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Bad Advertising: It’s Not In The Brief

Bad Advertising - Its Not In The Brief

Bad Advertising: It’s Not In The Brief

What makes for bad advertising? The answer is simple.. and often it’s not in the brief, because there wasn’t one! Ultimately what consumers see as the result is often the cumulation of poor direction, bad decisions and no creative brief outlining the brand’s basic position, the reason to believe and competitive landscape.

Way too often I find print ads selling their features  and not educating and concentrating on benefits; or billboards featuring  paragraphs rather than clever succinct statements and visuals inspiring curiosity…. and my all time favourite,  TV ads way too concerned on providing entertainment value at the expense of the brand and benefit.  When ever I see any of these, I always wonder what the brief looked like to begin with.

Before going any further, let me acknowledge that I can hear it from here…. the outcry… “but it’s what the client wants!” Well, that may be true, but as Creative Professionals, I believe it is our role to accommodate our clients’ wishes but also to advise them in making the best marketing decisions possible to avoid some of the symptoms of bad advertising.  If a brief isn’t provided, then provide one…before you start on creative. Only then can you direct any creative discussion rationally.

Let’s face it, bad advertising only  results in unsuccessful marketing and very poor ROI. It has been my experience, when presenting to clients, that once you explain the reasons why you shouldn’t do something and yes, even invest in showing them what is being compromised, clients really do get it.

Throughout my career I have often been asked by marketing professionals what I think of an ad (no matter what channel) that they or their organization just created. My answer is always the same,“what was the brief?”. Creative must come from the brief. The brief must be accurate, clear and pertinent… If a brief was not written, the ad assessment will be dependent on a number of criteria, many of them subjective…and a moving target. When I see ads that actually get to the marketplace without a clear single focused message…. I really wonder who did it…and what happened….and why.

Advertising isn’t about pretty pictures and for it to work there are certain protocols that need to be followed. At times it can be challenging, I get that…. but isn’t that very challenge the reason we as Creative Professionals are in this particular industry… Am I right?

As Creative Professionals we are  often faced  and given mountains of information to decipher and create a single succinct statement that speaks to the end benefit, the reason to believe, the unique selling proposition. As designers,  we are given too many visual elements AND the logo (if there is only one!), along with too much information…all to be incorporated in a layout that has to have a visual flow directing the consumer’s eyes to make sure that the main message is delivered. The challenge remains the same in each one of these instances…a single focused message.

Great creative needs a very clear message. Bad ads don’t have one… they have a few… all shouting for attention. Great ads  are those that increase brand and service awareness, increase the knowledge of the brand or service benefits and inspire confidence as well. They inspire confidence because they are presented professionally and well. When a client wants to throw in the kitchen sink into the ad…. as creative professionals you  do have 2 options. 1) Give in without a fight and create mediocre advertising, or 2) go the extra mile, show them the ad with the kitchen sink… and show them the single focused ad . More often than not, they will side with the value…the single

I invite you to talk to me…. Share with me your stories… the brilliant, the bad, the ugly and the win! I’d love to hear about them.

Miriam Hara

Author: Miriam Hara

Miriam is the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of 3H Communications Inc., a full service branding and advertising agency. Her experience has enabled her to bring together strategic business savvy with an all-encompassing creative vision to product and service marketing, which she shares here, in her many posts. Join the conversation, register here. Miriam’s own brand of marketing experience and expertise is the basis of her marketing ebook series including Content Creation Understood, the most recent addition. Download it here. You can also find Miriam on Google +.

Comments ( 8 )

  • Great article, Miriam!
    This speaks to advertising awards as well. You can give awards for creative and for writing, but advertising success is based on the impact on a target and the brand strategy applied: As you say, “What was the brief?” If the client is trying to sell oranges and you sell orange crates, creative or not, it’s not really successful per the brief.

    As for “it’s what the client wanted”, I am sure we all have fallen victim to the cheque writer dictating the creative/message. I have found that many will appreciate technical/consumer-friendly standards and try to adhere to them if you show resolve, but some (many?) will insist on their style.

    They can’t all be gems, but as professionals, we should always aim for the highest standards.

    Thanks for posting!

    • Miriam Hara

      Hi Brian
      You are absolutely right. We have all, at one time, fallen victim to “just do what the client says”. It is easier, but alas not always the better.

  • Great article! Hahah Brian, “they can’t all be gems”…so true! It’s a frustrating dance. It’s such a struggle, the balance between respecting the clients wishes and desires and making those recommendations they might not necessarily agree with, or be ready to hear and try. It’s a study in rhetoric, convincing them. I have to admit though, I love that challenge.

  • Admire your analysis and conclusions. Always keep the advertising focused on the KISS principle = Keep it Simple and Single-minded.

    • Miriam Hara

      Actually the KISS principle is the best approach when developing creative. I definitely agree with you. However, as Brain and Wendy have stated, it’s now always easy to convince the decision makers that less is more!

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