Advertising started at a naive state – when ad execs wanted to sell toothpaste, they would use a visual (a picture/illustration) of a smiling girl and a slogan of “brush your teeth like a Zebra” etc. This kind of advertising is naive, when the visual and the slogan deliver the same message and the final message of the product is being chewed by the advertising people and served to the public on a silver platter – the target audience is in a passive state.
The advertising strategy has slowly become more enigmatic, the target audience is getting riddles, which they have to solve on an intellectual/associative level, more and more, that is the keyword for understanding the current marketing strategy – the opposite of naive advertising.
The input-output ratio has changed. The output is what comes back to the target audience. The process has become sophisticated – the input is given at first, and 80-90% of the output is formed by the viewer – the designer provides the clue/trigger – and the rest is filled by the audience – every person thinks differently.
The initial thinking of the input is a lot more difficult, the copywriter has to take responsibility for other people’s minds philosophically/psychologically/mentally speaking.
If one doesn’t make any changes and maintains the same line of thinking all the time, it becomes boring, and people no longer pay attention to what repeats itself – as in the naive advertising, which started with the booming of conceptual art.
In order for people to pay attention, the level of sophistication must be increased. Sophisticated advertising is composed of the provocation of the intellect. For instance, there are certain unclear sentences received by the audience, and the lack of clarity troubles the audience.
If it indeed troubles the audience and the person constantly thinks what it means and his/her mind is working, it means that the advertising strategy worked.
This is called a teaser in professional terms. There are also visual teasers rather than just intellectual; for instance, a visual of a closed hand, for example, is being displayed for 3 weeks – the viewer doesn’t know what it is, and 3 weeks later, the hand opens and the viewer sees a tampon in it.
There is also the way of negation, that started in the trend of using unpretty models. This strategy started in Italy – anything that has to do with design starts in Italy. Ad execs started using all kinds of models with different defects, like a crooked nose, a scar and so forth. The “classic” models could sell us things because we wanted to look like them. What made the difference between the ordinary man and the model was “super” and that created a distance, which made the ad execs come to the conclusion that it wasn’t a good thing, so they started looking for defects in order to gain more empathy from the viewers. Strategies keep changing, one has to keep track of the changes.
Examples of advertisements with controversial concepts
1. A visual of a genitals close-up and underneath is the logo of “United Colors of Benetton”.
2. A visual of people nearly drowning in India, underneath is the company’s logo.
3. A person dying from AIDS with a relative, underneath is the company’s logo.
4. Nothing from the top of Sicily, a wounded person covered with sheets next to an old woman, underneath is the company’s logo.
5. A nun losing her mind.
Opinions vary – one opinion claims: why not, it sells! It’s a means to an end. The near lack of connection is the connection – it works. Another opinion: there is a question of morality. Did “Benetton” act on a humane manner – taking another man’s suffering and manipulating it, is it ok to take advantage of other people’s suffering to sell a sweater when the final outcome is money?… “It is a known fact that the advertising world is a sluttish one” (don’t quote me on that one). Sex sells. When using visuals of under-age girls with lipstick it’s immoral and relates to temptation.
The Advertising Agency Structure
The art director is involved in the artistic side. All the people in key positions constantly work together. A client comes and presents a product s/he would like to sell on a certain budget. With all the “creative mess”, there is a limit that depends on the client’s budget. A brief is written – a definition of the product, what we’re selling, a budget, the target audience (we can’t work without that), and a survey is being conducted. The competitive products are checked – their advertising concept psychologically speaking, which of them worked out and why. If the agency is large, there are several creative crews.
After the brief is read, brainstorming is carried out – everybody sits down together and makes associations off the top of their heads, after that they eliminate the associations, check them one by one and eliminate more.
For instance, if there is a certain price to the product, the advertising will have to suit a certain socio-economical level, and that also applies to the copywriter – the slogan person, and the art director – who’s in charge of the visual.
The designers design the product and the art director makes the final approval. If needed for a certain goal, they take an outside photographer/illustrator. In a “normal” advertising agency, there are different catalogs of illustrators with examples characterizing their style, but in Israel, every illustrator does a little bit of everything – it’s a different mentality. After that, a presentation is made.
If it’s a commercial, the ad execs use a story board (like in comic books), as in separate pictures, and once the client gives his/her OK, the production process starts.
Tips for Coming up with Concepts
Another strategy is humor. If you see a red graphic background, for instance, the initial association is blood. A tiger’s teeth close-up makes for a negative association.
You can give the viewer a trigger and let him/her figure out the rest.
It is not recommended to use pictures from an image bank or ready made pictures from a magazine – think, write down associations, make small sketches, and take the two ideas you think are the best.
Think everything through and take pictures after that. Think about a concept first, and then picture the visual. The visual should come from us, it shouldn’t be recognized from anywhere else. Make a photo-montage.
Copywriting – Beware of worn out phrases like well known sayings and expressions, unless you change something in the sentence – change a letter or a word’s meaning. Do not place typography on eyes in a picture, you can place it on the forehead or the chin though.