Lawrence Creaghan

Words on Advertising

Positioning: the ties that bind

“The basic approach of positioning,” Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, “is not to create something new and different but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.”

Creativity can delight, even inspire. But does it generate business value?

The short answer is, Yes. That conclusion came through clearly in McKinsey’s analysis of one widely recognized proxy for creativity. To have a quantitative measure that could be used to examine the linkage between creativity and business performance, they developed the Award Creativity Score (ACS), an index based on the prestigious Cannes Lions awards given annually for advertising and marketing excellence.

The art of persuasion

“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier and more inviting reading. They can give you fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.

“It’s that creative spark that I’m so jealous of for our agency and that I am so desperately fearful of losing. I don’t want academicians. I don’t want scientists. I don’t want people who do the right things. I want people who do inspiring things.” – Edward L. Bernays

Donald Rumsfeld on hiring

“A’s hire A’s; B’s hire C’s.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“Clarity of language and clarity of thought are inextricably linked.” – George Orwell

The shorter the better

“Be short, be simple, be human.” – Sir Ernest Gowers

“Broadly speaking, short words are the best, and the old ones when short are best of all.” – Winston Churchill

The shorter the funnier

“...there seems to be a brutal rule of comedy: The shorter the better. I began to discover that whenever you could cut a speech, a sentence, a phrase or even a couple of words, it makes a greater difference than you would ever expect.” – John Cleese

“It’s always important to remember that some people succeed in spite of their methods and not because of them.” – Bill Reddin

The 80:20 rule is a myth

“There are lots of rules of thumb and heuristics in marketing that turn out not to be true. Everyone talks about the 80:20 rule (that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers). But in almost every category, that bottom 80% you’re meant to ignore are actually responsible for half of a brand’s sales.

“People are more detached from brands than you think. Consumers buy them less frequently than brands assume, brands are more dependent on light buyers than they think, and people’s interaction with communication is also less than we think.” – Tom Morton

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Successful advertising is all about respect

“Respect those to whom you write. Any copywriter who lacks respect for the great mass of people – the working class – has never lived among them. They’re sharp, fast, funny. They have wide-ranging interests. They’re not at all how most middle-class and upper-class people see them. The irony of it is that middle-class and upper-class people are sheltered – often removed from the realities.” – Tim Delaney

“Producing high quality content is core to any marketing process.” – Doug Pepper

“I got a great gimmick. Let’s tell the truth.” – Nathan Orhbach (to Bill Bernbach)

Why narrow-minded companies succeed

“When you narrow your company’s focus, two things happen, both of which are good. (1) You become more efficient at what your company is doing. (2) You strengthen your brand because it now has a better chance of standing for something.” – Al Ries

“What you say is important; how you say it is more important still.”
– Cicero

Turfing out the competition

“There’s a debate raging in my town over whether or not to replace the existing planted-grass school football field with what used to be known as Astroturf. One side has already won a crucial victory: the local paper calls the new alternative, ‘turf.’

“Turf is what we call a racetrack, or half a fancy dinner (surf and...). Turf is short and punchy and feels organic. If they had called it ‘plastic’ or ‘fake grass’ or ‘artificial turf,’ every conversation would feel different before we even started.” – Seth Godin

“Proper words in proper order make the true definition of style.” – Jonathan Swift

Engineering public opinion

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.” – Edward L. Bernays

“Slang is language that takes off its coat, spits on its hands, and goes to work.” – Carl Sandberg

Albert Lasker’s Lord & Thomas advertising agency transformed the industry more than a century ago

Three words that changed advertising forever: “Salesmanship in Print”

The young Albert Lasker, often referred to as “the father of modern advertising,” knew that advertising worked but he wasn’t really sure exactly what advertising was. Lasker found the answer he was looking for in 1904 when copywriter John E. Kennedy (1864–1928), a former member of the Canadian Mounted Police, told him advertising was “Salesmanship in Print.” Kennedy explained that advertising must give readers reasons why the product being advertised was a better buy than competing products or alternative uses of their limited budget. Lasker was so impressed he created the first systematically trained copywriting staff in America at his agency (Lord & Thomas) based on Kennedy’s philosophy. “We saw more clearly than ever,” he said, “that basically it is copy that makes advertising pay.”

