Monday, April 16, 2007

Dumb ways to kill good work

Some cliches earn their status. Others are memorable mostly for their inanity. And still others lie in between.

"If you cover up the logo, that ad could be for anybody."

A brilliant insight. Also a clueless, lazy assertion.

It's said a lot by clients. Luke Sullivan took them on in Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This.

Sometimes clients need to be reminded that their product isn't substantially different from the competition's. All that may distinguish the two is the advertising you propose... You need to get your client to see that execution can be content and personality can be proprietary. They're called "pre-emptive claims" - claims any competitor could've made had they moved fast enough.

All well and good. But what if the objection is raised not by the client, but by someone who should know better? An account executive. Worse, a creative director.

"If you cover up the logo, that ad could be for anybody."

Often the definition of "anybody" seems to float along with the motivations of the objector. For instance, Adidas ran a spot where an Olympic weightlifter snatched a heavy barbell, pumped his fist, and walked offscreen. The spot ended with the Adidas logo and the tagline "Forever Sport." Adidas has a rich athletic history and a product line that validates this claim. A smart planner would have supported it. But cover up the Adidas logo and you could easily believe you'd watching an ad for the USOC, Gatorade or even Nike. If the same planner woke up on the wrong side of the bed on that particular day, the campaign could have been consigned to the agency basement.

And even when a claim isn't unassailably authentic, a well-done ad can create ownable space all by itself. Saatchi/London's classic work for XXXX claimed, "Australians wouldn't give a XXXX for anything else." Except that Wikipedia reports that XXXX is one of a few beers popular in Queensland, and unpopular throughout much of the rest of Australia.

"If you cover up the logo, that ad could be for anybody."

Um yeah. And if we covered up the photo, that logo would be sitting next to some whitespace. It's all nonsense. We're not going to cover up the logo, we're going to end up making it 10% bigger. So please, unless the claim is random to the point of dishonesty, give it a rest.

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