences favorably receive advertisements fea-turing minorities. Luke Visconti, partner at Diversity, explains, “A white audience will say, ‘That’s a nice picture of a mother and child’ and an African-American audience will say, ‘Ahhh, an African-American mother and African-American child; this product gets me.’”23
  • Seek the opinions of people who hail from the culture you are targeting. However, be aware that traditional research methods may not work. For example, a survey written in English won’t achieve results representative of all American households because more than 15 percent of the U.S. population doesn’t speak English at home. In addition, many immigrants are uncomfortable giving out information to strangers over the telephone or through the mail.
  • Be sensitive to nuances in language. It’s not enough merely to translatethe English copy of a campaign into another language. Perdue found this out the hard way when someone unfamiliar with regional slang translated the line “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” into Spanish. The translation came out something like, “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate.” For some other examples of mis-translations, see the box below.

Spanish words can have different meanings, depending on national heritage. The word bichos, for example, means “bugs” to Mexicans and “a man’s private parts” to Puerto Ricans. Imagine you were writing an ad for an insecticide and weren’t aware of this subtlety! Also, be aware of different uses of English words because they can mean different things to different groups. For example, sales of Stove Top stuffing improved among African Americans after the company realized this group uses the word “dressing” rather than “stuffing.”

Keep in mind that what may be acceptable to one group of people may be offensive to another group, as Volkswagen learned when it ran bill-boards for the GTI sports car accompanied by the words “Turbo-Cojones.” Cojones, which means “testicles” in Spanish, has become a casually usedterm for boldness or guts in the English vernacular but has never lost its more vulgar connotation in its native language. Volkswagen removed the billboards after receiving complaints.

  • When Braniff Airlines touted its uphol-stery by saying “Fly in leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly naked.”
  • Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose” means “Suffer from diarrhea” in Spanish.
  • When Vicks first introduced its cough drops in Germany, they discovered that Germans pronounce v as f, which made their trade name reminiscent of the German word for sexual penetration.
  • Puffs tissues learned its lesson in Germany, too. “Puff” in German is a colloquial term for a brothel.
  • The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish-speaking countries, perhaps because “No va” means “It does not go.”
  • When Pepsi’s old campaign, “Come Alive. You’re in the Pepsi Generation,” was translated into Chinese, it announced that “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the grave.”
  • GM’s “body by Fisher” translated, in some languages, into “corpse by Fisher,” something you would not want associ-ated with automotive design.
  • Coke discovered problems in China when they used Chinese characters that, when pronounced, sounded like “Coca-Cola” but meant “Bite the wax tadpole.”
  • Show the diversity of each group. Advertisers from a few decades agowere guilty of showing light-skinned African American models in fashion ads and dark-skinned African Americans in ads promoting services. Their botched attempt to be inclusive helped further stereotyping.
  • Learn about their heritage. It’s important to show respect for ethnic holi-days, whether it’s the Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, or Cinco de Mayo. It’s also important to pay close attention to details and learn about prefer-ences in food, icons, customs, and clothing. For example, McDonald’s was praised for a commercial that featured a celebration that looked like a simple birthday party to most viewers but was recognized by Hispanics as the quinceañera, the celebration of a girl’s coming of age at 15.

The 50-Plus Market

Today, 38 percent of American adults are older than age 49, and that group is expected to grow to 47 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, those in the 50-plus population control 55 percent of the discre-tionary income in the United States and account for the majority of personal assets—upward of 80 percent of the money in savings and loans and 70 percent of the net worth of U.S. households. The Federal Reserve Board reports family net worth peaks between the ages of 55 and 74 at an average of $500,000.24

Some of these older, affluent consumers choose to spend a portion of their wealth on second or third residences, luxury goods, or vacations. According to recent statistics, the 50-plus population purchases 48 percent of all luxury cars, 37 percent of all spa memberships, and 80 percent of all luxury trips. The Travel Industry Association of America estimates that people 55 years and older account for $130 billion in travel spending and 80 percent of luxury travel. “The name of the game is not $59 hotel rooms but $15,000 cruises,” Richard M. Copland, president of the American Society of Travel Agents told the New York Times.

Despite the wealth and spending power of older Americans, advertisers remain youth obsessed. “For a lot of brands we work with, it’s sexier to advertise to the younger consumers who are trendier, much more fashion-forward, very social and very in the public eye,” Melissa Pordy, for-mer senior vice president and director for print services at Zenith Media, told Advertising Age.26 Other marketers believe it’s important to reach younger consumers who aren’t yet brand loyal, rather than go after older consumers who are more set in their ways. However, a study conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Roper ASW found brand loyalty varies more by product category than by age.

Ignoring the older market is bad enough, but some advertisers go so far as to insult older people by portraying them as doddering and senile. Fifty-six percent of respondents in an Adweek online poll agreed that when seniors appear in advertising it’s usually as an unflattering stereotype. A commercial for Midas was pulled after the company received complaints from adults of all ages. In the commercial, an older woman learns about Midas’ lifetime guarantee, takes off her shirt, and asks, “What can you do with these?” A commercial for Boost Mobile showed an old man falling off a skate-board. The supertitle on the screen explained the joke, “Boost Mobile. Designed for young people. But it’s just more fun showing old people.”

Tips to Reach the Older Market

  • Don’t think of older people as just one market. Think about some of theolder people you know: grandparents, neighbors, professors, and commu-nity leaders. Chances are these people are quite different from one another. They have different political views, different senses of humor, dif-ferent lifestyles, and so on. Like any group, the older population is com-posed of people with varied incomes, education levels, ethnic backgrounds, and life experiences. Using one message to reach all these people is about as absurd as saying one message will work for all people ages 18–49.
  • Don’t specify age. Research has shown most older people feel youngerthan their birth certificate indicates. As financier and statesman Bernard Baruch said, “To me, old age is fifteen years older than I am.” Several years ago, an advertising campaign featured the claim “the first shampoo created for hair over 40.” It bombed. The problem? Younger people refused to buy a product aimed at older people, and older people didn’t want to be reminded they had older hair.
  • Cast models who reflect the way your audience feels. Use models whoportray an upbeat, positive image, not those who reinforce the negative stereotypes of frailty and senility. But don’t go to the opposite extreme. Although you may be tempted to show a person in his 80s who bungee jumps, most older people won’t identify with this portrayal.

Cast models who represent the age your audience feels. Remember how you identified with the “big” kids when you were younger? Well, the opposite is true as you age. Most older people see themselves as 10 to 15 years younger than their birth certificate indicates. Therefore, use models who are younger than your target audience. But don’t go over-board. Jack Feuer from Adweek said, “Stop treating us like middle-aged people who are trying to stay young. Start talking to us like young people who have some wrinkles.”

  • Tell the whole story. Although commercials with fast editing cuts andlittle copy may appeal to younger audiences, older audiences prefer a narrative style, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As Grey Advertising summed it up, this generation is MGM, not MTV.

When writing copy, give facts, not fluff. After years of shopping, older people are not going to be fooled into buying your product simply because you tell them that it’s “new” or “the best.” After all, these folks remember product flops, and they want facts to back up your claims. Give them a compelling reason to try your product, and they’ll be willing to read lengthy copy or listen to a detailed pitch.

  • Set your type in at least 12 point to make it more legible. Ad legend JerryDella Femina joked about small type on packages to make his point at a creative conference, “I rubbed bath gel into my beard and followed it with shampoo, thinking it was conditioner.”
  • Don’t remind older people of their vulnerability. It’s a fact of life: arthritis,high blood pressure, heart problems, and other ailments bother more older people than younger people. However, older people know they have aches and pains without being reminded by you. Rather than dwell on the prob-lems, your advertising should show how your product offers solutions.
  • Show older people as they are, happy with themselves. Show them enjoy-ing life, playing with their grandchildren, volunteering their time, starting new hobbies, and learning new things. Advertisements for Fox Hill Village, a retirement community in Massachusetts, used to show smiling retirees on balconies admiring the beautiful landscape. But when the community ran a series of ads featuring Ben Franklin, Clara Barton, Noah Webster, and other individuals who became famous during their later years, inquiries went up 25 percent.
  • Try an ageless approach. Lee Lynch, founder of Carmichael Lynch, pointsto Harley-Davidson’s campaign where the rider is faceless, allowing peo-ple to project themselves into the image, regardless of age.

People with Disabilities

Approximately two in every seven American families reported having at least one member with a disability, according to 2000 census. Once nearly invisible in ads, people with disabilities are starting to have starring roles. McDonald’s showed that people with disabilities can work and be productive citizens through a heartwarming commercial narrated by an employee named Mike, who has Down syndrome. Wal-Mart’s advertising features employees and cus-tomers in wheelchairs, and one of its TV commercials stars an employee with a hearing-impairment signing to a customer.

Although many people praise these ads, some question the motives behind them. Bob Garfield, a critic for Advertising Age, states that jumping from not showing people with disabilities to portraying them as superhuman or as tokens does not help them or the advertiser in the long run.

Screenwriter Mark Moss, who ended up in a wheelchair after a diving accident, told the Boston Globe, “Advertisers know that using people with disabilities is politically correct and a viable way to catch people’s attention. I look at the phenomenon like I do politicians kissing babies. It’s good for the babies . . . it’s good for the politicians . . . but we can’t be blamed for looking at it with cynicism.”

As with any consumer segment, advertising must take care in communi-cating appropriately to the special-needs community, and extra care should be taken so that they do not appear to be taking advantage of the market.

Sensitivity is key, according to Nadine Vogel, president of Springboard Con-sulting, who says that the disability should never define the person. Rather than call someone a “disabled child” or a “Down’s Child,” the correct lan-guage is “a child with special needs” or “a child who has Down syndrome.”

As with any target group, it’s important to ask group members what they think. For example, a major fast-food chain ran a newspaper ad with the headline “Introducing our new easy-to-read menu,” which was printed over a design that looked like Braille. A student appropriately asked, “Why didn’t they actually print the ad in Braille? If they printed it on a heavier stock and inserted it into the paper, then I could keep it for future reference.”

Gays and Lesbians

The policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” reaches far beyond the U.S. military. Even the all-knowing U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t ask about sexual prefer-ence. As a result, there are varying opinions on this market’s size, but it is estimated to be between 6 and 10 percent of the population. Its annual spending power was estimated to be $614 billion in 2005 and is projected to grow to $708 billion in 2008, according to Witeck-Combs Communications.