The problem with advertising today

“The problem with advertising today is not in the advertisements themselves. For the most part, the ads are faithful to the client’s marketing strategy. The problem is in the marketing strategy.” – Al Ries

“Great work costs less, ultimately, than crap work.” – David Droga

“Work hard. There is no shortcut.” – Alfred P. Sloan

Bernbach on the power of human nature

“Nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature...what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action. If you know these things about a man you can touch him at the core of his being.” – Bill Bernbach

Ogilvy on advertising

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’” – David Ogilvy

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention

Economist and Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon

“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” – Herbert Simon

“The benefit of free is that you get 100 percent of the market.” – Eric Schmidt

The power of words

“They sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify. They were man’s first, immeasurable feat of magic. They liberated us from ignorance and our barbarous past. For without these marvelous scribbles, which build letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into systems and sciences and creeds, man would be forever confined to the self-isolated prison of the cuttlefish or the chimpanzee.

“We live by words: LOVE, TRUTH, GOD. We fight for words: FREEDOM, GLORY, HONOUR. They bestow the priceless gift of articulacy on our minds and hearts – from Mama to infinity. And those who truly shape our destiny, the giants who teach us, inspire us, lead us to deeds of immortality are those who use words with clarity, grandeur and passion: Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Lincoln, Churchill. Americans, caught between affluence and anxiety, may give thanks for the endless riches in the kingdom of print.” – Leo Rosten

Dr. Luntz convinced the Bush Administration to reframe “global warming” as “climate change” since climate change sounded less severe

It’s not what you say, it’s what people the most important single line I have ever written.” – Frank Luntz

Bernbach on what creative is...and is not

“Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics is not being creative. The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.” – Bill Bernbach

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Big Brother’s Writing Tips
• Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
• Never use a long word where a short one will do.
• If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
• Never use the passive where you can use the active.
• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
• Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
– George Orwell

“Any fool can make soap. It takes a clever man to sell it.” – Thomas J. Barratt

So you think you know what a good ad is? Think again!

Most people believe that they know a good ad when they see one. The truth is almost no one does. Research has proven that ads, which impact in the marketplace, usually violate long-held notions of advertising brilliance. This fact was vividly demonstrated several years ago when a group of advertising people decided to identify the best-read ads of the previous year. To accomplish their goal, they talked with thousands of people about literally thousands of ads of all kinds. Then they fed their data into a computer. The results produced a shock wave on Madison Avenue, for they proved without question that ads, which impact on the public, frequently do not measure up to popular standards of creative brilliance. Indeed, by all the standards of the day, the vast majority were quite “plain Jane.” They weren’t the ones usually entered in ad-club competitions.

Careful analysis soon revealed the reason why the ads had received such good readership. They had provided information; they had not sought to be entertaining. In ad after ad, copy and illustration had functioned as a perfect team in spelling out benefits that prospects could instantly grasp and believe. In commenting on the results, one of the survey’s sponsors said that almost all of the winning ads concentrated on selling the product’s benefits, not the talents of the copywriter and art director. He said that by emphasizing how, what, why, where and when they had made the products – not the advertisements – interesting. – Robert B. Parker

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge but rather in a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

TBWA\Worldwide chairman Jean-Marie Dru (above) is widely regarded as one of the most influential advertising executives in the past quarter century

Concept Closure...and why it works so well

Closure, as defined in the advertising textbooks, is the tendency of people to complete an incomplete statement. I believe closure is the basis of one of the most powerful tools available to the creative man, and yet so few of us consciously use it.

Remember “You can take Salem out of the country but...?” Almost everybody mentally filled in the rest “ can’t take the country out of Salem.” That’s as far as the textbooks go on closure. They see it as an interruptive word device that gets attention and remembrance. But it can go further than that. It can be taken to what I call Concept Closure, and this is where the power is.

Symbolism, too, is built on Concept Closure. You see an American flag and, if you are patriotic, it triggers all sorts of visuals from the flag-raising at Iwo to the Saint Paddy’s Day parade up Fifth Avenue.

The eagle, the mountain, the tiger – the images are myriad. You don’t have to belabor an issue with details. People have all the details stored away in their memory banks waiting to spring to life.

Advertising people are not in the business of inculcating memories. That is the job of art and literature and the richness of this life experience. We merely open the door and let a few of them out from time to time.

