Tag: ad agency

How to Express your Brand’s Big IDEA through Great Advertising

In an earlier article we big-idea-1talked about creating your Brand’s Big Idea and using it to drive every inch of your organization. The Big Idea should drive every activity and every function.  To read more on how to come up with the Big Idea and how to leverage it throughout, click on:  How your Brand’s Big Idea should drive every part of your Organization

Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your consumers.


Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise.  For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability.  It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise.  

Slide1Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.  That story telling should come from the Brand’s Advertising.  

Once you have your Brand’s Big Idea, it should inspire you to seek out a Creative Idea, from which everything should come from.  The best brands use a Master Brand anthemic spot to help tell the overall story of the Brand.  But even more so, the Creative Idea should help with any specific product spots around the Innovation you’re bringing to the market.  


Taking that a step further, you can use it to begin crafting your media plan, by launching with the Anthemic Spot, and layering in your specific product messages.  As you look to continue to stay connected with your consumer, you should keep coming back to regular intervals of the Anthem spot.  Too many brands, who are failing, try to do both at the same time. They try to create a lofty “Brand Spot” with their agency and just as they start to like it, they ask “can we jam in some news about our new faster widget” message in the middle, or maybe even do a 5 second tag with it.   

Put another way, a good piece of communication can only move one body part at a time:  the head, the heart or the feet. Challenge yourself:  do you want to target the HEAD so you can get consumers to think differently about you, the HEART to try to connect emotionally or the FEET where you try to drive action.  


If you think you can create an Ad that does all three, you are the worlds greatest advertising in history.  And if you can’t you should then focus on one at time.  That’s where the Anthem will help reposition the brand (head) or connect emotionally (heart) and the Innovation spots should drive action (feet).  The choice on where to focus should come from your brand’s strategy.  At Beloved Brands, we use the Brand Love Curve to help determine where your Brand currently sits with consumers.  If you’re at the Indifferent stage, you need to drive Trial (feet) or change their minds to see you differently. As you move along the curve, it becomes a balance of mind and heart, but driving towards Beloved, you need to connect emotionally.   (The Heart) of consumers.  


As you look at the Creative Advertising the best ads attract ATTENTION, tell the BRAND story, COMMUNICATE the main benefit of the brand and STICK over time.  Leveraging the BIG IDEA and matching up a CREATIVE IDEA, you should make sure it’s the CREATIVE IDEA that does the hard work to a) Earn the consumers’ ATTENTION  b) Draw and hold attention on the BRAND c) tells the brand story in a way that COMMUNICATES the benefit and s)  STICKS with the consumer and builds consistency of  brand experience over time.  It’s the ABC’s of Good Advertising.



Once you align everything to the Brand’s BIG IDEA, you’ll create a strong bond with your consumers.  That bond becomes a source of power for your brand, whether that power is with the very consumers who love your brand, versus retailers, suppliers, competitors, influencers, employees or even versus the media.  


Once you’re able to generate power for your brand, you can then turn that into profit, whether driving price, cost control, market share or increasing the market size.

My hope is this will help you align your Advertising to the Brand’s Big Idea and manage it so whether you are looking to develop new Creative or Media Plans.  Remember, you can only move one body part at a time.  That choice should come from your strategy.  

Use your Brand’s Big Idea to Align the Advertising into the Market



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A Brand Leader’s view of what makes a Good Advertising Agency

It seems that clients are firing ad agencies very quickly these days.  

I’m half way old enough that I’m straddling the fence on whether agencies are as good as the old days.  But it seems that there are pitches going on constantly, and yet no one is really wanting to look themselves the mirror and say “Am I part of the problem?”

I’ve been brought in a few times to look at the situation.  The first thing I normally tell the Brand Leader is “you have to fire yourself first” and then see if the agency is still bad.  The best clients respect the process, the agency and their own judgment. slide1-1And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative.  As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could?  If there are 100 steps in every advertising development stage and you show up OK at each step, how are you possibly thinking you’ll end up with a GREAT ad at the end?  

How do you fire Yourself?

When a relationship gets off the rails, what I do is an Advertising “Audit” where we look at the behaviors and processes in getting to the advertising.  

