Three kinds of advertising creative ideas

Yesterday, in Fundamentals of Creative Development, we talked about different kinds of “advertising” creative ideas.
We explored “big” ideas: Let’s build a smarter planet; Giving wings to people and ideas; Day One.

We dissected “campaign” ideas: A long day of childhood calls for America’s favorite pasta sauce.

We thought about “advertising” ideas.
Too often, when we are starting out as creatives, we think about ads, concepts and executions. But it’s important to understand creativity in a larger context. How can it define a company and its mission? (See the Day One case and commercial in the presentation above.)
How can it re-frame the way a consumer might see a brand and the role it plays in her or her family’s life? (Have a look at the brilliance from Barton F. Graf 9000 and its recent work for Ragu.)
How can it get you to see on old problem in a new way? (Check out the illiteracy print ads.)
And all of that’s before we ever get around to actually making something. All of the examples we talked about yesterday were clear, relevant, original ideas when they were just sketches on paper or type-written scripts. But it was execution and attention to detail that inevitably makes them so powerful. Day One feels genuine and honest because the photos are exactly that — snapped by the user not a professional. A long day of childhood is a delight for all the senses thanks to vivid writing, brilliant casting and perfect timing. And the illiteracy campaign works thanks to art direction that understands the importance of visual hierarchy, typography and design. The images capture your attention, but the executions leave room for the reader to discover the surprising message.
As some of my students said to me yesterday in their own quest to generate and produce creative work, “This is hard.” Damn right it’s hard. The more natural and obvious an idea looks once it’s done, the harder it was to think it up and make it real.
You can read another perspective — the role of planning and strategy —  here:

Scott Monty joins Doers Makers Innovators

Scott Monty joins Doers Makers Innovators

Scott Monty joins Doers Makers Innovators

Doers Makers Innovators takes a brief hiatus from the advertising creative world with tomorrow’s appearance by Ford’s Scott Monty. But Scott fits the definition of a Doer Maker Innovator.

It was only a few years ago that 140-character tweets were a foreign language to most corporations. The idea of connecting with customers in real time, engaging in an actual conversation, or encouraging critics (or fans for that matter) to actually talk about your brand in a public forum remained actions to be avoided not pursued. Especially at a company as traditional as Ford Motor Company.

Now, just a few short years later, Scott’s early accomplishments and initiatives have influenced how all smart companies use social media.

It’s a familiar case to anyone who blogs or engages in social media, but in 2009 when Ford came under fire for demanding that the Ranger Station, a Ford fan site, pay for trademark infringement, it was Monty who helped steer the automaker to a more reasonable solution, engaging with fans and critics in close to real time.

A year later, the first Fiesta Movement campaign launched, and a we witnessed an entirely new way to market vehicles — give them away and let the drivers create content, tell stories and and attract followers. Seems normal now, but in 2009 letting consumers take over your brand, so to speak, was unheard of.

Monty continues to lead Ford’s global social media efforts, engaging with the community in real time, teaching CEO Alan Mulally how to tweet, setting examples for how other corporations can stay closer to their customers.

I should add that Scott is a triple Terrier, with degrees from CAS, BUSM (Med) and GSM. Hope to see you tomorrow. Noon. Room 209. BU COM.

We wrote a book in three hours. Seriously.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 5.08.50 PM

If you view in full screen mode after downloading, click in lower right hand corner to start.

Well this was the most ambitious thing we’ve done this year. Inspired by Tim Leake and Hyper Island, I had my 24 CM527 students conceive, write, design, edit, format and produce an original book in three hours.

And to make it more interesting, we weren’t even sure what we (they, actually, not me) were going to write about until the exercise started.

The book, Get out of your minivan and into our spaceship,” is available here. If you have the latest Adobe Reader, peruse it in full screen and start by clicking the bottom right hand corner.

It was a lesson in creativity, collaboration, decision-making, real-time content generation, stress endurance and humility. Trying to produce 66 pages when you don’t even know what you’re going to write about does not leave time for contemplation, pride of authorship or arguing. This was an exercise about making. And making fast.

If you want to understand the process, above is the deck I used to lead the exercise.  We started with nothing more than the idea that the book should be about what this generation might bring to the advertising industry. After that it was a free for all.

In brief the steps included.