Data from gay publications illustrate the importance of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender market to advertisers. Six in ten readers of gay and lesbian newspapers have household incomes of more than $60,000, and The Advocate reports the median household income for its readers is $90,000. Furthermore, Simmons Market Research Bureau notes that this market segment is exceptionally loyal, with 89 percent of those surveyed reporting they would buy products or services that advertised in gay publications. A spokesperson for Hiram Walker & Sons confirmed this, telling Advertising Age, “I have a file of letters an inch or two thick from gay consumers thankingus and vowing their loyalty. A straight consumer wouldn’t take the time and say thank you for validating us.” When the conservative American Family Association launched a boycott of Ford for advertising in gay publications, gay groups advocated a counter “buycott” to reward Ford.

Lessons That Apply to All Segments

Whatever group you are targeting, certain basic principles apply, including the following:

  • Look at the whole person, not one demographic characteristic. To under-stand your target audience, you must factor in other demographic aspects, as well as psychographic issues such as values, attitudes, person-ality, and lifestyle. For example, a middle-aged Hispanic American business executive living in the suburbs is likely to have different attitudes from an inner-city Hispanic American youth living below the poverty line or a single, working Hispanic American mother who earns minimum wage. Second- or third-generation Americans have different views than recent immigrants. African Americans who formed their core values before the 1960s will have one outlook, those who were a part of the civil rights movement will have another, and teenagers will have still another.
  • Avoid stereotypes. Taco Bell offended Mexican Americans with its bordersearch commercial because it looked like a search for illegal immigrants. Pennsylvania offended Chinese Americans with its state lottery promo-tion that featured the line “No tickee—no money.” Dow Chemical insulted African Americans with a commercial in which a robust black woman exclaimed, “Ooh-wee!” because it was a reminder of the black mammy stereotype. Native American activists protested when a brewer tried to introduce a malt liquor called Crazy Horse.

Be wary even of “positive” stereotypes. Not all African Americans are great athletes, musicians, or dancers, yet advertising often portrays them this way. Likewise, not all Asian Americans are good at math or science.

When figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi won the Olympic gold medal, the New York Times printed an anonymous comment: “We are not all mathor science wizards or laundry operators or restaurant owners, but skaters, architects, writers. And more. And less.” The same holds true for every group you’ll ever want to reach in your advertising.

  • Laugh with them, not at them. Humor does have a place—if it doesn’t relyon insulting stereotypes. To test whether your humor might be insulting to some group, consider replacing one of the characters with a person from a different market segment. For example, if you wanted to make sure cus-tomers remembered your client’s name, you might be tempted to create a humorous commercial featuring an older person who is hard of hearing and needs to have everything repeated, as Country Time Lemonade did. Or you might feature an older woman who keeps forgetting the name and needs to be constantly reminded, as another company did. However, would it be as funny if a young, physically active college student couldn’t hear or remember the name? Probably not. What if you replaced the older woman with a college student who was high on drugs? Would it be a fair portrayal of college students? Of course not.
  • Make relevant ties to their special causes. Consider donating a portion ofyour sales to causes dear to your audience’s hearts, such as AIDS research, the Council on Aging, the Special Olympics, the Rape Crisis Center, the Native American Arts Foundation, the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, or ASPIRA, a scholarship fund for Hispanics. However, make it a long-term commitment, not a one-shot deal.
  • Test your ads on a member of the target audience. You may find anembarrassing mistake in time to correct it before it runs. For example, the Publix grocery chain might have saved itself from the embarrassment of wishing its customers “a quiet, peaceful Yom Kippur” right below an announcement of a sale on center-cut pork chops and fresh pork shoul-der picnics if it had double-checked with someone who is Jewish.
  • Show diversity in your ads. As America becomes more diverse, it’s notonly the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. Figure 3-3 is a good example of an ad that reaches a diverse audience.

Suggested Activities

  • Watch 2 hours of prime-time television and record the way the groups mentioned in this chapter are portrayed. How many are in starring roles? How many reflect stereotypes? What products are they selling?
  • Compare print ads for fashion, liquor, and travel that appear in general interest magazines (such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, and
  • Newsweek) to those that appear in special-interest magazines (such as Essence and Ebony, which target African Americans; Latina and People en Español, which target Hispanic Americans; and New Choices and Modern Maturity, which target older people). Are the ads similar? If not, comment on the differences in visuals and text that appear to reflect different targeted audiences.
  • Choose an ad (such as for toothpaste, soap, or potato chips) and redo the ad to appeal directly to an ethnic minority.
  • Create an ad selling jeans to people older than age 50.
  • Look at automobile ads from recent decades and comment on the changes in the way peo-ple from different ethnic groups are portrayed. (Your library should have bound editions of back issues of magazines such as Time and Newsweek.)

An ad for Chippers Funeral Home in Perth, Australia, features a close-up of an elephant’s eye with a tear streaming down. The headline reads, “It is not uncommon to see elephants weep openly at funerals.” The copy goes on to describe the “humanity” that elephants extend to dying members of their family. When an elephant dies, the extended family circles it. Slowly, with their heads hanging gloomily, they walk around the body several times before standing still. The bereaved then place branches, leaves, and clumps of grass on the body of their dead relative to form a grave. Occasionally, the elephants also weep.

This poignant ad didn’t just write itself. It happened because the agency, Vinten Browning, researched the difficult subjects of death and grieving before writing a single word.

Whether you’re trying to understand how people grieve or how people wash their laundry, research is one of the most important stages in advertising.

Thorough searches can help you discover what makes people “tick,” uncover new uses for products, learn about new market areas, and spot new trends. By doing a complete job in the research stage, you’ll find it’s much easier to come up with the big idea and write convincing copy. As advertising legend Ed McCabe shares, “When you are ready to write, it should be auto-matic, fueled by knowledge so comprehensive that advertising almost writes itself. Only with absolute knowledge of a subject can you hope to transcend the banality of mere facts and experience the freedom of insight.”

So where do you start?

Step 1: State Your Questions

Before you do your research, you need to define the questions or problems you’re investigating. For example, who is the most likely prospect for the product? What real or perceived differences make your brand better than a competitor’s? How should this be communicated? How do customers per-ceive the current campaign? By carefully defining your questions, you avoid gathering irrelevant information and wasting time. (See the box below for additional questions you may want answered.)

Step 2: Dig through Secondary Sources

Once you have a clear statement of the question, look for answers from information that exists in company records, trade associations, and libraries and on websites.

Company Records

Annual Reports. In addition to financial data, an annual report contains information about corporate philosophy, the competition, and future goals. However, even bad news in such reports usually has an optimistic slant to it. Therefore, annual reports should be primarily used as a starting point.

Customer Profiles. If you’ve ever filled out a product warranty card, entered a sweepstakes, applied for a credit card, or sent for a rebate, you’ve supplied important information, such as your age, sex, income, education, family size, and living situation (see Figure 4-1). You may also have been asked to state how you learned about the product, where you bought it, and whether you have owned that brand before. Your answers become part of a database that helps marketers know how to reach you and others like you.

Public Relations Files. The public relations department collects press clip-pings and satisfied-customer letters that are sometimes so glowing that they warrant being reprinted as an ad. With a bit of inspiration, even negative publicity can be turned to the client’s advantage. For example, after the media ran stories claiming that Leona Helmsley was a tyrant to her hotel employees, her advertising agency turned her insistence on perfection into a positive attribute. One ad showed letters from satisfied guests with the head-line, “She knows people talk about her. She’ll even show you what they say.”

Technical Reports. Granted, much of the information in these reports may sound like gobbledygook to the average reader, but you never know when you’ll happen on the perfect line. For instance, Harley Procter uncovered the “99 and 44/100% pure®” claim for Ivory soap from a chemist’s report, and David Ogilvy wrote an ad for Rolls Royce using an engineer’s statement: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.” But don’t think you’ll see instant results. Ogilvy spent 3 weeks reading about Rolls Royce before he wrote his classic ad. Procter had to do a little math to arrive at the famous slogan. The chemist reported that the ingredients that did not fall into the category of pure soap equaled 56/100%, hardly a line that would help sell a product for more than 100 years.

Websites. The company’s website is a great starting point because it gives an overview of the history of the organization, profiles key employees, high-lights its product line, and allows customers to ask questions, download tips, play games, and so on. Also, log on to your competitors’ websites and see how they position themselves. Much like an annual report, the websitepresents the company’s best face and is one sided. Therefore, you’ll need to do additional digging to uncover insights for your campaign.

One way to obtain a variety of unbiased viewpoints is to Google your brand’s name and check out what people are saying. Some brands even have online fan clubs, which can give interesting insights. Google “Mountain Dew” and you’ll find chat rooms devoted to “Dewaholics” and “Mountain Dew Addicts.” Google “Coke Zero” and you’ll find people who love the “bite and sweet zing,” as well as others who complain about the aftertaste.

Trade Associations

Name a trade or area of interest, and there’s bound to be an association for it, staffed with knowledgeable people. Some of the more offbeat associations include the Flying Funeral Directors of America, the Committee to Abolish Legal-Sized Files, and the International Barbed Wire Collectors Association. There’s even an association of associations, the American Society of Associa-tion Executives. To find an association for your client’s product or service, refer to the Encyclopedia of Associations published by Gale, available at most libraries.


A good place to start is with a guidebook to business information, such as Business Information Sources, the Handbook of Business Information, and Marketing Information: A Professional Reference Guide.

Indexes to Articles in Periodicals. You probably used the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature in high school. It’s a good index of articles from general-interest magazines, but it’s not likely to list much on advertising or in-depth product coverage. Therefore, you’ll want to consult the following:

  • Business Periodicals Index is a subject index of more than 300 businessjournals, including Advertising Age, Adweek, American Demographics, Journal of Advertising Research, Marketing Communications, Sales and Marketing Management, and the Wall Street Journal.
  • Communication Abstracts is arranged by subjects such as advertising,mass communications, journalism, and public communication.
  • Guide to Industry Special Issues is an index of special issues of regularlypublished business journals, including Advertising Age and Adweek.
  • Topicator is a classified index of journals in the fields of advertising, com-munications, and marketing.

Sources of Statistical Information. The U.S. Government Printing Office pub-lishes thousands of books and pamphlets, many of which are available at your library. A quick way to find these publications is in the Subject Bibliography Index, which lists more than 15,000 government publications.

Specific sources of statistical information include the following:

  • County and City Data Book gives information on states, counties, andcities in the United States on a variety of subjects, including education, labor, income, housing, and retail and wholesale trade.
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States is considered the “bible” ofsocial, political, industrial, and economic statistical information of the United States. It contains information on everything from the annual retail sales of men’s fragrances to the number of eye operations performed in a year.
  • U.S. Census is updated every 10 years and provides population, ancestry,marital status, education, geographic mobility, occupation, income, and other demographic data. One of the few things it doesn’t report, because of the constitutional separation of church and state, is religious data.
  • U.S. Industrial Outlook gives statistics on the current situations and long-term prospects for approximately 50 major industries.