    • What’s your brief look like?  Is it fundamentally sound?   I’ve seen 8 page briefs that don’t even have a benefit or any consumer insights.  And I’ve seen other clients that say “we didn’t write a brief for that one, we just phoned it in”.  Even though the media has changed in this modern world, the fundamentals around writing briefs should not.  You need to distill your strategy, either from your brand plan or what’s in your head down to 1 page.  Here’s a story on how to write a better creative brief.  How to Write an Effective Creative Brief
    • What is your behavior like at advertising meetings?  My belief is that advertising is a balance of freedom and control and many clients I see give too much freedom in areas they should control and too much control in areas they should give more freedom.  You should control the strategy and decision-making, but you should give freedom to the creative expression and execution of the work.  I’ll observe tone to see how motivating you are, how you communicate and how you make decisions in the meeting that lead to the direction you give.  My view is that one person should do all the feedback and that the feedback should be motivating yet it really should be directive as to how to improve the work.  Too many clients try to be motivating but fear giving direction so they opt for vague.  The agency walks away not even knowing what’s next.  Here’s an article on how to Judge Advertising:  How to Judge AdvertisingSlide1
    • How do you make decisions?   As long as it’s consistent and transparent, there is room for latitude, but the agency just has to know so they can adjust.  Too many times, clients don’t want the agency to see how decisions get made.  If you have a consensus culture, what I recommend is that during the creative meeting, you take a 30 minute break where your team gathers its feedback and then assigns one person to take the agency through.   If your culture is top down, and potentially the real decision maker isn’t even in the room, I recommend that one senior agency person accompany you through the internal approval process.  They can listen and respond to the comments directly.  And usually, they are better at selling creative work than you are.  As long as they are aligned with what you want, the tag-team approach should be even better.  

The reason you want to “fire yourself first” is it allows you to now see clearly if it really is the agency or if it was just you.  The added benefit is that if you still see that the agency is not where you need them to be and you still want to fire them, then at least you will be showing up better to your new agency, rather than that dysfunctional client before the audit.  

What Makes for a Good Advertising Agency?

I come at this from the vantage of a client, having spent 20 years working as a Brand Leader.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life.  But I’ve seen some great agencies and some not so good.  Here’s my list of what makes a Great Agency:

  1. They work for you, not your boss. While your boss pays them and has the final say, they still know you are the client.  Nothing worse than a client services person constantly trying to go above your head.  The best way for an agency to earn your trust is to consistently demonstrate that they work for you.  That trust will earn them a seat, along side you, at the table of your boss.  You will know they have your back and will support your recommendation, not cave at the whim of your boss.    
  2. They understand your goals, your issues and your strategies.  They write briefs that are on your brand strategy and deliver work that expresses your brand strategy.  Yes,  The modern agency struggles to write advertising strategies that align to the Brand’s strategy.  Just as though clients are not trained enough in the areas of strategy and planning, I see the same thing on the Agency side.  As margins are squeezed, the first casualty is strategic planning.  Yet, that might be one of the most important.  I’d prefer to have a great strategic planner on the brand than have 5 client services people each show up taking notes at meetings.  
  3. They make work that drives demand and sells more widgets, not work that just wins awards.  Awards are part of the agency world–helping to motivate creative people and establishing the agency reputation in the market.  I once had an agency person say:  “we can’t write that strategy because it will make for boring work”.  The balance of winning awards and selling more widgets always has to side with selling more widgets.  I’m really tired of agencies starting off creative meetings with the “we are so excited” line.  You want an agency that comes into a room and says “we have an ad for you that will sell more of your product”.  
  4. They give options.  And they don’t always 100% agree.  Come on agencies.  We are in year 100 of making ads and you haven’t figured out yet that the clients like options.  Each option has to deliver the strategy.  Nothing worse than agencies who tear apart the brief and deliver options for each part of the brief.  (e.g. here’s one for the younger audience, here’s one that does fast really well and here’s one that does long-lasting) That’s not creative options, that’s now strategic options.  We collectively decide on the strategy before the creative process begins, not meander the strategy during the creative process.   As clients, options give us comfort.  But even more importantly, options treat us with respect that we can still make the right decision.  
  5. Agencies are not territorial.   They are transparent allowing you open and free access to their planners and creative people.  It’s really the account people here.  Good account people allow you to communicate directly with the creative team.   Most great creative teams that I have worked with want direct access to the client, rather than have it be filtered through a series of contact reports.  
  6. They adjust and easily take feedback.  Agencies serve at the pleasure of the client.  Every client is unique and the best agencies adjust to that style.  Not only the company but even the individual.  I used to sit with my Account leader every quarter and go through how we can each get better.  Some clients aren’t even doing annual agency performance reviews.  
  7. They are positive and already motivated to work on your brand.  While I do encourage clients to motivate their agencies, it’s much easier to motivate someone who is already motivated.  When I see a 25-year old account person openly complaining, I see that as a problem with the culture of the agency, not a problem for the client to have to figure out.  I’m now on the service side as a consultant, and we can never openly complain.  
  8. They teach.  When I was a new Brand Manager, my client services person (Leslie Boscheratto) taught me more about advertising than any client should have to learn.  In fact, I’m still embarrassed at how little I knew, yet thrilled at how much I learned from that team at Bates back in the mid 90s.  
  9. They act like you are their only client.  And you feel important to them, no matter what share your budget is of the overall agency.  Why sign you up as a client and then keep reminding you that they have Coke, Budweiser or Dove.  When you are with me, treat me as though I’m the most important client in the world.  
  10. Trusted Advisor:  They are a trusted advisor who will give you real advice, not just on advertising but on your performance and on the overall brand.  Most senior agency folks have seen plenty of clients come and go.  Never be afraid to find a quiet moment with your agency person and ask two simple questions:  “what can I do better”  and “what do your best clients do that I could learn from”.

