Print is arguably the purest form of advertising. Unlike TV, you can't hide behind a technique, or hope that an A-list director, a wunderkind editor, or a esoteric music track, will add the required amount of elbow grease to your stinker. With print, your idea is there, on paper, exposed and naked, to be admired, ignored or ridiculed.
Ad folk don't like talking about rules, but with print there are a few. Obvious stuff really: Don't fall for a formula. Don't chase the latest thing - by the time you catch it, it isn't. Has it been done before? Is it a hybrid of things done before? If it hasn't been done before, is there a reason?
Finally, and most importantly for me, is there a gap? Something that doesn't quite complete the circle. Something to "get". Something that allows them to finish the story themselves. To win big at the majors, you need the gap.
I like product truths, told in an interesting way. The old Club 18-30 ads, the "42 Below" vodka campaign, the "birds" ad for Land Rover - they don't say anything particularly new - holidays for the sex-obsessed, vodka that gets you pissed, an off-roader that's really good off-road. It's how they say it.
Keep stripping things away until there's nothing left to hinder the idea. Keep asking "do we need that?", "is this bit adding anything?". Hone away until it almost seems too hard to get. Then it's probably best to stop.
There used to be a trick for winning awards in print. To cut across the international jury, people used "Adsperantu" - the international ad language - big picture, small logo. Now it's less easy (you can almost smell the fear in Singapore). Single images compete with Tate-style long copy and Harvey Nichols-style multiple images. The ones that win tend to be the same at every awards. There's no secret. They're the ones that involve and reward you. They're the clever ones, and inevitably, the simple ones.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS ... VW TOUAREG
I've liked this ad since I first saw it on a layout pad in the office. So yes, I'm biased, but it's still a great print ad. Like two of my favourite print ads, VW "cops" and Mercedes '"skidmarks", there's an implicit narrative here. Each part of the image has been considered to tell you the story.
Do the basic rules apply? Well, it's not a formula. No, it hasn't been done before. Yes, it's run and, oh bugger, there in the corner is a VW logo. The shot captures a moment perfectly. One of the new Touaregs has gone, driven away from the marooned car transporter by its driver.
Like any VW ad, there is a basic truth here. The car isn't conquering K2 or cutting a swathe through the Sahara. What we have here could actually happen. Probably wouldn't, but could.
It's a new car, hence the delivery vehicle. It can clearly do what real 4 x 4s are supposed to do. The people who built the car get a nice shot of the new grille, new tail-lights, new rear-end. We get a beautiful ad that rewards our intelligence.
That's VW for you. A product benefit cleverly and believably told. This ad is simple and elegant and will stand the test of time, as all the great ones do.
- Adam Tucker joined DDB London in 1999. He became a creative partner in 2004 and the creative director in 2006. He has won awards at all the major festivals, including five silvers at D&AD and golds at Cannes. His work for Harvey Nichols helped DDBLondon top the Gunn Report in 2006.