Syndicated Market Data. A number of research companies offer subscribers a detailed look at the lifestyles and shopping habits of various U.S. markets. Here’s a sample:

  • Editor and Publisher Market Guide gives market information on U.S. andCanadian cities in which a daily newspaper is published. It includes data on population, number of households, disposable personal income, and retail sales.
  • Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) is a syndicated tracking service thatintegrates scanner sales, feature ad, and coupon, display, and price data from supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandisers.
  • Lifestyle Market Analyst breaks down the U.S. population geographicallyand demographically and includes information on the interests, hobbies, and activities popular in each geographic and demographic market.
  • Mediamark Research, Inc. (often referred to as MRI) provides informa-tion on heavy, medium, and light users of various product categories and specific brands and gives the media usage patterns of these groups.
  • Nielsen National Marketing Survey, available through ACNielsen, pro-vides share-of-market data for products sold in supermarkets, drug-stores, and mass merchandisers.
  • Prizm, available through Claritas, classifies each zip code into 1 of 62 lifestyle clusters, with descriptors such as “Red White & Blues” and “New Homesteaders.”
  • Scarborough Research surveys 75 markets and provides informationabout local consumer-shopping patterns, demographics, and lifestyle activities.
  • Simmons National Consumer Survey is a comprehensive study of theU.S. adult population (18-plus years). It provides information on con-sumer usage behavior for all major media, more than 450 product cate-gories, and more than 8,000 brands, and it includes in-depth demographics, psychographics, and lifestyle descriptors of the American population. The National Hispanic Consumer Study surveys more than 8,000 Hispanic adults living in the United States as part of the Simmons National Consumer Survey to identify their media habits, product and service preferences, attitudes, and opinions. Refer to the box that begins on page 87 to see how to use this important data to uncover insights about your brand and consumers.

(1) Innovators are successful, sophisticated, active, take-charge people who have high self-esteem. (2) Experiencers are motivated by self-expression. They are young, vital, impulsive, and rebellious and seek variety, excitement, and the offbeat. (3) Strivers seek motivation, self-definition, and approval from others. (4) Thinkers are mature, satisfied, well-educated professionals. (5) Achievers are successful, goal oriented, in control of their lives, and respectful of authority. Believers are conservative, have deeply rooted moral codes, and have modest income and education. Makers are suspicious of new ideas and unimpressed by physical possessions. Survivors live narrowly focused lives and are cautious consumers.

Simmons data also track media habits, right down to half-hour periods on television and top magazines for each segment. However, for brevity this information is not included here.

In summary, Simmons data can be used to gain innumerable insights into your brand consumer, creating an efficient targeting profile that can be used across a number of departments and for a variety of marketing, advertising, and branding purposes.

Computer Databases and Online Services. Your library subscribes to a variety of services that enable you to access information from all over the world. Here are a few that are useful for business searches:

  • ABI-Inform provides coverage of business and management periodicals.Areas covered are advertising, competitive intelligence, new product development, marketing, and sales promotion.
  • Business Periodicals on Disc contains citations with abstracts to articlesappearing in more than 900 business periodicals.
  • Compact Disclosure contains complete Securities and Exchange Commis-sion (SEC) filings for 12,500 publicly held companies.
  • InfoTrac Business Index contains more than 3 million citations, some withcomplete articles from more than 1,000 business journals and news sources.
  • Lexis-Nexis provides full-text documents from more than 15,000 news,business, legal, and reference publications.


The following is a sampling of websites that contain information useful to advertisers:

  • Advertising Research Foundation ( gives a synopsis ofpast issues of the Journal of Advertising Research and lets you purchase reprints online.

2,000 links to online research tools, including newspapers, full-text data-bases, online libraries, and free reports.

  • Census Bureau ( allows you to search the U.S. CensusBureau database, read press releases, check the population clock, and listen to clips from its radio broadcasts.
  • Hoover’s Online ( provides a database of detailed pro-files for publicly traded companies.
  • Research-It! ( allows you to search through directoriesof more than 50,000 specialized topics.
  • World Advertising Research Center ( allows you to locatearticles, case studies, research reports, and summaries.

Most business publications have electronic versions, including the following:

Once you’ve exhausted the secondary sources, you will likely find you still have unanswered questions that warrant primary research. Here’s where observation, focus groups, surveys, and experiments come in.

Firsthand Experience

Try it. Taste it. Touch it. Hear it. Smell it. What were your perceptions of the product before you used it? How about now that you’ve used it? Try the com-petition. What are the competitors’ weaknesses? Your client’s strengths? Why would you choose to buy your client’s brand?

Firsthand experience gives you important insights that may lead to the big idea. The idea for the memorable line “Two scoops of raisins in a box of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran” came from an art director who emptied a box of the cereal onto his kitchen table and counted the raisins.

However, be careful not to assume that everyone thinks or behaves the same way you do. You may have a more sophisticated understanding of the product, you may have a bias toward your client, or you may not be part of the target market. Therefore, other research methods are essential.


Go to a store and see how your brand is displayed. Is it gathering dust on the bottom shelf? Do competing brands have in-store signs and displays? Ask a sales associate a few questions about your brand and its competitors. Was the associate knowledgeable? Did the associate speak highly of your brand? Also, observe customers interacting with your brand. How much time do they spend reading your brand’s label? Looking at the price? Examining other brands? If you have permission from the store manager, ask the cus-tomers why they chose a particular brand, when and how often they usually buy it, and how they use it.

One of the more offbeat methods of observation came from an archaeolo-gist who found that studying people’s garbage might uncover hidden truths. Several marketing researchers have adopted this method and discovered some rather interesting things, such as that cat owners read more than dog owners.


Surveys, one of the most common primary-research methods, ask current or prospective customers questions about product usage, awareness of ad campaigns, attitudes toward competing brands, and so on. Surveys are con-ducted online and by mail, telephone, or personal interview.

Whichever method you use to conduct your survey, be certain to test the survey on a small sample to ascertain whether there are leading or ambiguous questions. When a team of advertising students wanted to determine people’s awareness level of the American Red Cross slogan “Help Can’t Wait,” it tested a survey that asked respondents to match five nonprofit organizations to five slogans. Almost all the slogans were correctly matched. But did this mean people knew the “Help Can’t Wait” slogan, or was it a fluke? To find out, the students conducted another test, using seven slogans and five organizations. The results were quite different. The fictitious slogan “The Life Blood of America” was matched to the Red Cross by 65 percent of respondents. Why the different results? In the first survey, respondents could guess the correct answer through the process of elimination. The second sur-vey prevented the respondents from covering a genuine lack of awareness.

The structure of your question can also give different results. In the Red Cross example, respondents were given a multiple-choice question, an example of a closed-end question. As you may imagine, the results may be even more dramatic if the students chose to use an open-ended question, asking the respondents to answer in their own words.

In addition to checking for ambiguous and misleading questions, keep the following points in mind when you design a survey:

  • Keep the survey short.
  • Use simple language.
  • Include complete instructions.
  • Put easy-to-answer questions first.
  • Ask general questions before detailed ones.
  • Save potentially embarrassing questions, such as about income, for the end.

Focus Groups

Invite 5 to 10 people who are typical of your target market to discuss their feelings about your product. You’ll want their permission to record the ses-sion, and you will need a moderator who encourages everyone to speak and who keeps the discussion on track. Because participants are urged to say what’s on their minds, important issues may be uncovered.

Focus-group participants complained about the scratchy tags sewn inside undershirts. So Hanes did something about it. Hanes introduced the tagless T-shirt that promises no itch. Commercials feature men wriggling, squirm-ing, and contorting themselves while the Hanes spokesman, Michael Jordan, looks on and says, “It’s gotta be the tag,” in a spin on his famous Nike line, “It’s gotta be the shoes.” Consumers immediately responded. Sales of tagless T-shirts ran 30 to 70 percent ahead of their tagged counterparts within 2 months of the campaign launch.

Target wanted to tap into the $210 billion business generated by col-lege students who buy everything from microwave ovens to shower loofahs for their dorms. To gain some insight, Target hired research firm Jump Associates, who in turn invited incoming college freshmen and students with a year of dorm living under their belts to a series of “game nights” at high school graduates’ homes. Jump created a board game that involved issues associated with going to college. The game led to informal conversa-tions and questions about college life. As the students were talking, Jump researchers were observing on the sidelines, and video cameras were recording it all. The findings from the sessions helped inspire the Todd Oldham Dorm Room product line. Among the offerings was a laundry bag with instructions on how to do the laundry printed on the bag. Although other retailers’ back-to-school sales were so-so at best, Target’s sales increased 12 percent.

Although focus groups can uncover some interesting attitudes, keep in mind this research method reflects the opinions of only a few people. Some critics wonder about the quality of information that can be gathered from a 2-hour session that involves 10 people, in which each person has 12 minutes to speak. Others wonder about the types of people who willingly give up their personal time in return for a modest incentive. Still others complain that the traditional focus-group setting of a conference room with a two-way mirror is like studying wildlife at a zoo. To determine whether you’ve uncovered something important, you’ll need to back up your focus-group findings with other research methods.


One-on-one interviews usually last from 30 minutes to 2 hours and can uncover important insights. To ensure accuracy, ask the participant for per-mission to record the interview.

Ask a lot of questions and remember this is an interview, not a two-way conversation, so you should do little talking and should refrain from giving personal opinions. Also, always remember that people may not want to reveal the real reasons they do or don’t like a product. A mother in England told a market researcher that milk was best for her children but soda pop was terrible. Then he asked what she bought for them, and she replied, “Soda pop. They hate milk.” What could you do with this information if you had to sell milk?

Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO North America, believes that insights come by listening to consumer complaints. “Take the Chunky Soup case. If you asked consumers what they liked about soup, they would serve up the usual pat answers: soup is hearty, soup is nourishing, soup warms you up. The answers we’ve all heard since soup advertising began. But when we asked consumers to complain about soup, the answers were entirely different: the pieces of meat were too small, the vegetables are skimpy, it doesn’t fill me up. The insight here practically jumped onto our plate. From there it was a hop, skip, and a jump to the birth of Chunky, and the perfect answer to what mattered most to the soup customer.”


People are more open when they’re in an environment that’s familiar to them, rather than a conference room with a two-way mirror. Ethnographic research observes people in their natural surroundings.

