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Joining the Sharks: What I’ve Learned About the Ad Industry

October 5th, 2010

The following is a guest post from my friend Brook Johnston:

My name is not Bryan.

Actually, it’s pretty close. Except the last few letters are different and I live in a country that runs rampant with rogue moose and poutine.

But aside from these minor differences, Bryan and I are pretty similar.

See, when I’m not busy training beavers and drinking maple syrup, I attend St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Much like the owner of this fantastic blog, I’m a young adfreak that’s about to hopefully – nay – definitely break into the ad industry.

So when Bryan asked me to write a little diddy for Trail Blazing, the answer seemed obvious: a retrospective on the lessons I’ve taken away from college as I get ready to throw my hat into the industry ring.

What have I learned?

I’m not that good
I recently interviewed the incredibly accomplished author/copywriter/guru Sally Hogshead about writing, portfolios, and idea generation. She sent me a document with the 800 headlines she created for a BMW print piece. 800 headlines for one ad. And guess what – they were all good. Even her scraps were great.

In other words – I’m nowhere close to being where she is. And that’s fine. I’m not supposed to be. That’s the difference between an entry-level person and a senior writer with a wealth of experience and insight.

But keep that skill-gap in mind; so many people are better than you. You can get there too, but it’ll take work. Don’t drink your own kool-aid. Stay humble and work hard to get to that 800-great-headlines zone.

Great creative is the backbone of all advertising.
You can yammer on about marketing strategy and media selection and all that jazz and it will always be very true. The back end of advertising is crucial to success. But guess what? Advertising only works when the creative is brilliant. Maybe it’s smart or hilarious or emotionally powerful – it all can work in its own way. But it has to be incredible. People must take notice.

You can perfectly peg every demographic, medium, positioning strategy, and all of  the 4567 other terms in the back of your textbook – but if it doesn’t make people stop their friends and say “Hey! Have you seen that ad……”, then it didn’t work. Creative rules. Everything else is just setup and teardown.

Obvious is the enemy
First-level thinking is the worst thing that you can fall into as an advertiser.

When faced with a new problem, sit down and let all the answers come rushing to your head. Record everything that pops into your mind. Brainstorm wildly. Write it all down.

Now light that piece of paper on fire and never think any of those thoughts ever again.

Bad advertising is bad because it’s stupid. Literally, stupid – as in, the opposite of smart. It doesn’t reward the consumer for thinking and it doesn’t entertain. Bad advertising is obvious. It’s overdone and redundant and doesn’t require any critical thought.

Stay away from that stuff. This means throwing away a lot of early ideas. Dig deeper. Think harder. Fill up the trash can. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Simple is best.
Ideas aren’t explained – they’re understood. If you have a cool message that you can’t accurately convey to anyone, it’s dust in the wind; one of those trees in that metaphorical forest everyone talks about. Make sure the thought is simple and easy. That doesn’t mean it can’t be big – just don’t turn your 30s spot into Lost.

In his book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan recommends boiling down a brand to one adjective – a single word that identifies its persona. Volvo is safe. Coke is classic. BMWs are fast. Find your word and make sure that everything fits accordingly.

Little fish. Big pond. Lots of sharks.
This industry is hyper-competitive. Only the best make it into prestigious agencies and their jobs are on the line every day. After all, you’re only as good as your last campaign.

Even more daunting though, is the thought of breaking into such a fiery industry as a bright eyed, bushy tailed entry-level underling. How will you distinguish yourself from the swarms of graduates that are all hunting for the same positions as you – especially those that attend prestigious outfits like Miami Ad School?

The answer lies away from the discomfort of your lecture chairs. Extra-curricular involvement is the key to your success. I love my school and I can’t say enough about my professors – but the bulk of my learning has taken place at home. Connecting with industry experts, blogging, keeping up with trends, viewing the best (and worst) work that comes out every day. School is primarily meant to lay the foundation – the theories and principles that you absolutely need to be successful. But that’s the bare minimum, isn’t it? Everyone can define a few terms and explain a couple concepts. But what will you do that none of your classmates can?