  1. Introduction to exercise. 10 minutes
  2. Divide into 12 writers and 12 art directors. 2 minutes.
  3. Start as six four-person teams and generate chapter topics. 5 minutes.
  4. Vote on the 12 best chapters. 5 minutes.
  5. Compete for who gets to write which. 2 minutes.
  6. Writers generate a range of titles for each chapter. 5 minutes
  7. The class picks titles. 5 minutes
  8. Determine order of the book. 5 minutes
  9. Compete for who writes which chapter. 2 minutes
  10. Writers write their chapter. 30 minutes

Half-way point:  approximately 90 minutes

The rest of the time, another 90 minutes was spent on the following

  1. Art directors draw images and hand letter titles
  2. One art director scans images
  3. One writer begins to edit copy
  4. Designers work on formatting
  5. Edit, tweak, hurry
  6. Celebrate

Feedback from students was pretty positive.

Last Friday’s class was the most innovative/rewarding learning experience I’ve ever had in my many years of education (and we both know that I have a zillion degrees). Educators should do more of this.”

Thank you, Tim.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Here are some images and tweets via Storify.


A website about the 80s teaches us how to be creative in 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 4.20.23 PMWe talk a lot about creativity in all of its new iterations in both CM 417 and CM 527. (And CM 423 in the fall.)  It’s not about words and pictures anymore. We need utility, content, immersive experiences, creative ways to share. All because our audience (actually we should be calling them users) no longer has to listen. If we want their attention, we have to earn it. With incredible content, genuine utility, and an invitation to participate.

This new website from Mullen and Nat Geo puts into context much of what we’ve discussed and explored this semester.

It’s creative content (not just advertising)

Obviously, Nat Geo wants you to watch the show – The 80s – The Decade that Made Us – a three-day mini-series event starting April 14. After all, more viewers means more advertising revenue. But this site entices you not with anything resembling tune-in messages, but rather with a rich experience that whets your appetite for more.

Someone, a content strategist or user experience specialist, figured out how to let you explore, discover, filter and share according you your preference. You can access the site by year, category, story or user ratings.  Hey, we all like to see what everyone else thinks and compare ourselves to them.  Same goes for sharing.  From any place on the site — should you suddenly get so excited you have to tell someone — you’re never more than a click away.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 4.19.33 PM

Access content by topic, event, story or search.

It takes advantage of technology

Perhaps more importantly, it’s creatively presented, not so much with words and pictures — though there is no shortage of copy, archival images and video — but with an appropriate use of the latest technologies.  HTML5 canvas and WebGL, CSS3 animations, a custom-built Ruby on Rails/MongoDB backend, and some 6,000 lines of Javascript combine to create a magical journey through that cocaine-blurred decade.

It considers the user

We all know that for better or worse, no one watches one screen at a time anymore. So not only is the site a precursor to the show, it’s a companion piece as well. Or a go-to destination for after the show, as content never dies on the web. Rather than present information on Nat Geo’s terms, it considers the user. And, of ourse, it works on a laptop or a tablet, the latter being the new choice for that second screen involvement.

It took a team of T-shaped people to make it

It takes an art director and a copywriter to conceive an ad. Sure it calls for additional skills when you get to production. But in a case like this where does the concept begin? What defines it? Art and copy? Code? Navigation? Content? The way the screen experience works? All of the above. The team included art, copy, production, content management,  user experience, site design, front end development, experience designer, back end development, QA and project management. At least.

I should add, for those of you interested in media or strategy, that Nat Geo is a client of mediaHub, Mullen’s media arm. It’s not an advertising client, per se. Yet in an age when attention has to be earned not (exclusively) bought, when owned content is part of garnering attention, it’s impossible to be in any area of the advertising business without being creative, generating ideas and knowing how to make them.

Sadly, we can’t execute something like this at COM. (I am hoping that day arrives soon.) But in the meantime we can imagine and conceive ideas like this.

As long as we’re paying attention, taking note of what’s possible, and thinking beyond yesterday’s definition of advertising.

Check it out. Let me know what you think.

Time to make the TV spots

Time to make the TV spots

Recap of a lecture I give in CM417.

Storified by edwardboches· Mon, Mar 18 2013 17:06:07

You’ve got your first TV assignment. You know the brand, the prospect, the competition. You have clear objectives. Penetrating insight to your consumer’s concerns and desires. And a carefully honed driving brand idea.

Of course you also have a blank sheet of paper, or more likely an empty screen. It starts out as an invitation to create something remarkable and original then quickly morphs to a petrifying void and the suggestion that you’ll never be talented enough to fill it with something worthwhile.

Welcome to the wonderful world of advertising.
So, where do you start?
First, by learning the difference between great, good and bad work. There’s no other way than to watch hundreds of spots from the best directors and award show reels and begin to develop your own opinion and judgment.
Two, by generating lots and lots of concepts yourself, against a real or imaginary assignment.
Three, by being completely honest with yourself, asking whether or not you would not only watch the finished spot on TV, but share the YouTube link with your most critical friends.
There’s a tendency on the part of many beginners to fall in love with their work way too soon.
To help you think about that blank page of paper — whether you’re creative a 30-second commercial or a longer video, I’ve prepared the following.