Sunbeam sent researchers with video cameras to hang out with the guys around the backyard barbeque grill before introducing a new line of Coleman gas grills. By listening in on the conversations, the team gathered a key insight: A gas grill isn’t really a tool that cooks the hamburgers and hot dogs. Rather, “it’s the centerpiece of warm family moments worthy of a summer highlights reel.” So, rather than promote the Coleman grill in terms of size, BTUs, and accessory options, Sunbeam designed the grill to evoke nostalgia for the warm family experience. The marketing strategy positioned grilling as “a relaxing ritual where the grilling area is the stage.” The result: The Coleman Grill did $50 million in sales in its first year, making it one of the most successful launches in Sunbeam’s history.

The insight for an advertising campaign for Cesar dog food came by observing small-dog owners pampering their pets like spoiled children. The research revealed that owners want to give the dog the best because the dog is giving them its best. One woman said, “For once in my life, I’m perfect, in the eyes of my dog.”6 The ad campaign gives the dogs a voice. “I promise to go where you go, to be happy to see you, to be woman’s best friend,” several small dogs promise in a TV spot. “Love them back with Cesar,” the announcer recommends and closes with the tag line, “Cesar. It’s canine cui-sine.” A print ad in the entertainment trade publication Daily Variety reads: “Your agent says he loves you. Your publicist says she loves you. The studio says they love you. Your dog really does.”

To learn how women feel about laundry, a Procter & Gamble research team did something a bit unusual. Rather than talk with women in the laundry room, the research team interviewed women over lunch, took them to the hair salon, and went clothes shopping with them. By changing the venue, the team learned about the role that clothing plays in women’s lives. The key insight, that clothing is a part of self-identity and self-expression, led to a new spin on laundry in ads for Tide. In one ad, a very pregnant woman with ice-cream cravings drops her dessert on the one shirt that still fits her. “The More I See You” by Sabina Sciubba sets the tone for the commercial.

Projective Techniques

Consumers may not come right out and tell their true feelings about a brand in a survey, focus group, or interview. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to offend you. Perhaps they haven’t articulated the reason in their own minds and therefore have a difficult time explaining it. Perhaps they want to avoid appearing irrational or vain. For example, if you ask people why they bought an expensive imported luxury car, you may be given rational explanations about the car’s safety record and resale value. However, if you ask the participants to describe the type of person who owns the expensive imported luxury car, you may learn it’s about showing off or getting even.

Using projective techniques, researchers ask respondents to sketch drawings, tell tales, finish sentences, do word associations, create col-lages, and match companies with animals, colors, places, and types of music so that they can understand consumers’ subconscious attitudes toward products. These techniques sometimes uncover surprising motives for behavior.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners asked luxury-car owners to draw the way they feel about their cars. Most of the drivers of the BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti, and Lexus drew the outside of the cars. Porsche owners, by contrast, rarely drew the car. Instead, the point of view was from the driver’s seat, showing winding roads. This exercise gave the agency the idea to emphasize the fun you’ll have while driving a Porsche.

To gain insight for a campaign for the Volkswagen GTI, Crispin Porter

Bogusky’s anthropologists interviewed men ages 18 to 30. Before the interviews, the subjects were asked to make a collage to illustrate how they felt about Japanese “tuner” cars, such as Honda Civics, on which owners spend thousands of dollars in speed-enhancing and cosmetic accessories. They were also asked to create collages of the VW GTI, which is accessorized at the German factory. One GTI fan used cutouts of Tweety Bird and a chrome dollar-sign necklace to represent the Japanese tuner owners, and a black wolf and Ninja warrior to depict the Euro tuner own-ers. GTI buyers were also asked to write recipes that begin with, “My per-fect recipe for driving is. . . .” One recipe reads, “One S-curve, a pinch of fishtail, two parts turbo toast, an ounce of hard rock music. Combine and bring to a boil.”

This research led Crispin to position the GTI as a car tuned in Germany by speed-happy engineers. “The GTI is a car built for driving fast and having fun. And for men, that inevitably leads to a certain amount of sex,” reported David Kiley of BusinessWeek.7 This insight led to the big idea of Helga, who says things like, “I luf leather,” and Wolfgang, who tells viewers to “Unpimp your auto.”

Although projective techniques may uncover information that would be missed with other research methods, it’s important to keep in mind that they are expensive to use on a per-respondent basis and require the expertise of trained psychologists.


This research method answers questions about cause and effect. Suppose you want to compare the attitudes of a group of people who saw your ad with a group who didn’t. Did the people who saw your ad have a more favor-able impression of your client? Were they more knowledgeable about the brand? And so on.

Want to uncover opinions about product usage? Give participants your product to use for a week and then ask them to discuss their experiences in a focus group. The planners at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners chose a “deprivation strategy” to understand people’s feelings about milk. Participants were asked to go without milk for a week before attending a focus-group session.

At first, the participants didn’t think it would be difficult, but the week without milk proved otherwise. The idea for the famous two-word line “Got Milk?” came out of the responses from the focus-group participants who had been deprived of milk for a week.

Online Research

Conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups online is fast and inexpen-sive. It also allows you to reach people who would not be willing to travel to a facility for a focus group or may feel uncomfortable giving responses about sensitive issues in person. But there are disadvantages, too. One individual can provide multiple responses to a single survey. Someone not in your target audience can respond; you may think you’re interviewing a 20-something single female when in fact you’re interviewing a 60-year-old married man. Also, you don’t have the advantage of nonverbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

Using Multiple Research Methods

Each research method has advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, researchers will often use more than one approach to find the answers to their questions. Kraft, the makers of DiGiorno Pizza, used seven research firms to conduct surveys, focus groups, taste tests, and copy tests to learn the best way to position its brand. Surveys and focus groups found that people wanted a frozen pizza with a fresh-baked taste but so far hadn’t found one in the stores. In blind taste tests, DiGiorno scored highest among frozen brands and placed second only to one carryout pizza. With this information, the cre-ative team came up with the theme “It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno.”

The ads creatively addressed the research findings, but still a question remained: Were the spots effective? To find out, Kraft ran a quantitative copy test to measure the effectiveness of the spots. Roughly 64 percent of the respondents recalled the spot’s main message of “fresh-baked taste,” whereas an average commercial scored about 24 percent. The ad also gener-ated strong brand identification, with 52 percent recalling the DiGiorno name. And finally, one other set of figures proved the success of the big idea: Three years after its introduction, it became the second best-selling frozen pizza. Today, it’s the top-selling brand.

Step 4: Interpret the Data

You can collect mountains of data, but it’s useless if you don’t know how to interpret your findings. For example, your research may uncover some nega-tive opinions about your client. An almost immediate reaction would be to try and change these perceptions. However, this may not be the best move.

For example, Sabena Qualitative Research developed a perceptional map whereby customers evaluated stores on best or worst value and most or least up-to-date in fashions. Talbots was placed in the best value/least up-to-date quadrant. At first glance, you might be tempted to do something to make Talbots seem more up-to-date. The company tried that a number of years ago, introducing flashier colors and more current styles. Guess what? Sales dropped because the store’s customers wanted classics, not the latest fash-ions. Talbots quickly went back to what it does best, and its loyal customers are happy once again.

Future Steps in the Process

After the information is gathered, the account executive or planner will pre-pare a creative brief, also known as a creative strategy statement, to give to the writer and artist (this will be discussed in detail in part 5). The creative team will use this information as inspiration to develop numerous ideas or creative concepts (discussed in part 6).

To ensure that the ideas are on strategy, the agency may do some con-cept testing with members of the target audience to see their reaction before the ads run. As you can imagine, this can help avoid costly mistakes. Master-Card planned to use quarterback Peyton Manning in one of its “Priceless” commercials. However, focus groups revealed that a significant number of consumers weren’t aware of Manning’s fame. Rather than ditch Manning, the advertising agency tweaked the approach. In the revised commercial, Manning acts as a fan for average people, like mechanics, waiters, and gro-cery clerks. Manning introduces himself to viewers by asking a stock boy to sign his melon. He even spells his name for the clerk, who signs the fruit.

Concept testing can be useful for new product ideas and new approaches for existing products. However, it’s far from infallible. The popular AFLAC duck might never have aired if the president of the American Family Life Insurance Company listened to the results of a focus group. Although many participants liked the duck, others found it insulting. Convinced that its idea was a winner, the Kaplan Thaler Group offered to pay for the testing of the commercial by Ipsos-ASI, a worldwide advertising research firm. The result? It earned the highest recall score that the research firm had ever seen in the insurance category. Two years later, 91 percent of all Americans recognized the name AFLAC. And the curious part? One third of the people could not say AFLAC; they had to quack it.

Some top creators of ads warn that the more an advertising idea is tested and manipulated on the basis of consumer research, the more watered down it becomes. Social researcher Hugh Mackay cautions, “If you show someone an ad and get them to talk about it as if they are on some kind of consumer jury, almost certainly what you’ll get is a spurious art director’s or amateur copywriter’s assessment.” But Mackay concedes, “If the planner, writer, art director and client are in disagreement or are experiencing doubt, testing ads would be appropriate. But the testing should be as naturalistic as possible and always done in homes. If it’s a print ad, don’t get a group discussion and hold it up. Give it to them in the context of a magazine or paper, ask them to look at it overnight and come back tomorrow for a chat.”

Common Mistakes in Research

Research is a valuable tool, but it’s not foolproof. Here are some common mistakes:

  • Asking the wrong questions. Before Coca-Cola introduced New Coke in 1985, it conducted numerous focus groups, which showed people pre-ferred the taste of the new soft drink to the old one. The research led the company to change its 100-year-old formula. However, consumers revolted, and Coca-Cola had to reintroduce its old flavor. The problem was that consumers were not told that the original Coca-Cola might be eliminated.
  • Believing everything people tell you. Account planner Jon Steel points to the problem of people saying the “right” thing: “To hear people talk in focus groups, and indeed to believe the answers they give in larger, more reliable quantitative surveys, one would think that Americans are the cleanest living, healthiest race on the planet. They all eat well, they work out, and cholesterol levels are universally low.”
  • Not testing to see if the data are relevant to your client’s problem. The adagency for Jell-O found that consumers were interested in lighter desserts, so it positioned Jell-O as a light, tasty dessert that won’t fill peo-ple up. Sales declined. The problem wasn’t that the data were erroneous. It was that the data didn’t apply to Jell-O’s core consumers, who thought of desserts as the fun part of the meal. Sales increased when the agency repositioned the brand as fun: “Make Jell-O gelatin, and make some fun.”
  • Biasing the results. To be reliable, your research must be repeatable;that is, the same questions or research techniques must produce similar results, regardless of who conducts the study. However, a variety of fac-tors can bias results. For example, with interviewer bias, the person interviewing respondents gives cues (smiles, frowns) that suggest one answer is better than another. With sample bias, the sample doesn’t represent a good cross section of the target audience. Thus, if you wanted to investigate whether teenagers like an advertising campaign, you wouldn’t test it on a weekday morning at a shopping mall because the target market would be (or at least should be) in school, not at the local mall. With source bias, the source of the research message influ-ences the answer. People aim to please, so they may say only nice things about company XYZ if they know the person asking the questions works for XYZ. With nonresponse bias, questions aren’t answered because they’re too difficult, confusing, personal, and so on.