The great ones knew it. Claude Hopkins knew it, or sensed it anyway, when he wrote of the Hoover vacuum cleaner, “It beats as it sweeps and cleans.” People had memories of beating rugs and of sweeping them to get them clean. They knew what a tough job it was.

And the old-timer who first wrote of “apple pie like mother used to make” knew what he was doing too.

Concept Closure is something that great salesmen have always known in their bones. They know you don’t really sell anybody anything. You just help them to sell themselves. – Advertising Age

“If you are going to use two words – if you are going to fasten them in the minds of the readers – then they must be alliterative.” – Albert Lasker

“To do great work, two things are required: a definite plan and not quite enough time.”LEADERSHIP...with a human touch

“Image is everything.” – Edward L. Bernays

“It is possible to “make” your luck by always being prepared.” – Michael Korda

Principle and guidelines for headlines
An effective headline is good news that registers instantly.
1. A good headline makes a clearly stated promise of a well-defined benefit.
2. Readers are turned off by headlines that call for mental effort.
3. Good headlines avoid adblah.
4. Most good headlines spring out of the product itself.
5. Headlines that play games usually turn readers off.
6. Avoid trick typography when setting the headline.
7. Don’t set the headline on an angle.
8. Don’t bury the headline in the text of the ad.
9. Don’t let the headline brag about the product.
10. Most good headlines are set in black type.
11. Most hard-selling headlines mention the product or service.
12. Breaking headlines into two or more parts can be very effective.
13. Think twice before running an ad without a headline.
14. If a headline is good, it can be short or long.
15. Don’t set a long headline in capital letters.
– Robert B. Parker

“You can’t research a big idea. The only ideas that truly research well are mediocre ideas. In research, great ideas are always suspect.” – George Lois

“People forget how fast you did a job – but they remember how well you did it.” – Howard W. Newton

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Sir Francis Bacon

The last word on brands
“Play the word association game by product category, and there’s always one brand in that category that springs to mind...If a brand doesn’t own a word that stands right at the heart of what its category stands for in the hearts and minds of the consumer, you’re looking at a brand in trouble, now or later.” – Barry Day

“It’s not where you are. It’s where you are headed that matters.” – Joey Smallwood

Persistence wins the day
Press on.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are impotent.
– Ad for McDonald’s (recruitment)

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Bartle Bogle Hegarty founder, Sir John Hegarty: “We don’t sell, we make people want to buy.”

Selling versus buying
“We don’t sell, we make people want to buy.” According to British advertising doyen Sir John Hegarty, “That’s not simply a slogan. It’s a core value.” Creative advertisers realize that the old-style selling techniques no longer work. Today’s consumers simply won’t take “flogging.”

“If you can’t make them want to buy your product or your service,” says Hegarty, “you certainly won’t succeed by hammering at them.” In a world where people are better educated, more sophisticated, more discerning, respect for the consumer’s intelligence is essential for “the long-term relationship between manufacturer and consumer” that keeps a company in business over the long term. – Sir John Hegarty

“Difficulties do not crush men, they make them.” – Arthur Meighen

Millions of words and only six emotions
“The intellectual part of the human mind can spin delightful or frightening stories, can compare features and benefits, can create narratives that compel us to take action. But all of these words are merely costumes for the six emotions built deep in our primordial soup: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.

“Being angry at a driver who cuts you off in traffic is chemically similar to being angry to a relative who cuts you out of his will. We tell ourselves different stories (the traffic story will probably not last nearly as long in the echoes of our consciousness as the bitterness of the bequest story, for example), but still, there are only six buttons being pressed.

“Knowing that there are only a few keys on the keyboard doesn’t make it easier to write a pop hit or a great novel, but it’s a start. In the case of someone with an idea to spread or a product to sell, knowing that you’ve only got six buttons might help focus your energy.” – Seth Godin

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” – Anonymous

Success was measured in seconds even before the internet

“Research shows that we start to make up our minds about other people within the first seven seconds of meeting them.” – Roger Ailes

“The first five seconds make or break a sale.” – Burton Manning

“Copywriters estimate that they have only four seconds to get a consumer’s attention...” – TIME Magazine

The value of a lower education
“I know nothing of value which an advertising man can be taught in college. I know of many things taught there which he will need to unlearn before he can steer any practical course.” – Claude Hopkins

