Perspective: Advertising focus should be creative rather than literal

In an otherwise embarrassingly bombastic speech at the Periodical Publishers Association conference last week, Mandi Norwood, the editor of Cosmopolitan, argued that commentators fail to understand how women’s magazines work because they try to analyse their success using the rational right-hand side of the brain, whereas the magazines use the emotional left-hand side to extract from the collective ’creative genius’ of their staff an instinctively smart product. Leaving aside for a moment the huge amount of time and resource the National Magazine Company, Conde Nast and IPC devote to the right-hand side in planning and marketing their magazines, it is worth noting how remarkably right-hand side the media and advertising industries in general appear to have become.

In an otherwise embarrassingly bombastic speech at the Periodical

Publishers Association conference last week, Mandi Norwood, the editor

of Cosmopolitan, argued that commentators fail to understand how women’s

magazines work because they try to analyse their success using the

rational right-hand side of the brain, whereas the magazines use the

emotional left-hand side to extract from the collective ’creative

genius’ of their staff an instinctively smart product. Leaving aside for

a moment the huge amount of time and resource the National Magazine

Company, Conde Nast and IPC devote to the right-hand side in planning

and marketing their magazines, it is worth noting how remarkably

right-hand side the media and advertising industries in general appear

to have become.



How literal-minded we are all becoming. In recent weeks, in addition to

the familiar chorus of whingeing that advertising has gone all MTV,

there have been extraordinarily anoraky letters to Campaign about the

Commission for Racial Equality’s ’brain’ ads and executions for Ffwd

Precision Marketing roughly quoting Christine Keeler using Mandy

Rice-Davies’s words ’they would say that, wouldn’t they?’. ’Why use the

image of Keeler sitting astride a chair with Rice-Davies’s words?’ one

letter asked in the tone employed by Tony Brignull in his various

musings on the imagery of Peugeot ads or Tony Kaye.



No, if you buy a Peugeot 406, you won’t end up with Kim Basinger; if you

buy a 306 you are not guaranteed sex with your partner on the kitchen

table (especially as the BACC ruled the table out). By the same token,

if you buy a can of Tango, a fat orange genie is not really going to

smack you about the chops, Jack Dee can’t really talk to penguins, and

Gary Lineker would probably give a child his last crisp.



Most products don’t need to demonstrate benefit to be attractive,

because we, the consumers, do not have a genuine need for, say, a packet

of crisps or a can of beer. The debate between traditionalist and

contemporary creatives centres on where the line is. Does a car need to

demonstrate genuine product benefits? Does a building society or a tyre?

Not if the advertising is enticing enough. The product has to be at

least as good as its rivals - it must not let you down.



In a society in which we all suffer from commercial message overload,

the first trick is to get noticed (the new RAC ads) and the second is to

entice (’Who would you most like to have a One-2-One with?’). You have

to do both. I’d argue the former doesn’t, the latter does. Once you’re

in (be it the store, or you’ve got the product at home), it’s over to

the manufacturer or retailer. If you’re not disappointed then that’s

integration in the purest sense of the word.



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