Suggested Activities

  • Select two cities from different parts of the country and prepare a report of their similarities and differences in shopping habits, food preference, income levels, home ownership, number of children in the family, and so on.
  • Observe how your target audience uses the product you’re about to advertise. If you’re selling golf balls, go to a golf course and watch play-ers in action. If you’re selling a detergent, go to a self-service laundry and observe how the people load their machines. If you’re selling dog food, watch friends feeding their pets. What did you notice? Were there any surprises? Any common rituals? What insights can help direct your advertising?
  • Play a game with friends. Choose a product category (such as cars, jeans, or perfume) and write the names of different brands within the product category on index cards (each index card will have a different brand name). Distribute a card to players and ask them to describe their brand as if it were a person, without revealing the brand name. (To get them started, you might give them some questions to answer, such as what would the brand do for a living? Where would it live? What kind of movies would it like? What kind of books? Magazines? TV shows? Who’s its best friend? How would it dress? What kind of hairstyle would it have?) Then ask other players to guess the brand that’s being described. What did you discover?
  • Choose one of the following categories and use the library and Web to assemble as much information as you can about the product category: who uses it, what the industry trends are, what the top brands in the market are, how the product differs from competitors, how the product is used, and where the category is headed in the future.

John Lyons talks about strategy as

a carefully designed plan to murder the competition. Any premise that lacks a killer instinct is not a strategy. Any premise that doesn’t reflect or include a consumer’s crying need is not a strategy. Any premise embalmed in stiff, predictable language is not a strategy. Any premise that addresses the whole world, women 3 to 93, is not a strategy. Any premise interchangeable with that of another product is not a strategy. The true test of an advertising strategy is to let another human being read it. If that person can’t say yes, that’s me, or yes, I need that, or yes, that’s my problem—throw it away.

Strategic planning is the stage between fact gathering and creative exe-cution. Think of your strategy as a road map for the client and creative team—it will map out the direction the advertising campaign should take. But it’ll be the job of the creative team to describe the scenery. Strategy is the way you plan to sell the product, not the words and images you use to do so. But mere facts do not a strategy make. To the facts you must add your insight—you must see connections that no one else has noticed.

For example, farming is more than a job or even a profession. It is a way of life. Farmers will tell you they farm because they love working outdoors, because they relish being their own boss, because they can raise their families in a good environment, and because they get deep satisfaction from making things grow, from being a part of “God’s miracle.”

At the same time, farmers are businesspeople. Managing millions of dollars in assets and making a profit is no easy task. So, in addition to loving the life they lead, farmers are intensely interested in practical solutions to problems associated with farming. What this all boils down to is that farmers are “spiritual pragmatists.” And it was this insight that became the basis of the print campaign shown in Figure 5-1.

By sharing the farmers’ values and positioning DuPont agricultural products as an extension of them, the Saatchi & Saatchi agency sought to promote the DuPont brand through trust and empathy and to create prefer-ence for DuPont products in an area in which true functional competitive advantages are difficult to achieve or discern.

DuPont thinks of farmers as spiritual pragmatists. By sharing the farmers’ values and positioning DuPont agricultural products as an extension of them, this campaign seeks to promote the DuPont brand through trust and empathy.

O’Toole’s Three-Point Approach to Strategy

John O’Toole, former chairman of FCB Communications and former president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, says you should consider three things when determining a strategy:

  1. Who or what is the competition? To set your brand apart, you need toknow what other brands are saying. You also need to be aware that your competition may go beyond the product category. For example, the com-petition for health clubs includes diet supplements, exercise videos, and home exercise machines, not just other health clubs.
  • Who are you talking to? Are you targeting users of another brand? Consumers who’ve never used any brand in your category? Consumers who use a related product but might be persuaded to switch to yours? Is there a way you can position your brand to meet an unfulfilled need of a par-ticular market segment? W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, point to Curves as a company that meets the needsof women who don’t feel comfortable at most health clubs and who don’t have the discipline to exercise at home. By understanding these con-cerns, Curves created an environment that women can enjoy. In the process, the company made its competitors irrelevant.

Perhaps you’re targeting your current customers, urging them to buy your brand more often or simply to remain brand loyal. Or perhaps you’re targeting gatekeepers, the people who influence the purchasing decision for your target audience. Ally & Gargano targeted many audi-ences in its campaign for Federal Express (now FedEx). As agency president Amil Gargano explained, “We focused on expanding the market with the target moving from management to every department of Ameri-can business including secretaries, mailroom personnel and trainees. No one was spared.

Disney often targets adults to show that people of all ages will enjoy its theme parks. One commercial shows a middle-aged couple talking in bed. The wife says that she fears they’re drifting apart because he doesn’t talk to her in that “special” way anymore. The husband explains, “But we were younger then. We were in college.” She doesn’t buy it. To appease her, he cuddles close to her. You expect to hear him whisper sweet nothings in a low, sexy voice. Instead, he warbles like Donald Duck: “I love you. I love you very, very much.” She giggles. The title card reads “Magic Happens. Disney.” Another Disney spot shows a mother with her daughter and baby boy. They enter a crowded elevator and the daughter tells the strangers about her trip to Disney. She’s so

enthusiastic about the trip that it sounds as if they just returned, but the mother explains they took the trip a year ago. The daughter tells everyone they got all types of souvenirs from the trip, including her baby brother. The strangers grin. The mother explains, “We all had a good time.”

Many strategy statements describe customers in demographic terms: age, sex, marital status, income, occupation, owner or renter, user or nonuser of product category, and so on. But demographics alone cannot help the creative team of copywriter and art director see and understand the person they’re trying to reach. To illustrate the point, account planner Jon Steel notes that the group of “men aged 35 and over with large household incomes” includes Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, Michael Jackson, Donald Trump, Bob Dole, and a large num-ber of drug dealers.

More meaningful is a profile of that person’s lifestyle, including values, leisure-time activities, attitudes toward work and family, and stresses of everyday life. Steel describes the demographic information as the “skeleton” and the lifestyles and values as the “body and soul.”

  • What do you want them to know, understand, and feel? Describe howyour brand touches one or more human needs: to be popular, to feel attractive and wanted, to obtain material things, to enjoy life through comfort and convenience, to create a happy family situation, to have love and sex, to wield power, to avoid fear, to emulate those you admire, to have new experiences, or to protect and maintain health. As creative director John Stingley observes, “The basic motivations of people never really change. That’s why Shakespeare is still relevant today. Human his-tory pretty much boils down to the influence of love, sex, greed, hunger, and insecurity.”

Rather than communicating a rational benefit, which is easy for competitors to copy, try for an emotional appeal. “Women don’t buy lipstick, they buy hope,” Revlon founder Charles Revson once told his staff. Likewise, Porsche sports cars aren’t about moving from point A to point B; they’re about power and status and one-upmanship. Con-sider this comment from a Porsche owner: “There’s nothing practical about it. I live in the United States where the law says I have to drive fifty-five miles an hour. It doesn’t have room for my kids and my

Text not available due to copyright restrictions luggage. And that’s exactly why I love it.” Notice how this consumer insight is reflected in the following headline for Porsche:

  • Too fast
  • Doesn’t blend in
  • People will talk

Focus on Human Needs

Explore the emotional and rational rewards of using products as you define your strategy. Cheese, for example,7 offers the following rewards:

  • In-use rewards: Is convenient (practical), offers a new taste (sensory),earns the gratitude of the family (social), and contributes to the belief that you’re a good cook (ego satisfaction)
  • Results-of-use rewards: Helps build strong bones (practical), makes youfeel better (sensory), makes you look good to others (social), and con-tributes to the belief that you’re a good parent (ego satisfaction)
  • Incidental-to-use rewards: Provides low-cost nutrition (practical), makesno mess (sensory), adds variety to party refreshments (social), and makes you feel like a smart shopper (ego satisfaction)

Which benefits do you think are the most important to mothers of young children? To college students? To professionals? To people living on Social Security?

McCann Erickson’s Role-Playing Approach

The McCann Erickson agency suggests that you climb inside the head of your consumer by acting as if you were that person, writing your responses to the first six questions here in the consumer’s “voice” and the final question in your own voice.

  1. Who is my target?
  • Where am I now in the mind of this person?
  • Where is my competition in the mind of this person?
  • Where would I like to be in the mind of this person?
  • What is the consumer promise, the “big idea”?
  • What is the supporting evidence?
  • What is the tone of voice for the advertising?
  • Jim Aitchison, Cutting Edge Advertising (Singapore: Prentice Hall, 1999), p. 45.
  • Adapted from a presentation by Doug Walker at the University of South Carolina, 17 October 1999.

Writing partially in the first person to arrive at a strategy for reaching parents, the initial thinking for Bell Helmets probably went something like this:

  1. Who is our target? “Hi. I’m Lena Emoto. I work full time as anaccountant, and my husband, Ray, is a mechanical engineer. We have two growing children: Michelle, 9, and Bobby, 12. And are they busy kids! Dropping in at their friends’ houses practically every day. Biking up to the corner convenience store to buy a slush drink. I’m lucky that they can take care of themselves after school and that their bikes allow them some mobility. But I sometimes worry about that. After all, the streets can be dangerous. Thank goodness I’ve convinced them to wear helmets, even though they originally fought me on it.”
  • Where are we now in the mind of this person? “Sure, there are lots ofbrands of helmets. I didn’t spend much on theirs because they all looked pretty much alike to me. They also looked like they’d protect their heads in case they fell or hit something. So while we almost shelled out big bucks for a higher-priced brand, Ray’s car needed a major repair job, and with all we spent for school supplies and clothing, we decided it wasn’t necessary to buy an expensive helmet just for riding in the neigh-borhood.”
  • Where is our competition in the mind of this person? “As I said, mostbrands look about the same. We found two great-looking helmets for about thirteen bucks each. So far, they’ve been OK. Why spend more than you need? Clothes and shoes cost enough as it is.”
  • Where would we like to be in the mind of this person? “At first I thoughtit was dumb to spend more on a bicycle helmet. Then I heard about Bell helmets, how they make them with such care, how they test them, how they’re practically indestructible, and how they’ve saved the lives of pro-fessional and amateur racers.”
  • What is the consumer promise, the “big idea”? “They say Bell helmetsare thoroughly tested for safety. So when my kids wear one, they can enjoy biking, and I don’t have to worry so much about them getting a bad head injury.”
  • What is the supporting evidence? “Bell pioneered the field of helmetsafety. They’re first with racecar helmets and now with bike helmets, too. They invented their own safety tests, which they still conduct in their own labs. They sell more helmets than any other company, and Bell is the helmet of choice for more racecar drivers and pro cyclists than any other brand. I discovered that by reading their ad.”
  • What is the tone of voice for the advertising? Make parents think aboutspending money on a helmet in terms of safety, not status. Use humor to make a sobering statement.