Here’s the flip side to the story with an article I wrote a few months ago on “The worst type of Clients”.  To read that click on:  Ten Worst Types of Advertising Clients

You’ll notice the one thing missing from my list is “They Make Great Work”.  That’s a given because that’s the only reason you hire an agency.  Yes, some agencies make better work than others.  But even those agencies that make great work, also make bad work.  And if we were to look at why, it would likely start with the relationship, processes or interactions.  So if the client can fix what they are doing wrong and the agency can show up right, then you should be able to make good work together.  

Making great advertising is simple, but very hard to do. 

Here’s a presentation on How to Be a Better Client

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  4. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

I run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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How to give Feedback on Advertising Copy

BBI Learning LogoIn a previous article, I wrote about How to Judge Advertising, trying to help Brand Leaders separate the Good ads from the Bad.  Click here to read: Judging Advertising Copy    This is a follow-up article to help outline how a Brand Leader should deliver the feedback, which is almost as important as the judging of the Advertising itself.

I come at this discussion from the client side.  I’ve never worked at an agency in my life.  But I have 20 years of CPG experience and have been in the shoes of the Brand Leader at every level.  I feel comfortable to say that most Clients don’t know how to give effective feedback to an Agency.   I’ve seen 10 people show up where they all talk and no decisions are made.   I’ve seen 10 show up and no one says a word, all looking miserable.  They say nothing and then email their feedback 5 days later.  I’ve seen Brand Leaders writing copy and tag lines, moving photos around, adding demos and even suggesting what songs to add to make the spots great.  And with modern social media campaigns, it’s becoming a mess of what people do on their own social media accounts.  The lack of fundamentals in giving feedback that links back to the strategy is getting worse, not better.   

A great Brand Leader should have more questions than answers.  They should be able to uncover problems better than they figure out solutions.  And they should respect the expertise of those they hire to tell the story of their brand.    

When seeing new Advertising Copy, a Brand Leader can really only do three things: 1) Approve the Ad 2) Reject the Ad or 3) Give direction on how to make the Ad better.  Even if you like an Ad, it’s rare that you will approve it outright.  Slide1I know Creative Teams wish we did, but it’s just not a reality.  Yes, the client feedback can help great ads get even better.  If you dislike an Ad, I say you have to kill it.  There’s no value in making an Ad you don’t like–even if it tests well.  I know not everyone will buy this.  But if you don’t love it, you won’t fight for its life, you won’t live and breathe the spot and you won’t put your heart and soul into it.  So why bother approving it.  

If you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?  If you are satisfied with OK, my only regret is that I’m not competing with you.  

Advertising is Really “In the Box” Thinking

The best Advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky “out of the box” dreamers.  They are “in the box” thinkers who are motivated by the challenge of the problem, more than the execution of some simple solution.  Big creative ideas can come from a tightly defined problem.   Checklist-icon The role of the Creative Brief is to create the right “box”, with enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem and challenges the Creative Team to solve it.  Advertising is a creative expression of the Brand Strategy, helping to bring the Brand’s Promise to life in the form of a story.  Great Advertising rarely comes from a blank canvass supplied by a confused client.

Getting Great Advertising is a Balance between Freedom and Control.  Most Brand Leaders allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It seems odd because it should be the reverse.   Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give up a bit of freedom on the Execution.  