Television offers endless opportunities to tella story, feature a product, bring a user to life.

You can be serious, provocative, emotional, funor outrageous.

You can convey a feeling, leave an impression oreducate the viewer.

But the one thing you can’t be is boring.

Remember that very person sitting in front of the TV set hasa remote control within reach.

So, what makes a great spot?

Is it interesting enough to watch?

Does it respect the viewer?

Does it reward them for their time?

Would you watch it yourself and share it with friends?

Four approaches to video
The manifesto: say it brilliantly with words
Nike ad: If You Let Me Play (1995)rossknights

If you let me play sports

I will like myself more;

I will have more self-confidence,

I will be 60 percent less likely to get breast cancer;

I will suffer less depression.

I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me.

I will be less likely to get pregnant

I will learn what it means to be strong.

If you let me play sports.

Apple – Here’s to the Crazy Ones (1997)vintagemacmuseum

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers.

The round pegs in the square holes. 

The ones who see things differently. 

They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. 

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. 

Because they change things. 

They push the human race forward. 

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Monster WhenIGrowUpmullenwen

When I grow up, I want to file all day.

I want to claw my way up to middle management.

Be replaced on a whim.

I want to have a brown nose.

I want to be a yes man.

Yes woman.

Yes sir. Coming Sir.

Anything for a raise sir.

When I grow up I want to be under appreciated.

Be paid less for doing the same job.

I want to be forced into early retirement.

FAGE – Plain Extraordinarymarkgoconnor

Plain was the same as it ever was.

Plainly plain.

Samely same.

But then, someone lit the flame.

Plain rode away on lion’s mane.

Where plain met fruits with strangely names.

Such wonderful things they did contain.

A shot of life to a hungry vein.

That kept a beast who broke the chain.

And there upon that fruited plane
Is where plain became what plain became.

So much more than more than plain.

Plain will never be the same.

Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl Commercial – Imported From Detroitchrysler

You may start creating manifesto spots by asking the following questions:

What does the product stand for and believe? 

What do you want someone to know about its vision?

The hard part is writing it.

You must tell your story with words that resonate.

And if it’s to sing, you’ll have to write it, write it again, write it again, and write it again.

Blood, sweat, re-write.

Visual Storytelling

TV commercial film for Volkswagen "Snow Plow" HDnishiot
Note in the next spot, also about an automobile’s traction in the snow, that there are many ways to demonstrate a feature. So be prolific and explore numerous options.
Perhaps the most awarded TV spot of all time. Levi’s, rebel, victory. And some sex, to boot.
Michel Gondry Levi’s Commercialweezyrokk
Cannes Lion Award-Winning "Three Little Pigs advert"theguardian
Stories can be very contained.
Original "got milk?" commercial – Who shot Alexander Hamilton?leftventricle
And these days, the pictures can be created with words. But I bet you can see the images vividly.
Parisian Lovesearchstories
Where do you start with a storytelling spot?  Some suggestions:

How can I demonstrate the feature? 

Come up with 100 answers.

Evaluate them based on relevance to brand, target, category convention.

Presuming they are original, fresh, unexpected.

Single Visual (brought to life to convey a feeling)
An entirely different approach. Come up with one great visual (or soundbite) and bring it to life in a way that conveys emotion. Music helps.
Sony Bravia Ball Bounce Commercialsazeone
Hot chicks lick chocolate man: seducing tonguesculturepub
Oxygen I Am Baby Super Bowl Spotmullenwen
Cadbury’s Gorilla Advert Aug 31st 2007macegrove
The Big Race Hummer H2clubitup
It’s not a visual in this case, but a single audio cue.
budweiser wassupzammo69

Finally, there are snippets of dialog, or small scenes from a sitcom if you will. First up, Apple. I’m a Mac. Perhaps the best of the best.
Buy a Mac (15 Ads in 1 Pack) HQnahu090yt
NEW E*TRADE Baby Game Day Commercial – Fatherhoodetrade
JetBlue – Cab Jam Montage – Airline Legroom Restrictionsjetblue
A note about execution and production

I’ve included one simple demonstration of the importance of production. Sound, type, editing, etc. play a pivotal role. Note the difference in the next two spots. (Thanks Goodby, Silverstein and Partners for sharing the raw film.) It’s a reminder that with TV the creative is never done until it’s finally done. At every step of the way you work to make something a little more perfect. If perfection is even achievable.
Celtics BIG Playoffs No Sound/Typeedwardboches
2012 Celtics BIG Playoffsusasportstoday