An Account-Planning Approach

Merry Baskin, former chair of the Account Planning Group, describes the role of an account planner as a combination of market researcher, data analyst, qualitative focus-group moderator, information center, bad cop (to account management’s good cop), new product development consultant, brainstorming facilitator, target audience representative or voice of the consumer, soothsayer or futurologist, media or communications planner, strategic thinker and strategy developer, writer of the creative brief, think-piece polemicist, social anthropologist, insight miner, and knowledge applicator.

In a nutshell, account planners serve as liaisons between the creative team and the consumer. They use surveys, focus groups, one-on-one inter-views, observation, and projective techniques to uncover human truths, brand insights, and emerging cultural trends. These insights are summarized in creative briefs and presented to the copywriter and art director to help them get into the mind-set of the target audience. John Stingley says,

In many ways, creating advertising is the same discipline as acting. You must start by mentally discarding your own identity. You have to become the people you are communicating with. Internalize their interests, joys, fears, tastes, even biases. Often it means mentally and emotionally becoming someone you would never in a million years be like yourself.9

Account planner Lauren Tucker says a creative brief must address the following:

  • Role of advertising. Why are you advertising? What is the problem thatadvertising can solve? How will the client benefit? How will consumers benefit?
  • Target audience. Describe the consumers in a way that gives insight intohow they think and feel about your brand. For example, Margaret Morrison asks you to consider the difference among the following descriptions:
  • Mothers with children under 12 years old.
  • Mothers, with children under 12 years old, who probably do not prepare many meals from scratch but generally use a variety of packaged goods as the basis for their meals. These moms may be users of products such as jarred spaghetti sauce and packaged dinners; they may also be users
  • Merry Baskin, “What Is Account Planning?” Account Planning Group,

You need to get into the mind-set of your customers, as Windsor Jewelers does here. Notice that the company didn’t say something dumb like, “Trade in your treasured family heirlooms for cash.” After all, it understood that people have a hard time parting with family treasures. These ads make it simple.

of foods purchased from the deli counter of their grocery store. They are also busy and highly involved in the lives of their children.

  • Mothers who consider themselves creative and somewhat adventurous in the kitchen but need to balance their creativity with the demands of the picky eaters in the family.

Morrison’s first example provides little information to the creative team about what motivates the target consumer. The second example provides quite a bit of information but no real inspiration. Morrison notes this description is likely to fit virtually every mother with children younger than 12 years old in the United States. The third example cre-ates a vivid picture in the mind of everyone reading the creative brief. It describes what is different about the mothers who are in the target audi-ence compared with the other mothers who may fit the profile demo-graphically but not psychographically.

  • Key insight. Bill Bernbach once said, “At the heart of an effective cre-ative philosophy is the belief that nothing is as powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action, even though his language so often can camouflage what really motivates him.”11

The insight may come through observation, such as that people tend to pull Oreo cookies apart and lick the cream filling before biting into the cookie. It may also come from what consumers say in interviews and focus groups. For example, the statement “I might as well apply this donut to my hips” led to NutriGrain’s creative concept that shows people wearing giant donuts around their waists.

  • Benefit. Define your benefit in human terms. For example, “Tide cleansthe dirt your family gets into,” not “Tide cleans better than other brands.”
  • Brand personality or brand promise. For example, the Motel 6 brand ishonest. Simple. Unpretentious. Good humored. And commonsensical.
  • Mandatories. Bank ads must contain financial disclosure information. Aretailer may insist that all ads include the address and the store hours.

In addition to the written creative brief, you may wish to include clips of TV programs the consumers watch, download music they like, create a scrapbook of their hobbies, make a montage of photos that represent what they do in an average day, and so on.

Stating the Strategy

Each agency approaches strategy from its own unique perspective. Whichever approach is used, the strategy must be carefully stated so that it gives the creative team direction and inspiration. Although you may have gathered reams of data, only include what’s relevant to solving the advertis-ing problem in your strategy statement. Kevin Dundas describes two opposite extremes:

The urge to fill that piece of paper with detail, data, fact, and hearsay is unbelievably tempting. I recall a senior planner handing me a brief for sign-off and proudly stating, “Let’s see the creatives get out of that one.” It was a great piece of strategic thinking, but as a stepping-off point to a creative team it was DOA.

Equally, I have had planners shuffle into my office embarrassed to reveal the one-page summation of a mountain of strategizing and posi-tioning work for their brand. “It’s too simple and obvious; it is what the brand has always stood for.” More than likely this is a good position to take; why challenge or rewrite a position like refreshment or perfor-mance or safety? The genius, of course, lies in how the planner has configured or retextured the brand proposition for today’s target audience.

As you write your strategy statement, try to write as visually as you can so that the writer and artist will almost see and hear the consumer in their minds. But keep the statement brief. Kenneth Roman and Jane Mass argue that if you can’t fit the information onto one page, the chances of cramming it all into a 30-second commercial are slight.

Linking Strategy with the Thinking/Feeling and High/Low-Importance Scales

Advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding has created a strategy model based on two basic facts: (1) Some purchasing decisions are based more on logic, whereas others are based more on emotions; and (2) some purchasing decisions may involve extensive deliberation, whereas others are made with little or no thought. Visualize this model as a grid with four quadrants.

  • Quadrant 1: Thinking/High Importance. Also called the informativemodel, this approach assumes that the consumer needs a great deal of information because of the importance of the product and logical issues concerning it. Many campaigns for automobiles, digital cameras, comput-ers, and home entertainment systems fit this category. Long copy, specific information, and perhaps a demonstration might be used to reinforce the selling argument.
  • Quadrant 2: Feeling/High Importance. Also called the affective model,this approach views the consumer as an individual who relies less on specific information and more on attitudes and feelings about the prod-uct because the purchase decision is related to self-esteem. Products for which this strategy works include jewelry, cosmetics, fashion apparel, and motorcycles. Image advertising, which communicates with dramatic visuals and emotional statements as opposed to logic, is the rule of thumb here.
  • Quadrant 3: Thinking/Low Importance. Also called the habit-formationmodel, this approach views the consumer as someone who makes pur-chasing decisions with minimal thought. Simply inducing a trial purchase, as with a coupon, may generate subsequent purchases more readily than pounding home undifferentiated points in the copy. Campaigns for food and household cleaning products often use this approach; the messages always remind the consumer to choose the brand.

The Foote, Cone & Belding strategy-planning model ranks consumer purchas-ing decisions in terms of high versus low impor-tance and thinking versus feeling.

  • Quadrant 4: Feeling/Low Importance. Also called the self-satisfactionmodel, this approach sees the consumer as a reactor. It is reserved for products that satisfy personal tastes, such as smoking and consumption of alcoholic beverages, and that make the user feel “special” when using the brand in front of peers. Messages are designed primarily to draw attention to the brand.

Note that because consumers buy a variety of goods and services, they may fit any of the four quadrant profiles, depending on the specific purchas-ing decision.

Think ROI

Before you finalize your strategy, think about the return on investment (ROI) that your client will receive from advertising by answering the question, “Why is advertising the best answer?” After all, in this age of integrated

Give a brief description of the product or service to put the strategy in context—no more than one or two paragraphs, but enough to help the reader understand what is to be advertised.

  1. Who is our target? Give brief lifestyle/attitudinal descriptions. Include some demographics, but thisis not as important for most products. Users, heavy users, nonusers, users of competitive brands? Relationship to other product/service usage?
  • Where are we now in the mind of this person? They don’t know us. They know us, but don’t use us.They prefer another brand because. . . . They don’t understand what we can do. They don’t use us for enough things. And so on.
  • Where is our competition in the mind of this person? Use the same approach as above but focus onthe competing brands.
  • Where would we like to be in the mind of this person? Product is positioned as. . . . Product is the bestchoice because. . . . Now they know product will. . . .
  • What is the consumer promise, the “big idea”? State the major focus of your campaign. Not a sloganor tag line at this stage, but an idea in simple language that will serve as the basis for a tag line—a brief statement that sums up what the campaign is about.
  • What is the supporting evidence? Draw on consumer benefits to strengthen and elaborate on whatyou chose in item 5. Build benefit after benefit in support of your big idea.
  • What is the tone of voice for the advertising? Decide on the appropriate tone—warm, family values,startling, hi-tech, sobering fact, mild guilt, humor, and so on.

marketing communications, a variety of other approaches might bring about similar—or even better—results than an advertising campaign. For example, if research shows that people aren’t shopping at a store because they don’t like the service they receive, an ad campaign probably won’t help as much as improving employee morale at the store—something human resources or public relations could do far better than an ad agency. (See Chapter 13 for examples of integrated marketing communications.)

There’s another ROI that’s important in testing your strategy. Doug Walker defines it as “relevance, originality, and impact.” Is your strategy relevant to the target audience? Is it original, or is it too similar to that of the other brands in your product category? Does it have an impact? Will it bring results?

Checklist for Strategy

  • Does your strategy have the potential for relevant and unexpected con-nections that can build a relationship between the brand and the prospect?
  • Did you place the brand at the appropriate point on the thinking/feeling and high/low-importance scales?
  • Does your strategy address one or more human needs?
  • Did you include emotional benefits, as well as rational ones? Can the product and its advertising support these benefits?
  • Did you consider what strategies competitors are using, as well as what they may have missed?
  • Does your strategy address the target market in a tone appropriate to this market?
  • Does your strategy contain enough information to give the creative team members direction but not so much information that it overwhelms them?
  • Does your strategy address both types of ROI?

Suggested Activities

  1. Using the strategy statement format as shown in the box on page 120, write a strategy for a product, service, or organization of your choosing or as assigned by your instructor.
  • Collect several advertisements for a single product, service, or organization. How much of the original strategy can you infer from what each ad

says and how it says it? Is the target audience evident? What is the prob-lem, and what is the ad’s approach to solving it? Which human needs are addressed? If you were in the target market for this ad, would you believe what it says? Why or why not? Strategically, what might be another way to approach the problem?