A Good Creative Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  There should be one objective, one target, one main benefit and two main reasons to believe (RTB’s).  Agencies that want a long list of RTB’s want to take the strategic control away from you, so that they can provide options at the Creative Meeting.   Yes, it would be easier for the Agency to make Ads with that option, but you’d be letting the creative dictate your strategy rather than your strategy dictating your ad.  Creative Teams don’t want endless streams of data.   They don’t want so many options built into a brief, that they don’t know where to start.  Giving information “just in case” is confusing for them.  They need focus in order to deliver great work for you.  The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.

Brand Leaders should never let their Agency present “strategic” options at a Creative Meeting.  The Creative Meeting should only have creative solutions that answer the strategic problem.      That’s part of the whole flaw in why writing a really thick brief is a bad thing.   More on writing a Creative Brief at: How To Write a Creative Brief

Now Here’s the Odd Part to Feedback

How you treat your agency is crucial.  When you TELL an Agency exactly what to do, there is only one answer:  YES.  But when you ASK them what to do, you might hear:  YES, NO or MAYBE.  It also allows the agency to do what it does best, which is solving problems.  Not taking notes.  Brand Leaders should judge the advertising and then challenge the agency by always talking in terms of problems that they can solve.  


I realize that not everyone will get this.  The dance I am about to teach you will help separate the great Brand Leaders from the bad.  I’m going to give it a shot.  If you buy into the premise above that creative people are “in the box” thinkers, who are motivated by solving problems then don’t use your feedback to give them the answers that will actually de-motivate them.  Instead, give your comments in a way that creates a new problem for them to solve.  Since the brief put them “in a box”, now the feedback should really be creating a “new box” for them to figure out.  Just don’t give them the answers. 

If you frame it in the form of a problem, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the solution they come up with is way better than the one in your head right now.  They don’t want your solutions.  Instead of writing copy for them, say “I’m not sure the middle or the script is completely reflecting the insight”.   The Creative Team finds it de-motivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not utilized (given the answer)

Stop writing copy.  I’ve never met a Brand Leader that was good at writing copy or figuring out the art direction.  Great Brand Leaders are great at figuring out the strategic problems.  Stick to that.  Let others you hire to figure out the solutions, actually figure out the solutions.  

Feedback At the Creative Meeting

The Creative Meeting is not Easy.  You’ve got to balance, the head, the heart and the gut against the good of the brand.  Take your time and sort it through asking the following questions:

  1. Do you love what it can do for your brand?  If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it?  A great ad has to have everyone’s heart and soul put into it.  If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end.  If you love it, you will fight for it.  (The Heart) 
  2. Is it on strategy?  Is the Advertisement an expression of what you have been writing in your strategy documents?   Is it doing what we hoped it would do?  I love the ABCS technique (outlined below) because it helps me to frame things in my mind, so I can evaluate it past how I feel.  I think you need something to ground yourself.  (The Head)  If  there is something in your gut says it’s off, it likely is.  (The Gut)
  3. Is it long-term Idea?  Is a big enough idea that fits with the brand, does the hard work you want to do for the brand and can last 5 years.  Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability.  (The Brand)  Look at the Creative Brief and if the ad is not on strategy, then it has to be rejected   Advertising is an expression of strategy.  If it’s not on strategy, it has no value.  


As for the feedback, too many people sit there taking notes and never engaging with the agency.   Sadly, great jokes fall to the silence of the room creating the tension of a 11th grade Physics exam.  There should be 3 types of feedback:

  1. In the Middle of the Meeting, Talk Out Your First Impressions: During the presentation, it’s great to be engaged enough to say “I like that” or ask a question.   People forget this type of feedback.  You are allowed to talk.  A free-flowing meeting helps ease any tension in the room, and allows you to use your instincts a little more.  Don’t be afraid of voicing your first impressions, it doesn’t lock you in.  You can like something and still reject it because it’s off strategy.  
  2. End of Meeting “Big Picture” Direction:  Once all the work is presented, focus your comments on what‘s working and challenge the team to find ways to make it better. Focus more on the Scripts that you like first, and then move to the ones you don’t like.   Stay big picture–find that balance of instincts and strategy.  Avoid getting too wrapped into the details just yet.  
  3. The Day After Give Detailed Direction:  Take 24 hours to digest all the little details with fresh eyes and maybe more discussion.  Make sure it delivers the depths of brief–highlight any gaps you’re seeing in relation to the Creative Brief.  Does it fit the target, is the tone right, and are we sure it’s communicating the reason to believe?  You might have further details (copy points, placement, colours) to the next day.  The key is to let the agency know about the day after direction, so they can expect it.  
Who Speaks?  Everyone or Just One Person

I’m a big fan of huddling as a Brand team and then giving one piece of feedback.  The agency walks away with consolidated thoughts rather than a mess of comments they have to clean up.  Having the Agency walk away with one message is more important than everyone on the Brand team getting a chance to voice their opinions.  