I can’t tell you how to stand out. That’s your job. But if you start looking, you’ll find it. For me, it was a starting up a dorky blog. It got me paying attention to the ad world like never before and became a living resumé for people that wanted to check out my writing skills and industry savvy.

Here’s the bottom line: advertising is wicked awesome. It’s an industry that allows for boundless creativity and intelligent thinking. You even get paid for it. So work your ass off. Find something that will set you apart. If you’re passionate about the world of advertising, it will reward you.

Now I gotta get going. The heat coming from my laptop is beginning to melt my igloo, and I need a place to sleep tonight. Big hockey game tomorrow.

-Brook Johnston | MarketingMan.ca | @Brookjohnston
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I would like to thank Brook for stopping by and doing an exceptional job at laying down a foundation of great tips for those who plan on entering the advertising industry.

What do you think of Brook’s 5 tips? Do you have additional advice that may be useful to us entry-level underlings?

Bryan Ricard Advertising, Guest Post , ,

Stoli Raises an Important Question

August 17th, 2010

Would you have a drink with you? Think about it.

A new ad campaign for Stolichnaya Vodka by Ogilvy & Mather asks this very question. (Launched on May 24th, 2010 with print ads and TV spots)

This celebrity-driven campaign is set to run into 2011 and began with a powerhouse; Hugh Hefner.

Stoli Campaign: Hugh Hefner

“With the launch of this new campaign, Stoli recognizes originality, creativity and passion in a call to action to the consumer,” says Andrey Skurikhin, partner at SPI Group, brand owner. “Stoli has a history of venturing into unchartered territory and the new campaign will spotlight real originals, people who take chances without asking for permission. Hugh Hefner exemplifies these shared qualities with Stoli and is the perfect individual to kickoff our new campaign.” – BeverageWorld.com

Stoli has always been the original type. The tagline, “The most original people deserve the most original Vodka. Stoli. Lead On.” definitely puts them on some pedestal that many can admire. Clearly, Hugh Hefner is a great starting off point because 1) He appeals to a wide, relevant audience and 2) He is a leader.

“I’ve always tried to live my life on my own terms, with sophistication and style, and this Stoli campaign reflects those same beliefs,” says Hefner. “I was intrigued by the concept of having a drink with myself, and I’m very pleased with the final results. I think fans will get a kick out of the spots.” – BeverageWorld.com

The 2nd TV spot features Julia Stiles, apparently a “Hollywood Original”. I don’t know enough about her to say whether or not this is a good fit, but here is the ad:

Let’s look beyond the celebrities, beyond the connection between their personalities and that of Stoli Vodka’s. This campaign has a lot of potential, but in order for Stoli to reach full potential they will have to do more than produce commercials and print ads.

The most successful campaigns for alcoholic beverages, in my opinion, incorporate one of the following:

  1. A positive feeling, or lifestyle, that can only be experienced with that particular alcoholic beverage.  Example 1: Spirit of Bacardi – Island TV Spot Example 2: Grey Goose – Discerning Taste: Oysters
  2. The brand engages the consumer by giving names and meanings to existing rituals or events that occur where alcohol is present, or simply starting them. Example 1: Budweiser commercials that gives names to how people handle a load of beer cans or bottles; the sherpa, labrador retriever, and the praying mantis. (Can you find the video?)

The most valuable part of this campaign is the question at hand, “Would you have a drink with you?” This is the beginning to a connection between the brand and their consumers. This is a very thought-provoking question, and the more Stoli plays around with it, the more times their brand will be shot into the consumer’s head.

Here are some ideas for the expansion of this campaign:

  • Stoli Celebrity Originals gives a profile of each of the celebrities used in the campaign and explains why they are original. It only seems right that they do the same thing for non-celebrities. Hold a contest and allow people to compete to be part of the campaign, maybe 3 total winners? It can be as easy as an essay contest where the participants explain why it’d be so great to share some Stoli Vodka with themselves. The 3 winners get their profile put up on the website, they get a claim to fame, some free stuff, and a one-of-a-kind, personalized bottle of Vodka.

