What am I missing?
I keep looking at a lot of so-called ‘great marketing’ of today, and I think “ok”, but where oh where is the “Big Wow, oh my god I wish I made that stuff!!!”
- Let me define BIG WOW creative ideas as the work that makes our eyes go wide and we immediately shout out “Wow!” while we secretly think “I want to make that one!!!”
- Let me also define the “small/neat” creative as little marketing gadgets and tricks that make us say, “Hey, that’s pretty neat”.
The reality is that a brand needs both big and small creative. I have always been a fan of the small neat stuff. When I launched the dishwasher tabs, I created a sell-sheet that used elastic bands to create a 3 dimensional tab once the sel-sheet was open. Apparently, the buyer at our largest customer took that sell sheet around the office showing all the other buyers. But, that’s small/neat stuff. I enjoyed it, but never got overly excited.
Big work is exciting.
After 20 years in Brand Management, I have vivid memories of each time I saw a “BIG WOW” idea for one my brands. I can remember where I was and how it felt. I was also lucky enough to work on some amazing campaigns. I remember one of the creative guys stood up with around 30 boards under his arm for one TV ad, and I wanted to make it after he presented the 9th board. I remember seeing another in this small room that was the top floor of an antique book store. My brand team had mistakenly put in the brief “no funny ads”, yet we left that book store laughing our asses off and made one of the best ads I have ever been part of. I can remember everyone who resisted every idea I ever managed to get on air. There were always more who resisted the truly great work, while sadly, on most of the OK work we were about to make, I always seemed to be the only resistor. That should tell you something.
With all the clutter of small ideas, it seems too many brand leaders think they need lots of small ideas. Pretty soon the media market looks like a cluttered community bulletin boards where every brand is content to just have you grab their phone number.
Are the media choices getting in the way of big creative?
Everyone loves the Oreo tweet in the middle of the Super Bowl. Sure. while the moment was “pretty neat” and likely had the Oreo team giggling, it really is just a small, neat idea that went viral. Everyone giggled and shared it. But is it a Big Wow? Paying a celeb to tweet about your product is pretty cool, but it’s not really big creative. Just cutting a check. A Facebook ad that pops up on the side of your laptop in a “3/4 inch square” is about as exciting as a bench ad outside a bus stop. I am on Twitter all the time. It feels like the modern-day version of junk mail. There’s too much, all telling me I can get stuff for free. Each time I open Twitter, I just see a collection of messy stuff. Do not get me started on SEO sales people. I equate them with air-duct sales people. Maybe I am getting old and I am missing the golden age of great creative.
Oh how I miss those TV ads that offer the ideal combination of sight, sound, story telling. They can make you laugh, give you goosebumps or even make you cry. Maybe, we just in a valley of creativity as we adjust to some of these new media choices. But now, you cannot convince me that most of the work out there is pretty crappy. Sadly, it just bores me.
Are we too fixated on big data proof?
I once approved a campaign that failed miserably in testing. It was just too different for consumers to truly grasp. But my gut feel said it was the right way to go. The campaign lasted 10 years, and doubled the market share of the brand. Sure, I was scared. It was early in my career and the resistance was incredible. I would have surely been tossed out if it failed. That level of risk/reward excitement never exists on the small stuff. Is there a conflict between taking a chance on something and needing the big data to prove that it is correct? Sometimes your gut feel knows more than the data that reflects the history of work, not the future.
Marketers tense up when the work get “too different”
Great advertising must balance the creativity and smart. Advertising has to be different enough to break through in a cluttered world, yet smart enough to motivate consumers to see, think, feel or act in ways that help the brand. One problem I see for Marketers is they tense up when the creative gets ‘too different’. In all parts of their business, Marketers relax when they can see past proof that something will work. Unfortunately, when it comes to advertising, if the ads start to look like what other brands have already done, then the advertising will get stuck in the clutter.
When it gets too familiar, it bores consumers and it will fail to break through. Brand Leaders should actually be scared when the ads seems “too familiar”. You have to push the work and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. The advertising must also be smart in delivering the desired brand strategy in moving consumers to see, think, feel or do, while expressing a brand positioning that can form a future brand reputation. The ideal sweet spot is being both smart and different. Smart without different will not even break through the clutter. Different but not smart might be entertaining but will not do anything for the brand. Push yourself to find Smart and Different.
My baseball analogy: “Swing for the fences. It feels amazing”
In baseball, I rarely hit home runs. I was a singles spray hitter. (an Al Oliver wannabe) I likely hit 10 over the fence in 1,000 at bats in my entire life. But I can tell you that as the ball leaves the bat, your hands turn to mush. Oh, what a feeling. Now, that is the level of excitement I want to see from the Big Wow creative. All this small stuff is terrific, but that’s just a bunt single.
I believe the Big Wow ideas will energize a team, give them the guts to take more chances. Creativity is infectious to the spirit of the team. Get your nose out of the charts and look up into the sky. Find work that will make your hands going mush and make you scream “WOW”.
Show me some big wow stuff that will make my heart beat wildly and make me scream “WOW” again.
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