From a client vantage, I’ve worked with both “taking the break” and “giving feedback live”.  My preference is the break.  It enables you to take your time and give clear aligned direction.  Even with many years of experience, and being a fairly intuitive marketer with a love for advertising–I still have a hard time giving feedback 30 seconds after seeing the last script.  While it’s good to get your instincts out, I guess my big question is “what’s the rush?”  We want to get to the best advertising, right?  We took months to figure out the insight, weeks to figure out the brief and gave the creative team a few weeks to write the scripts.  So why do we want to decide on the best Ad within moments after seeing the Scripts? 

Here’s the “Old School” process:
  1. A senior person on the Agency side starts off the meeting by saying “we are so excited”.  One of the Creative guys says something really positive about the brand they saw on shelf in the 3 weeks they were working on the spot.  
  2. The Account Team re-reads the brief at the start of the meeting.  Then the agency does a 5 minute set up of each board, explaining the technique/process (e.g. this is funny spot).  Set ups can taint or bias the client’s view of a spot.
  3. Agency presents 3-5 scripts, and says which one is their favourite or recommendation.  It’s potentially a de-motivator if you ask for their favourite and then you just dismiss it anyway.  Why bother?
  4. Client Feedback is given 15 seconds after the last script is presented, with the most junior person going first, all the way up to the senior person in the room.  This feels very 1950s humiliation and de-motivating to the junior people on the Brand team.  The account team takes notes, tries to figure out from the various comments what the final direction is.  The Brand Manager caves to the most senior person in the room.  Lots of polite passive-agressive behavior, but not sure of where to go next.    
New School Process for Giving Feedback:  

Take a 15-30 minute client huddle with just the Brand team in the room, so that they can align on the direction and then give the agency one piece of feedback.  Get rid of that polite passive-agressive behavior and have a great debate behind closed doors.  

It can help the overall process because:

  1. The Agency gets one piece of consolidated feedback.  They know exactly what they are going to do next.  The huddle allows the client to get their story straight. The break also helps to slow down process so the client can think things through.
  2. It Gives Ownership to the Brand Manager, who should do all the speaking on behalf of the team, not the most senior person in the room that over-rules them.  When I was in the senior marketing role, I’d let the Brand Manager do all the talking and at the end, I would just say “great job everyone and I’m looking forward to the next round”.  
  3. The break allows the Client Team to have a very open discussion, freely hearing out everyone’s thoughts, giving junior people easier input.  Have good rich debates to make sure you’re on strategy.  It allows the senior leader to coach the Brand Manager rather than publicly over-rule.  The Brand Manager hears everyone out and then consolidates it to one message.
Bit of Crazy Talk for You

It’s also time to get rid of the “reading of the Brief” and get rid of the 5 minute agency “set up” of each ad.  I know half of you will think this is crazy and likely none of you will do it.  Brand Leaders should be in the shoes of the consumer as they see the Advertising ideas.  And unless you are going to buy an ad right beside your ad, that explains your ad, then get rid of the set ups.  Instead, bring the brief, put it face down and only turn it over once you’ve seen all the work.  Plus, you should have your brief memorized.  It’s not that hard.  You only have one brief.  Remember, your brief is fairly short!!!

 How you treat your agency can make or break the advertising you get for your brand.  So treat them right. 


To see a training presentation on Getting Better Advertising


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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10 things that Good Advertising Should Do

People always ask me “So what is it that makes a Brand Leader good at advertising?”

I used to think they must be more creative.  Or they are more in touch with creative people.   Or better yet, they are a visionary.  

I never really thought these answers satisfied me.  Advertising is so much more than that. 

In fact there are many things around advertising that have nothing to do with the creative.  There needs to be a great Brand Plan, the Creative Brief should be tight yet rich with insight.  Brand Leaders have to manage the process and stay on strategy and they should have an ability to select the right media.  They should take risks.  They have to be able to handle the stress of ambiguity against deadlines, and the pressure to make the numbers in the face of art.  Advertising is half art, half science.  They have to be able to give some freedom on execution, yet maintain a tight control on the strategy.  