  • Using this same campaign or another, do an Internet search for the product or service. What differences do you note in the strategic approach?

For example, you might do a search for Bell Helmets and determine whether its Web strategy is in keeping with the “Courage for your head” campaign.

Search Online! Discovering More about Strategy

For more information about branding and account planning, go to the follow-ing sites:

Eat Mor Chikin or These Cows Are Goners!

Chick-fil-A is a quick-service restaurant chain with more than 1,000 units and more than $1.2 billion in sales. From 1963 to the 1980s, Chick-fil-A grew to become America’s dominant mall-based

restaurant chain on the strength of its signature chicken sandwich. As mass merchandisers began to erode mall traffic in the 1980s, Chick-fil-A manage-ment moved the chain’s expansion strategy out of the mall and onto the street with freestanding units.

Chick-fil-A now competes in one of the economy’s largest and most com-petitive segments—fast-food restaurants. Chick-fil-A is outnumbered in store count by up to 15 to 1 and is outspent in the media by up to 20 to 1 by the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. Industrywide, flat pricing and rapid store growth have held average same-store sales increases to a modest 1 to 2 percent for several years. Also, deep discounting has been the dominant marketing message in the fast-food industry.

In 1995, Chick-fil-A hired The Richards Group to develop a campaign that would clearly position Chick-fil-A as the preferred alternative to ham-burgers in the fast-food restaurant marketplace. To arrive at the best approach, The Richards Group used its Spherical branding process, in which it defines the client’s business, the brand’s positioning and personality, and the desired affiliation.

The Spherical branding process revealed significant differences between Chick-fil-A customers and traditional fast-food customers. Chick-fil-A cus-tomers were older, better educated, wealthier, more white collar, and skewed female. They came to Chick-fil-A for a unique, better-tasting chicken sandwich.

Research confirmed that Chick-fil-A was rich with positive associations. The great-tasting chicken sandwich was the strongest association. Also, customers associated Chick-fil-A with a clean, comfortable restaurant environment; well-run operations; accurate service; friendly, clean-cut employees; and strong values. Customers described the brand’s personality as upscale, successful, healthy, intelligent, clean-cut, and wholesome. Sounds perfect, right?

Courtesy of Chick-fil-A.



“Calling All Cows” :60 radio

Well, a bit too perfect. The Richards Group discovered other personality traits included status driven, finicky, uptight, self-absorbed, and boring.

Clearly, Chick-fil-A was seen as the premium chicken sandwich in the quick-service restaurant category. The Richards Group, however, understood that talking about “quality” products was not unique or motivating. It might even add to the negative characteristics of being uptight and finicky.

After thorough consumer research and an extensive review of the fast-food restaurant category, The Richards Group developed the following brand positioning for Chick-fil-A: to choosy people in a hurry, Chick-fil-A is the pre-mium fast-food restaurant brand that consistently serves America’s best-loved chicken sandwiches.

The target of choosy people in a hurry encompasses those who, regard-less of their demographics, are more choosy about the food they eat, the restaurant they eat in, the employees who serve them, and the healthfulness of the food. They are choosier people about most aspects of their lives.

From the consumer perspective, Chick-fil-A is fast food. The frame of ref-erence as a premium fast-food restaurant acknowledges that consumers con-sider Chick-fil-A among the most respected, highest-quality fast-food restaurants.

Chicken sandwiches are the dominant signature products and the most compelling reason for choosing Chick-fil-A. “Consistently serves America’s best-loved chicken sandwiches” is a specific and vivid reason to choose Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A’s brand personality had to be easy to connect to emotionally.

The Richards Group determined that Chick-fil-A’s brand personality should be:

Caring. Genuine. Clean-cut. Dependable. Unexpectedly fun.



Caring to capture the community and people orientation of the companyand its principled and giving culture. Genuine to capture the sense of an organization that is authentic, classic, and comfortable with itself and that puts substance over style. Clean-cut to capture the wholesome and healthy quality of the nature of the people. Dependable to characterize people who have their act together and have some stability in their lives. They are people who you would consider good neighbors. Unexpectedly fun to leave room for the company to not take itself too seriously, to be lighthearted and creative.

The Richards Group wanted people to feel the following brand affiliation when they choose to eat at Chick-fil-A:

People who eat at Chick-fil-A see themselves as a little more discerning. “Chick-fil-A is a little more expensive, but it’s worth it.” They also see Chick-fil-A as a place for active, family-focused folks who appreciate Chick-fil-A’s strong values.

With the Spherical branding process complete, The Richards Group realized it needed to create a campaign that would leverage the premium product and enhance the personality of the brand. The creative solution, “Eat Mor Chikin,” features cows trying to persuade consumers to eat more Chick-fil-A chicken.

The campaign rolled out initially in 1995 as a three-dimensional bill-board in which cows appear to be writing “Eat Mor Chikin” on the sign. This board is used when Chick-fil-A opens in a new market to welcome new cus-tomers. As a market matures, the cows begin to rotate other boards into the mix. Sometimes the cows are used outdoors to promote specific items, like breakfast, with boards such as “Eat Mor Chikin or Weer Toast.” They aren’t particular, however, about how humans eat chicken, just that they do. So sometimes they encourage the general consumption of chicken by tying their message to current events with boards like the “Vote Chikin” board that ran during an election year. A fully integrated campaign was added in 1996, which included outdoor billboards, television, radio, freestanding inserts, direct mail, costumed mascots, and apparel and novelty items.

The campaign has won numerous awards in the Cannes, ADDY, OBIE, Effie, and other competitions. As an added bonus, the campaign, particularly the outdoor billboards, has generated significant attention on national and local news wires and in restaurant trade publications. The media value of the public relations coverage is more than $5 million.

In the process, the traffic-stopping cows have convinced a lot of people to “eat mor chikin.” Since 1996, Chick-fil-A’s unaided brand awareness has grown 81 percent. During that same period, sales have increased 120 percent. That’s a lot “mor chikin” than before the cows and The Richards Group came on the scene. Now if only we can convince the cows to use spell check.



“We’re in the idea business, because ideas will be the currency of the 21st century,” Roy Spence, founder of Austin-based GSD&M, explained to USA Today. But Spence also observed, “The market is ad rich and ideapoor.” The key question becomes, how do you come up with the big idea?

How Do You Come Up with the Big Idea?

Some writers and artists say their ideas come to them while they’re taking a hot bath or a long walk. Others get ideas in the shower or while driving. And still others get ideas through free association with a colleague. Terence Poltrack describes the process of coming up with the big idea as one man, one style. For every idea out there, there’s a way to get to it. Ask advertising’s creative thinkers about their personal road maps to The Answer, and you confront a mix of fear and bravado, chilly logic and warm emotion. The process is one part reason, one part heart, and one (big) part pure, simple intuition.

James Webb Young, a former creative vice president at J. Walter Thompson, described a five-step process in his book A Technique for Producing Ideas:

  1. Immersion. Engross yourself in background research. Even the pros don’twrite the magic line the first time. Before Goodby, Silverstein & Partners arrived at “Courage for your head” for client Bell Helmets (see the “Briefcase” section in Chapter 4), agency team members visited the client, viewed the manufacturing process, and absorbed hours of infor-mation, which led to a group-think session in which the tag line finally emerged.
  • Digestion. Play with the information. Look at it from different angles.Make lists of features. Draw doodles. Write down phrases. Exercise your mind. This chapter will give you some creative exercises that may help spark an idea.
  • Incubation. Put the advertising assignment aside. Go for a walk. See amovie. Shoot some hoops. Do whatever will relax your mind. Young likened this step to the way Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries. In the middle of a case, Holmes would drag Watson off to a concert. This habit was irritating to the literal-minded Watson, but it always helped Holmes crack the case.
  • Illumination. Once your brain has been allowed to relax after beingloaded with information, it will spurt out an idea. It can happen any-where, any time. Be ready to write the idea down because, as quickly as an idea pops into your head, it can pop out of it. Forever. It doesn’t mat-ter if the idea is captured on a scrap of paper, a cocktail napkin, or in the dust on your car’s dashboard, just as long as you record it somehow.

Creative director Ann Hayden was having a difficult time coming up with the right approach for a Roche commercial. She knew the commer-cial needed to convince patients to discuss their weight with their doctors. But every idea she came up with seemed trite. Finally, the big idea came to her when she was having dinner at a restaurant and noticed the couple at the next table had a baby with them. That’s it! Babies. One of the first things that happens when a baby is born is that he or she is weighed. This inspired a commercial that opens on a baby and dissolves into a grown woman who is overweight. The announcer says, “We’re all born into this world small, within 3 to 4 pounds of each other. Then life happens. And we can end up weighing more than is healthy for us. Fortunately, today there are some truly different prescription options that can help. Doctors have been weighing you since you were born. Isn’t it time you talked about it?”4

  • James Webb Young, A Technique for Producing Ideas, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Crain Books, 1975).
  • Adapted from a lecture given by Ann Hayden at the University of South Carolina, 13 May 2000.
  • Reality testing. Ask yourself, is the idea good? Does it solve the problem?Is it on strategy? As you gather ideas, put them inside an envelope or folder and don’t look at them right away. If you evaluate early on, you may settle for an idea that’s just so-so or you may never allow a gem of an idea to develop.

Be sure to test your idea on others. You may be so close to the idea that you don’t see potential problems, so show it to others and listen to their feedback. Ogilvy & Mather tells its account people to ask the following questions when evaluating creative work: Is it on strategy? What did you get from the advertising? Was that net impression a good or bad one? Why? Did you remember to react to this ad as a consumer, not as an advertising person? Does the ad address the right group of people? Is the tone consistent with the strategy? Is it a good execution? Is the prom-ise visualized effectively? How? Is the brand name up front enough? Is the core selling idea clear? Does the execution lend itself to a total cam-paign? If so, what might be some other executions? Does something make you stop, look, listen quickly? What is it?

There’s a Big Idea in the Strategy Statement

The strategy statement you learned to write in the last chapter serves as a road map for your idea-generation process. For instance, the strategy state-ment for Kellogg’s NutriGrain breakfast bars told the Leo Burnett creative team that consumers want to eat the right thing. They know healthy food will make them look and feel good, but they’re tempted by junk food that goes straight to their hips and thighs. Using the insights from the strategy, the creative team members realized that they weren’t just selling a break-fast bar; they were selling self-respect. The tag line, “Respect yourself in the morning,” summed up the big idea. To develop ideas for individual ads in the campaign, the team jotted down words, phrases, and images of what consumers are—and should be—eating. One ad shows a humongous donut wrapped around someone’s waist, and another shows giant sticky buns stuck on a woman’s rear end. In keeping with the strategy, billboards are placed next to donut shops and fast-food restaurants.

