1. First and foremost, I avoid the temptation to start judging too quickly. I have a quick, initial, first look at the work, like a consumer. This allows the important first sense of the ad to sink in, and the dross to fade into richly-deserved obscurity.
When I can remember one thing about the product, but not the ad (which might be rubbish), I think about whether adding a big idea, would give more to an already attractive product.
2. Next, I start judging with a more professional eye. I think about other ads in the category, so I know what routes one shouldn't take. Outdoor advertising is one of the oldest and purest forms of advertising and it needs to be simple, simple, simple to decode.
The driving principles lie in the way the medium is consumed. On the road, from a passing car, bus or train, it is generally viewed in a split second. That's what gives outdoor its potency, its graphic language and its powerful simplicity. The skill of outdoor is to reduce; to take a complicated message and distill it down to a simple thought. That's what I look for.
3. I left DDB three times and came back each time too. I guess this means that I'm a fan of Bill Bernbach's creative philosophy. I believe in the strength of ideas that touch the intimacy of humans. I look at work and think that what touches me as a consumer can touch other people.
If your idea is strong, and comes from real life, you can make it live in outdoor or a press ad, in a TV ad, in a website, in a brand identity or in something which doesn't yet exist.
Finally, I would advise you that to judge a good campaign, I would reverse the order of the three mentioned points, 3, 2,1. But the truth is that I can't advise you how to judge. It's a black art, in some ways, and very hard to distill into rules.
Some campaigns have the power to capture attention, to make you feel them. They can prompt controversy, employ persuasion and provide information. You'll know them when you see them, wherever they appear.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ... SONY
Simplicity is everything with this work.
It shows that copy that looks good on a poster has a knack of reading well too. None of the lines are excessively long and heavy-looking. It's balanced. It looks inviting to the eye.
At whatever point you encountered this campaign, it was obvious the creative couldn't have been developed without the media plan - people were listening to their CD players as they saw the ad. It hijacked and charmed them at the same time.
Why does it work? I think it's the fact that it's not an example of clear, logically-argued copy, it disarms the reader. The first few phrases set the reader off in one direction, but the endline takes them back in a completely opposite one.
Add to that a simplicity in art direction and photos that have aged very well, and you have an idea that works very well.
- Sylvain Thirache started his career as an art director. He became the joint creative director of DDB Paris with Alexandre Herve in 2003, and joint executive creative director in 2004.