When Creativity Can Kill
Over lunch the other day, a friend of mine told me a true story that I want to share with you.
A copywriter at a well-known advertising agency recently wrote a 30-second TV commercial and showed it to his boss. The Associate Creative Director read it over and said "It's a great spot, but isn't something missing?" "What's that?" asked the copywriter. "The product," replied his boss. "You forgot to mention the client's product!"
That's right. The copywriter was so wrapped up in creating an entertaining commercial that he neglected to mention what the client was selling!
The writer's teeny-weeny oversight, I believe, needs to be understood in context. You see, packaged goods advertising is undergoing an enormous change. Today, it is becoming less a medium of information/persuasion than just another form of entertainment.
Of course, it's O.K. to be outrageous and "creative" when you're selling beer, burgers or jeans on the tube. And it's fine to have fun when you're building a hip brand like Apple, and supporting it with huge media buys. But be careful!
Self-indulgent creativity for creativity's sake can hurt you in your advertising, direct mail, e-mail and on your website. Let me give you an example-an old Novell ad that ran some years ago in Fortune magazine.
Novell obviously spent big bucks to run a two-page, four-color ad in Fortune. They could have used a graphic and headline that was relevant, motivating and persuasive. Instead, they used a photo of a pensive man walking around Stonehenge. The headline asks the cryptic question:
Under the photo, they ran a subhead that said:
"We're willing to bet you don't think of yourself that way."
This ad is as big a mystery as Stonehenge itself.
Very often, when I see an ad that uses an arcane, teaser headline like Novell's, I search the body copy for the content that should have been bumped up to headline status. Sure enough, Novell's ad finally starts saying something in the third sentence of the body copy: