ad craft

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I love Christopher Walken. I’m beginning to appreciate Justin Timberlake. And I’m a huge fan of healthier-for-you foods. Brands are my thing and as an ad rat, my senses are heightened during the Super Bowl. All of these things converged during the Super Bowl of 2017 with the fruit drink spot featuring Messrs. Walken and Timberlake. Granted, at the Super Bowl party it’s not always easy to hear, but I did get the Bai-Bai-Bai joke. “Oh, that’s the Justin Timberlake song.” Nice ad craft, if you are trying to seed a name.

In an article in the NYT two days ago, Bai brand stewards were crowing about an increase in TV ad awareness of 50% since the spot first aired. Not a metric that launched a thousand marketing directorships. Ad awareness doesn’t always equal sales — though it’s a good first step. It wasn’t until I finished the article that I realized Bai, Bai, Bai was a phonetic representation of bye, bye, bye to sugar. That was lost on me.
So this was a case where the main brand idea (no sugar) was lost in the creative translation. And that’s poor ad craft.
When you build a brand, your claim or idea must blast through. That’s brand stewardship. Sometimes ad craft gets in the way. Ad awareness should never trump message.


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I’ve met some unusually powerful brand advocates over the years. And some not so much. Both are approvers and deniers of advertising and messaging.  One advocate, a telephone company president, killed a Wall Street Journal ad containing a visual of 10 adorable puppies because “Our customers aren’t dogs.” The bad ones approve or deny ads because they like or dislike them. When a client breaks out the like-ometer, the agency is in trouble.  

And then there are clients who kills or approve and ad because they supports generic business or messaging goals such as it generates leads, get more “likes,” or offers ad memorability.  This is better but still poor brand craft.

When a product or service has an active and strong brand strategy, all the yeses and noes are grounded. They’re all strategic. A brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) gives form and reason to advertising. I’ve never felt bad losing an ad when the brand strategy card was played. Ever.

Brand strategy makes ad craft and brand craft scientific.




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New Cadillac Spots

I wrote Friday about the new Cadillac campaign, sight seen. My qualm was actually with the quote by Publicis’ CEO who intimated image, not car sales, was the point of the work.  I get image. It’s an important got-to-have, but it’s not the primary reason for advertising. Image and an on-brand strategy message are imperatives. Not, however, at the cost of selling.

The Cadillac ad I watched last night on the Oscars was lovely. Of the time. Its heart was in the right place. The product manager/client made the agency show, at least, some old Cadillac cars. But how hard would it have been to show a new model at the end of the spot? Even grayed out a bit? As mentioned Friday, Cadillac’s challenge the past couple of years has been inelegant car designs. Not showing the new model car almost makes me feel, it’s still a challenge.

Then Cadillac ran another ad introducing the Escala. (Watch the second commercial on YouTube link above.) It’s product first. Product forward. And the car design is huge. Exhilarating.  These two execution could have ben combined a la the “Imported From Detroit” spot from years ago. That would have been some ad craft.



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One of the foibles common in advertising is lack of adherence to brand strategy; more specifically to brand strategy claim.  A claim is only as good as its proof — and ads today are often bereft of proof. Here’s an example torn from the pages of The New York Times.  It has been a while since I priced a page in The Times but it wouldn’t be misleading to say the ad cost north of $75.

New York Presbyterian’s claim is “Amazing Things Are Happening Here.” It’s a wonderful and powerful brand idea developed by Munn Rabot. (They no longer do NYP’s ads.)  In an ad celebrating National Doctors Day the headline is the above stated claim.  Here is the copy. (See if you can find any proof.)

Every day, our doctors combine knowledge, curiosity, intuition and compassion in amazing ways.

They change patients’ lives. They advance the frontiers of medicine. And they ready the next generation of physicians to do the same.

On behalf of our patients, families, and everyone else whose lives you touch, thank you.

Advertising has two jobs. Accomplish the tactical objective which in this case is thank the docs. And second, advance the brand strategy “amazing things.”  This is another example of all claim, no proof.

Poor ad craft. Poorer brand craft. Peace.


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Good ad craft.

Not sure who is doing KitchenAid’s advertising but the print is really good.  A refrigerator ad I read today is headlined “Bring the WHOLE FISH home.”  A fairly exotic women stand mid-ground in a kitchen with left hand held high with flat leaf parsley. The centerpiece of the picture, in high focus, is a silver KitchenAid refrigerator behind our home cook. The hero of this visual story, however, is a lovely whole red snapper.  

Also on the counter is a large bunch of fennel, lemons stage right in a bowl with limes, and a nice KitchenAid mixer sits in the background.

The copy tells us the snapper will be roasted Mediterranean-style and the meal will be amazingly fresh thanks to the fridge’s Preserva technology with advanced air filters, humidity settings and ideal temperatures.

This is storytelling without storytelling.  Great ads make your feel something then do something.  This ad challenges you to be a little daring with your recipes. It makes you hungry and want to cook.  And do so with fresher ingredients.

The ad is not targeted to everyone — but foodies are likely to be captivated.  I’ve written how good Bosch’s appliance ads are, these are better. Better ad craft. Peace.

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