Stoli has a sub-par social media presence, only their Stoli Vodka Facebook Page is showing some popularity with 17,169 liking it. On July 27th, Stoli asked their fans “If you were paired up with yourself like Stoli’s Celebrity Originals, what’s the first thing you would say?” This is a great start, but only 12 comments were received. How can the social media presence be improved with this campaign?

  • Keep engaging your fans! Don’t ask them that question on Facebook just once, ask them once a week with a different twist each time. How much would you spend when buying a drink for yourself? What flavor Vodka would you buy yourself? Would you rather have a drink with yourself from 2010, or the you in 2020? Would you accept a free drink from yourself? How many drinks would you have with yourself, just one? two? or until you’re passed out?
  • @Stolilife is doing a poor job of maximizing Twitter’s potential. Check out the feed, they aren’t talking to anyone.  They’re only following 8 people, and have a mere 254 followers after 4,000+ tweets. Even worse is the fact that there is another twitter account, @Stoli. Only 115 tweets but 600+ followers, and they are actually talking to people! First step: terminate @Stolilife and run just one account. Second step: I know it’s hard to start a trending topic because it’s really not up to the creator, but why not start. Bring the Facebook conversation over to Twitter. Have tweeps use #drinkwithme as the conversation anchor and encourage them to explain why they would or wouldn’t have a drink with themselves.
  • Stoli’s YouTube Channel is also far from special. I don’t even know if it’s their official channel or not. If you do a Google search for “Stoli Vodka YouTube Channel” the first result is ABSOLUT Vodka’s YouTube Channel. Here’s another simple idea, throw up a video encouraging people to film themselves having a drink with themselves. This would obviously take some effort by any participant, but it is sure to create some humorous videos. All of these videos would be in response to a Stoli video which would increase traffic, increase brand awareness, increase campaign awareness, and increase clicks to Facebook and Twitter accounts, provided that links are easily located.

Yes, the above ideas are SIMPLE. The point is that they are simple, and EASY. Come on Stoli, show some life. Capitalize on your clever campaign and complement it with social media efforts.

And no,  I would not have a drink with myself.

What do you think Stoli can do to improve this campaign? What celebrity do you think would be a good fit for the next TV spot? Would you have a drink with yourself?

Update (8/17): This post was in my drafts for a week while I searched for that Budweiser commercial to no avail, but it turns out Stoli is already extending this campaign: Are You Stoli Original Material?

Bryan Ricard Advertising, Commercials, Marketing , , , ,

Milky Way Doing it the Right Way

June 8th, 2010

Ambient marketing, or place-based marketing, can be very effective as it gets the company or product message right into the target markets environment; usually by creative means.

Here is what I consider a fine example from Milky Way.

Milky Way Movie theater line barrier

Courtesy of AdsoftheWorld.com

Milky Way Seatbelt

Courtesy of AdsoftheWorld.com

Milky Way Conveyor Belt
Check out the conveyor belt in action.

These were all done by BBDO New York, USA.

All three of these beat out the other two in at least one way:

Movie theater: Best location. What does everyone in the movie theater line buy, or at least look at? Candy! The delicious, caramel filling of a Milky Way is on their mind before the purchase.

Taxi cab: Longest potential interaction. I say potential because many New York taxi passengers may be in and out of the car very quickly without wearing the seatbelt. However, those who do value their lives will physically touch the “Milky Way” and be exposed to it for as long as their ride lasts.

Conveyor belt: Most captivating and engaging due to its movement.

My favorite is the conveyor belt; I think attention is more easily grasped by movement. Which is your favorite? Which do you think is more effective? Do you have any ambient marketing examples? Please share.

Bryan Ricard Advertising, Marketing , , ,

Not Your Typical BillBored

June 8th, 2010

Despite the growth of mobile and web advertising, traditional methods such as billboards are still being used. Billboards are great because of their location and reach, but how many of them have just become the same old, boring advertisement? They have become billboreds! If companies aren’t trying to be creative or interesting in their approach to billboard advertising nowadays, their effectiveness is low.

In comes the Ford Motor Company advertising their 2010 Mustang.

Ford Mustang Burnout Billboard

Courtesy of AdsoftheWorld.com

The text on the bottom right reads:

This billboard was showcased in Detroit, MI at the Woodward Dream Cruise, the world’s largest one-day automotive event. A smoke machine was installed behind the board, and every few minutes the rear wheel would spin, spewing smoke for the ultimate one-minute burnout.”

