Advertising Srategy 101 51
First things first
Probably the greatest danger you will face as a copywriter or buy this or that product or service, you create ads for no-one.
marketer is trying to get to the advert too fast. You’ll rush for a So great ads really begin with the grunt work, the leg-
headline or selling idea before making sure it works. And since work, digging around in the issues, getting up to speed on the
most great ads do employ some kind of a twist (you can’t just put selling situation, working to know enough even to begin playing
clichéd ideas in clichéd places), its tempting to start playing with with the language.
language and image right away, trying to create some “pop,” usu- If, for example, your creating advertising against teen-
ally with puns, double entendres and other jokes. But cleverness age drink driving, writing headlines like “Don’t drive yourself to
is useless if you’re saying something beside the point. Until you drink” or “Don’t take the car for a spin if your head’s spinning” or
discover the real reasons – whatever they may be - that people How can you stay in a single lane if you’re seeing double?” is a
2009 | October - November
Advertising Srategy 101 53
waste of time. The real problems of drinking and driving are elsewhere,
Strategy versus execution
and you need to understand them. Why, in the face of repeated warn-
ings and omnipresent advertising against it, do many young people
An ad really has two parts, what you’re saying and how you’re saying
still drink and drive? The answer isn’t something that you can come up
it. The “what” is your strategy – the plan of attack, the ad’s big idea,
with sitting around in search of a line. You can only begin to discover
its selling argument. The “how” is the execution of that strategy – the
it by researching the problem, its social and psychological dimensions.
particular form it takes: the images, language, layouts, and media that
You’ve got to get out there and talk to some people and do some think-
you use. (Employing the battlefield distinction, some advertisers split
these two into strategy and tactics or execution.)
Most drink and drive advertising, sensibly enough, stresses
Strategy may take opposing forms, for example. Don’t drink and drive
the risk of death on the freeway. But suppose, in your research, you
because you may die or don’t drink and drive because you may live
discover that its far more likely people will lose their licences than their
albeit without a licence and the freedom it entails. Consumers respond
lives by drinking and driving. Suppose you also discover that many
to both the underlying selling idea and its particular expression. These
teens, young and strong, consider themselves almost immortal and
two ideas are just different executions of the same strategies
are largely unable to imagine their own deaths. They can, however,
When creating ads, you want to be smart at both strategy and execu-
understand the value of driving – seeing it as an essential initiation into
tion. Often it’s easy to admire the clever “creative” on an ad’s surface,
adulthood – and they can feel the weight of peer pressure. Knowing all
but what also makes an ad great is the idea behind it in what you are
this, you may want to make a different argument.
trying to convey.
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Advertising Srategy 101 54
How to create an No sale occurs in a vacuum; there are probably other products like it,
advertising strategy and the category has been advertised to consumers before. In short,
they’ve seen it all and bought it all, twice. How will your products stand
out in the marketplace? Why should consumers choose it over a com-
To develop strong strategy, you need to understand three things: the
product, the consumer and the marketplace.
These are all interesting questions and all related. You can’t locate
1. The product. What are you selling really?
your target market until you know what you’re selling exactly, but you
This can be something more and different than it might at first appear.
can’t know what exactly you ought to promise until you know your tar-
It’s certainly something about which you need to know more than you
get market and can decipher its needs. Nor can you create an effective
do right now.
strategy until you analyze the marketplace positions your competitors
occupy and successfully differentiate your products from theirs.
2. The consumer. Who are you selling to exactly?
Sorting your way through all this isn’t easy, and each adver-
Have you located the people that are your best target market? How
tising situation will prove different from the one before it, too, so your
well do you know them? The key to selling products is understanding
job never reduces to a formula. Your goal is to understand the parts of
people’s relationships with them. What needs and motives does your
the advertising scenario so well that you see how it all fits together, to
product address? What problems does it solve?
know enough to write an advert that works, that talks to real clients and
fulfills their real needs.
3. The marketplace. How does your product and its advertising fit into
the array of competitors around it?