Required reading times seven
“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read Scientific Advertising (by Claude Hopkins) seven times. It has changed my life.” – David Ogilvy

“Publicity makes all history mythical, but to do so effectively it needs a language with historical dimensions.” – John Berger

“A quitter never wins...and a winner never quits.” – Anonymous

The 10 most common communications problems
Are you launched on your first public speaking assignment for your company? Communications expert Roger Ailes has laid out ten markers to help you chart your course without sinking your speech. Remember these “ten most common communications problems.”
1. Lack of initial rapport with listeners
2. Stiffness or woodenness in use of body
3. Presentation of material is intellectually oriented, forgetting to involve the audience emotionally
4. Speaker seems uncomfortable because of fear of failure
5. Poor use of eye contact and facial expression
6. Lack of humour
7. Speech direction and intent unclear due to improper preparation
8. Inability to use silence for impact
9. Lack of energy, causing inappropriate pitch pattern, speech rate and volume
10. Use of boring language and a lack of interesting material
– Roger Ailes

“I don’t need to be inspired. I just have to be hired.” – Sammy Cahn

If it makes them feel good, do it
Surveys of the advertising industry show that today’s consumers buy the whole product, not the neat feature or new improvement advertisers once liked to hammer at them. The so-called unique selling proposition just doesn’t sell any more.

Most agencies now concentrate on “feel-good” advertising with an “emotional selling proposition.” Ideally, this “emotional branding” of a product creates an intangible, yet irresistible, appeal – a soft sell that nets hard-cash returns.

Japanese and European agencies often get high marks for subtlety. But North America has some spectacular emotional branding successes. Research has shown that American consumers associate the name of McDonald’s with many things, including cleanliness and even the Ronald McDonald homes for sick children, before they even think about food. Rivals calling attention to their burgers apparently have missed the point. It’s the “good time,” not the “great taste,” that keeps the consumers coming back. – The Economist

“Success is a marathon not a sprint.”Executive Speechwriter

“Success in retail today and tomorrow will be a direct result of how well the chain has managed to live up to the premise that the store is a brand.” – Morris Saffer

A brand by definition
The Dictionary of Business and Management defines a brand as a name, sign or symbol used to identify items or services of the seller and to differentiate them from goods of competitors. While signs and symbols are part of what a brand is, this is still a very incomplete definition.

A brand with promise
Walter Landor, one of the greats of the advertising industry, said, “Simply put, a brand is a promise. By identifying and authenticating a product or service it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality.” Landor helped create and develop some of the world’s most recognized brands and corporate identities, including Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Kellogg’s, GE, 3M, Miller Lite and Bank of America.

How a name becomes a brand
It’s important to remember that a “brand” and a “name” are not necessarily the same thing. In a 1997 McKinsey Quarterly article entitled “If Nike can ‘just do it,’ why can’t we?” that point is brought home very nicely:

“Many companies think they have a brand when what they actually have is name recognition. It might be recognition of the name that hangs over the company door, the name on a product, or the name that describes a service. Imagine you are driving down the main street of any small town. You spot “Cosmopolitan Clothes.” If you travel down the street often, you will become aware of Cosmopolitan and recall that the store sells clothes. It may even advertise locally and run promotions. But does Cosmopolitan have a brand? No. It merely has a name that consumers associate with its contents.

“A name becomes a brand when consumers associate it with a set of tangible or intangible benefits that they obtain from the product or service. As this association grows stronger, consumers’ loyalty and willingness to pay a price premium increase. Hence, there is equity in the brand name. A brand without equity is not a brand.”

“Winners expect to win in advance. Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.” – Anonymous

360 degrees and no separation
“Brands must be communicated in a 360-degree manner. Every point of contact will have to reflect the brand whether it’s the online showroom or the real showroom. Whether it’s the telephone service centre, or the digital search service. From sponsorships to content generation – the only way a brand will survive in the complexity that’s coming is to make sure that everything that touches the consumer is in touch with the brand. For this reason, integrated brand-driven campaigns will be the norm and not the exception. Brand strategy brought to life in every component of our client’s business will be the business of agencies.

“What convergence means is that the advertising industry will transform itself – in fact, it already has – to be all about delivering the brand.” – Shelly Lazarus

“You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time you must take it.” – Charles Buxton

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo’s motto