Not only does this billboard hit a lot of eyes, but it hits a lot of specific eyes, eyes that LOVE cars.

Additionally, the ad agency, Team Detroit, brought this traditional advertising method to a new level. Sure it’s not the first time someone got creative with a billboard, far from it, but they definitely did something interesting. Therein lies the point; interesting ads of any form have greater success in capturing attention because they are different. Differentiation leads to increased memory of the ad and increased word of mouth.

As great as this is, it could have been better. Of those who have commented on this at AdsoftheWorld.com, a few have mentioned that the smoke is just not enough. They needed to include sound! How much better would this have been if not only did everyone see the smoke from the burnout, but got to hear the deep, powerful sound of 315 horsepower V-8 engine. It’s not a secret that one of the attractive features of a Ford Mustang is its beastly roar. I have never witnessed a sound-emitting billboard, but this would have been a good one.

Another way to grasp people’s attention and hold onto it by latching into their memory is through the sense of smell. Would it have been possible, or too much, to expel the scent of burning rubber along with the smoke?

Despite not reaching potential, this was still an exceptional billboard. What do you think?

Update on June 8th: Here is a video of the billboard in action!

Bryan Ricard Advertising , , , ,

AutoDesk’s Powerful Campaign

March 15th, 2010

I wanted to share with all of you what a great ad series looks like. These ads were done by an agency that goes by the name of Script and it is for AutoDesk’s AutoCAD Civil 3D program. If you are unfamiliar with AutoDesk, they have quite a few neat products that revolve around 2d and 3d design, animation, prototyping, and modeling. The Civil 3D program is mainly for the use of civil engineers in constructing simulated designs of various types of projects – basically a 3D model of whatever they want to build. Now take a look at the following three ads and tell me what you think. Photos are courtesy of Ads of the World (click to enlarge).


What’s so great about this campaign? A few things – - it’s simple, the visual is astounding and is straight from the program being promoted, and the copy matches the visual to perfection.

“Visit places that still don’t exist” – - This is one of those simple “DUH!” lines that just works and appears as if it was probably very easy to come up with. No matter the difficulty, when the copy and the visual are in such harmony, you can’t debate it. What’s important to think about is the impression these ads have on individuals who are civil engineers or would use this program; more than likely very effective.

I’m not going to go into any further discussion; I just wanted to give this some recognition.

Bryan Ricard Advertising, Marketing , , , , , ,

Missing the Target

February 28th, 2010

I recently became a member of AdsoftheWorld.com and have viewed numerous advertisements and marketing ploys every day since. One of my favorites is by the agency Prolam Y & R done for Kitadol.

Courtesy of AdsoftheWorld.com

This is an excellent ad. The visual execution is fantastic, the copy is congruent with the message being conveyed, and the copy placement/style is good. So what’s the problem? This ad is targeted towards men.

Kitadol is a form of acetaminophen, and apparently there is a menstrual-relief-specific product as well. Barring the occasional gender-curious specimens or science experiments gone wrong, the only people who will be needing this product are women. Now I don’t have any research data in front of me, but I think it’s fair to say that most women buy their own “I hate you PMS” pills.

As for the boyfriends, husbands, and “What the hell am I doing in this aisle” fathers that may be generous enough to throw this into their shopping cart either out of sincerity or personal defense; they are not the ones making the decision on which brand to buy. If they have any common sense or previous second-hand PMS experience, they will buy what the woman wants them to buy. There will be no man “shopping” through the variety of these pills and making his own decision on which to buy. I acknowledge the fact that there are always rarities in any population as well as extreme situations, but even then the number of male shoppers would account for a very, very low percentage.

While this is a great ad, does it do any good? It’s a clever idea and I give a lot of kudos for that, but it’s aimed at the wrong audience. Period.

How many companies are wasting money by promoting their product or service to the wrong audience? Do you have any examples of this?
That pun you noticed about 10 seconds ago…it was intended.

Bryan Ricard Advertising, Marketing , , , ,