Campaigns are BS

There, I’ve said it. Many will argue it, but there it is. I don’t mean advertising is BS, just the idea of a “campaign” as it currently exists. Campaigning is a way that an agency can rationalize why all of a client’s business should go through them. “It needs to be consistent” says the account director, but you know what, the consumer does not care (or notice likely) if a brand is consistent. They will not call you out if a font is different, or if a color changes slightly. They won’t be destroyed if one ad was smart and one was silly. If one is long copy and one just a headline.

Campaigning is based on the false notion that the consumer cares enough to notice. They don’t.

We seem to have convinced ourselves and our clients that if something can be done three times it’s better than if it can be done once. Can someone out there give me a rational reason why? Because of all the things I remember this year that I liked, none came in a three-pack.

The truth is, brands are like people and can have diverse, sometimes even contradictory characteristics. In fact, having little quirks and anomalies make them feel more believable. It’s like the golden rule in fiction writing, if you want an evil character to feel real, give them a positive quality, if you want to have the hero feel real, give them a negative quality. As long as it feels like one person (which often becomes the personal tastes of the CD on a brand) it will have more punch than the same execution three times.


JesseB said...

Great post! Ive always believed this and tried to execute this way. But its tough to get approvals to go a little mad even when you have great ideas.

Stephen Walls said...



evo said...

Awesome post!! Kudos to all you guys, the new advertisingforpeanuts is really something special. said...

Got anything to actually back this up or are you "just sayin?"

I tend to think brand continuity is a pretty important thing...fonts included. It helps create a familiarity for the consumer. You really ought to know this...

Tom Tom said...

I'm "just sayin" to the extent that it makes logical sense based on observations and reason.

The reasons I hear for campaignability are the same as you write here, but there's no logical sense to it, "it helps create a familiarity for the consumer"... really? why? Having someone interested in 3 separate pieces based on their own merits means a lot more than 3 ads that match. Consistency is what happens when originality runs out (it's why the Greys of the world beat people over the head with the same ad more often rather than a good idea once).

It's just difficult to come up with that many unique interesting things. It doesn't make it wrong though.

I feel more familiarity with Sony balls, or subservient chicken, or Honda Grrr, than I do for...for...well I can't think of an ad that I remember because it was repeated 3 times. Even ideas that have legs (which I do think is important) are only interesting when they differ enough that I DON'T initially think they're the same piece. And even then I only remember one.

My bigger thing is, I think nobody has ever stopped to ask WHY it's important for something to be repeatable. I think you should stop and really think it through, maybe you can actually find a good answer and I'll concede. (Not likely though)

BTW, thanks for your comment, I'm glad it got some discussion going.

Essential Pop Culture said...

Man, I have to disagree with you on this. Campaigns, when well executed, are a great asset to a marketing plan. In your responses you mention the Sony Bravia campaign. Their position is to own color with the tagline "Color like no other." Their ads are consistent from execution to execution -- balls, exploding paint, the rabbits in New York. The theme there is color. When the strategy drives the creative, there are many opportunities for fun and engaging executions.

I don't want to sound like I am attacking you, but this rings so much of art for art's sake. Advertising is part of business and is therefore bound by certain rules. Creatives should adhere to certain realities. There are too many practical considerations when dealing with someone else's money. Licensing, for one. You talk about fonts. Should the client pay to license every font you want to use? Logistics and management is another issue. TV, web, print, and other forms of communication need project management, account planning, and all the things that make an agency top heavy. For the creative to go off and do his own thing causes chaos through out this structure. I imagine it would be difficult for an agency to complete good work if the creatives ran the place.

My point is that consistency does matter. Wether or not the consumer is aware on a conscious level is up for debate. My guess is there is a limit to the level by which the executions can vary without distorting the message.

Tom Tom said...

EPC, you bring up a good point, and I should clarify. I do think that a consistent STRATEGY is important. Volvo's the safe car in everyone's minds, whether it's true or not, because they hit the same thought over the years. But they didn't run the same ad slightly tweaked over the years, they ran all around that strategy approaching it from every angle. Funny, serious, heartwarming, helvetica.

"Advertising is part of business and is therefore bound by certain rules. Creatives should adhere to certain realities."
--phrases like this scare the hell out of me because it assumes a disconnect between creative thinking and results. It's our creativity and art that gets people excited about the product. Advertising is the art of smart thinking and problem solving, not the art of consistency. Creativity sells.

I also don't think the complexity of logistics should kill an idea. I see it all the time and it bugs me when someone's hard work is killed because of a lack of effort on someone else's part.

As for balls. The other 2 spots are weak in the campaign. People watch them because the first one was so good (and it was SOOOOOO good). It's The Matrix effect.

" I imagine it would be difficult for an agency to complete good work if the creatives ran the place. "
--ummmm...really? Are you seriously saying this?

Thanks for the comments.

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