Brand Leaders must be good at giving good feedback, maybe even a bit fussy on details.  Be nice though.  They have to love the work and bring that emotion to the table.  What about motivating the team?  Not just motivating the creatives, but the planners, the account people, the editors and even the directors.   Someone who is great at Advertising has to make decisions.  They have to be able to walk in the shoes of the consumer, yet still live at the desk of the brand.  They must have the ability to gain alignment with their own team and yet gain approval from the senior management of the company.  They have to be able to sell the work.  At all stages.  The list goes on and on.  

There are just so many things that are required to get good advertising.  Being creative is a great start.  But it is more.  

So after thinking about this question for a few years, I finally nailed it:  

A Brand Leader that is good at advertising is able to consistently get good advertising on the air, and keep bad advertising off the air.  

It’s such a simple yet complicated answer.  Almost as simple and complicated as David Ogilvy’s line “Clients get the work they deserve”.  I know that is true, in every way that it is meant.  I always ask Brand Leaders, “if you knew that how you showed up actually impacts the advertising, do you think you might show up differently?”  I hope the answer is yes.  But I’m not sure they do.  Those great at advertising get it.  

Sadly, there is an equally long list of things that make Brand Leaders bad at advertising.  These days, there is so much learning on the job that people end up as the decision-maker in the room, sitting there trying to lead the advertising when they haven’t even properly trained on how to do it.   Malcolm Gladwell says you’re an expert when you’ve had 10,000 hours.  And yet, there are Brand Leaders are thrust into leading an Ad Campaign with 20, 30 or maybe 100 hours.  And no training.  Even those who are supposed to teach you haven’t been trained.  So you are both learning.  How can you consistently get good advertising on the air,  managing such a complicated process when you’re still learning.  On the job.    

The 10 things good advertising should do

Here’s a starting point for you when you’re judging creative.  

  1. Set Yourself Apart.  Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper.   Or they are not around for very long.   The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of other brands that are stuck in our minds.  And that starts with creative that feels different and of course makes the brand seem different. 
  2. Focused!   A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea, a focused media.  The whole discipline of marketing is founded on focus, and yet Brand Leaders struggle most in this area.  They always want that “just in case” option.  
  3. Keep the Idea and Communication very simple.  Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad.  What does the consumer hear?  A confusing mess.  By throwing multiple messages you are just making the consumer do the work of deciding the most important message, because you couldn’t figure it out.  My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain.  If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex.  Or just too long.  The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath.   Can you do that?  
  4. Have a Good Selling Idea.  While Big Ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea.  You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search–and you’ll see it throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands.  Consumers will start to connect to the big idea and they’ll begin to relate your brand with that big idea.  Look at your ad:  does it have a big idea?
  5. Drive Engagement: Too many Brand Leaders forget to engage the consumer.   They get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff.  But it all starts with Attention.  The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful.   If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.  
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking.  With so many ads, you need to have a key visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message.   The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.  As kids, we always love the pictures.  We still do.  
  7. Sell the solution, not the product.  Consumers use brands to solve problems in their lives.  Your brand will be more powerful if it solves the problems of life.   Figure out the consumers’ enemy and conquer it on their behalf.  Consumers don’t care about what you do, until you care about what they need.  No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole. 
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer.   A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care.  It’s not only the right brand promise that matters, but the right communication of that promise.    You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who only has hard wood floors.   And you can’t sell a golf ball that goes 20 yards farther to someone who despises golf.  
  9. Make Ads that are based on a consumer Insight.  Insights are not facts about your brand.  That’s just you talking AT the consumer.   Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way.  Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them.  Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.  
  10. Tell the story behind the brand.  There should be richness in your brand’s purpose.  Why did you start this brand?   How does your brand help people?   Why do you get up in the morning?   Remember:  people don’t buy what you do as much as they buy why you do it. 

The ABC’S of Advertising

Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S:  Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.  

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time.   In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 


Be a Better Client

If how you show up to the agency will produce better advertising work  Then show up right.  

Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers.   Slide1Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when.  If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”.  But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers:  yes, no or maybe.   Seek their advice beyond advertising.   Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.  

Getting great advertising is a balance of freedom and control.  Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.   It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom on creative.  Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like.  Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers.   What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem.  Let them be in the box and find the solution for you.  That’s what motivates them the most.  


To see a training presentation on getting Better Advertising: 


Other Stories You Might Like

  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. Judging Advertising:  Here’s some thoughts around how to judge advertising using the ABC’S method:  Attention, Branding, Communication, Stickiness.   To read more click on:   Judging Advertising
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits


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