Turn an Idea into a Campaign Theme

It’s rare that you will be asked to come up with an idea for a single ad. Most often, you’ll be asked to come up with an idea that has “legs”—one that can run over time as a campaign. Some of the most famous and successful campaigns have been running for decades. So before you settle on an idea for a single ad, ask yourself, what will the next ad be like? And the one after that? And the one a year from now? And 5 or 10 years from now? Does the idea stand the test of time? That is, can you create a campaign for it?

Bud Light ads center on the concept that guys will go to great extremes to protect their favorite brand of beer. This big idea has been developed into numerous award-winning commercials. In one, a skydiver is reluctant to jump out of a plane. To inspire him to jump, the instructor drops a six-pack of Bud Light out of the plane’s door. To the audience’s surprise, the pilot jumps out of the plane to retrieve the beer. Another Bud Light commercial shows two young guys in an apartment. One of them is concerned that their friends will drink all their beer. Not to worry: the other guy has installed a magic fridge. With the pull of a lever, the kitchen wall revolves and the refrigerator is replaced with a kitchen table and chairs. Pure genius! The only problem is on the other side of the wall is another apartment filled with guys who rejoice when the refrigerator appears. As if they are worshiping an idol, the men bow down and chant, “Magic fridge.”

Notice the similarities in the two Bud Light ads. Although the scenarios are different, they come back to the same big idea. A campaign is a series of ads that reflect the same big idea and have a similar theme and attitude. Often the individual ads will have the same look, in which the art director specifies the size and location of the visual and logo, the size and font of the type, and so on. Also, often the copy in each ad follows the same structure, from the length of the headline down to the last line of copy. But it doesn’t have to be this struc-tured. Look at the ads for Bell helmets found in the “Briefcase” section in Chapter 4. Some of Bell’s headlines ask questions, whereas others give state-ments. Headlines range from 3 words to 17. Some ads show the product in use, whereas others show what happens if you don’t wear a Bell helmet. There are similarities, however. The type font is the same, as is the tag line, “Courage for your head.” So is the attitude and writing style of the ads. The ads may not look the same, but they’re definitely part of the same campaign.

Campaign ideas transcend different media. Peek back at the Chick-fil-A “Briefcase” section found in Chapter 5, and you’ll see how the big idea—cows pleading for people to “eat mor chikin”—works for outdoor billboards, television, and radio. In each case, the cows appear to be creat-ing the ads.

Campaigns created for traditional media can also inspire ideas for non-traditional media. saw its revenue grow more than

70 percent in 2005 after it ran three spots on the Super Bowl. The spots, which showed what it’s like to work with a bunch of monkeys, were named three of top six spots in the annual USA Today ad poll. The next year the monkeys were back in starring roles in Super Bowl commercials and offered a new twist: People could download Monk-e-mail greetings to send to friends and enemies alike. The microsite, created by agency Cramer-Krasselt, allowed visitors to customize their favorite chimp with clothing, accessories, and a selection of prerecorded messages. It also gave people the option of skipping the prerecorded missives in favor of typing out their own—or recording one over the phone. More than 9 million people downloaded the greetings in the first 8 months of the campaign, and there were nearly 1,200 blog mentions of the office chimps in the same period.

At times, you’ll be asked to develop multiple campaigns to reach different target audiences. For example, Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy created numer-ous campaigns to convince a variety of people to visit North Carolina. Its research showed some people want to “veg out” and leave their worries behind when they go on vacation. Others want to discover new things while they’re visiting new places. And a third group, filmmakers, need to know why one location is better than another to shoot a movie. These wonderful campaigns for North Carolina are found in Chapters 7 and 13. Study these ads and you’ll see how they appeal to different audiences.

From One Big Idea to Hundreds of Ideas

Once you develop your big idea, you’ll need to come up with an infinite num-ber of ideas for individual ads that support the campaign theme. It’s not easy. To help the brainstorming process, apply the following questions to your advertising problem:

Where Will Your Ad Run?

DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza reinforced its message “It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno.” by placing ads in yellow-page directories next to ads from take-out pizza restaurants. The headline asked, “Looking for a pizza that bakes up fresh like pizzeria pizza? Look in your freezer.” The copy led users to an 800 number for a coupon worth $1.50 off their next purchase.

Minute Maid bought the back page of each section of the New York Times to introduce its Premium Choice juice. The ad in the Business section included a coupon, along with some financial advice: “This might be the only sure thing you’ll ever find in the business section.” The ad in the Metropoli-tan section played off the numerous New Yorkers who become snowbirds when they retire: “Today, the Metropolitan section also has important news from New York’s sixth borough, Florida.” Students from the Creative Circus showed how newspaper ads are the perfect medium to reach dog owners (see Figure 6-1).

Don’t just stick to traditional media to run your message. Think cre-atively, as Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners did when it stenciled the sidewalks of New York with the message “From here, it looks like you could use some new underwear. Bamboo Lingerie.” Crispin Porter Bogusky also used unconventional media to describe what it’s like to be homeless. Ads for the Miami Rescue Mission ran on shopping carts, bus shelters, park benches, and trash dumpsters. Each had the following copy: “When you’re homeless, you see the world differently. To help call 571-2273.” What made the ads so powerful was how the headlines and media choices related to the overall message: The ad on the park benches was headlined “Bed.” The message on the dumpsters read “Kitchen.” The poster inside the bus shelter was labeled “House.” The sign on the grocery carts described it as a “Closet.”

What’s that giant spot doing on this newspaper ad? If you’re a dog owner, you know. Good boy! And good use of media to gen-erate a creative idea.

Courtesy of the Creative Circus; Yara Siegelaar student art director and photographer; David Laskarzewski, student copywriter.

What’s the Context of Your Message?

What will the members of your target audience be doing when they see or hear your ad? For example, several TV stations in the Philippines run “insomnia ads” in place of the standard color bar sign-off signals. An Advil ad reads, “If you’re reading this instead of sleeping, you’ll probably have a headache later.” Bayan Tel’s message has a twist on a popular movie title: “Sleepless in Manila? Call Seattle or any place in the U.S. for only 40¢/min.” Mr. Donut asks, “Already thinking of breakfast? Suggestion: Mr. Donut.”

Noxzema bought ad space in women’s restrooms throughout Manhattan. The ads grabbed your attention because they were printed in reverse—you needed a mirror to read them. Appropriately, the ads were hung in frames on the walls across the mirrors so that, when a woman checked her makeup in the mirror, she was greeted with messages such as these:

“Look as good as the woman your date is hitting on.”

“Did someone miss her beauty sleep?”

“He must really love you for your inner beauty.”

Here are other clever messages that make a relevant connection to what consumers are doing when they see the message:

“Ref, you need glasses.”

(Outdoor board for an optician, placed at a sports stadium)

“Hello to all our readers in high office.”

(Message for The Economist magazine, painted on the roof of a bus)

“20 ounce soda. 6 inch pothole.”

(Message for Tide, placed on the exterior of a bus)

What’s the Timing of Your Ad?

When will your ad run? Is the timing significant to your target audience? For example, Pepto-Bismol ran an ad in April issues of magazines. How does the month of April relate to queasy stomachs? April 15 is tax day, a day that can make some taxpayers sick to their stomachs. That’s why Pepto-Bismol ran a full-page copy of a 1040 form, with a corner rolled up to reveal a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey made an unexpected but relevant suggestion for people who were expecting company for the holi-days: “This Thanksgiving serve Turkey before dinner.” Vicks’ NyQuil ran an ad during the holiday season, when many people seem to catch colds, with this message: “Silent night.” And Saatchi & Saatchi used holidays as a source of inspiration for Tide laundry detergent ads:

“The only way to wear white after Labor Day.”

(Ran on Labor Day)

“It takes a wee bit more than luck to get green beer out of your clothes.” (Ran on St. Patrick’s Day)

“Removes alien goo, fake blood and, oh yeah, chocolate.” (Ran on Halloween)

What’s in the News?

Did something major just happen? Is something about to happen? Ads that tap into current events reflect what’s on people’s minds and make your brand seem timely. This approach is great if you have the resources to constantly change your ads.

America’s Dairy Farmers and Milk Processors often tap into major events such as sporting events, elections, and TV shows. For instance, on Super Bowl Monday, you’ll see the winning quarterback sporting a milk mustache. Two versions of the ad are shot in advance, just in case the outcome isn’t what everyone expects.

Can You Borrow from the Pages of History?

McCann Erickson’s Singapore office studied old ads from the Simmons Bedding Company and discovered an old brochure from the 1930s that fea-tured a testimonial from Eleanor Roosevelt. This inspired an idea that won gold at the One Show. The headline read:For President Roosevelt, a day at the office involved sending 750,000 men into a minefield.

Ever wondered how he slept at night?

What Are the Negatives about Your Brand?

What negative thoughts do your potential customers have about your client? What negative thoughts do you have about your client? Don’t try to cover up a negative—embrace it. After all, what’s negative to one person can be positive to another. A copywriter at Macy’s was faced with the challenge of selling orange luggage. It was just plain ugly. What could she do? She could omit that it was orange. After all, she wasn’t taking mail and phone orders, so she didn’t have to mention color. And, because the newspaper ad was going to run in black and white, no one would know the difference, right? Wrong. Cus-tomers would know the minute they came to the store. They would be furious, and the store could lose valued customers. So she wrote something along these lines: “Does your luggage get lost at the airline terminals? We’ve got the perfect luggage for you!” The luggage sold out because she turned a negative into a selling advantage, and she told the truth.

What If Your Product Were Something Else?

Make an analogy. If your product were a person, would it be young? Old? Carefree? Uptight? If it were a tree, would it be a giant redwood or a bonsai? How about if it were a dog or cat? Crate & Barrel described its “Sonoma”

Copy reads: “No backseat. No backseat driver. The bigger the backseat, the more trouble there is. The Audi TT eliminates all “You’re going too fast” and “Watch out for the biker” chatter. Comfort is good but minivan comfort isn’t. The TT has forty cubic feet of room and a large trunk. You’ll forget you don’t have a backseat. Small enough to get you through your daily grind, but big enough for that weekend getaway to the beach. Hey, smaller is better.”

Copy reads: “Lots of elbow room. If you hang one out the window. Just enough. No more. We at Audi purposely spent more time on the TT’s design than contemplating how many bags of groceries you’re hauling. Shouldn’t luxuri-ous, yet sporty cars be small? How else could a weave in and out of traffic while others sit in their SUV’s and stare?”

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