7 reasons why bad ads get created

Thumbs DownAs a Creative Director for the majority of my career, I have created thousands of ads, and overseen the creation of tens of thousands. (For the sake of this blog, I will use the general term “ads” to mean any pieces of communication designed to ADvertise a product or service.) Within these thousands of ads, many have been quite good, many straight down the middle of Mediocre Boulevard, and many I would consider just plain bad. After much experience, contemplation and self-loathing, I blame these bad ads on one of the following seven things.

1. Trying to say too much
This is the #1 reason hands down. Value, service, selection, quality, heritage, two logos, three RTBs, a product demo…let’s jam it all in there. If we care about all of these things, then our consumers must, too. They don’t, and even if they did, they couldn’t retain them all. This issue is usually driven by too many opinions, with each person trying to make sure their points get included. Remember, when you try to say everything, you end up saying nothing.

2. No idea
This one is hard to explain. What is an idea? It’s like Louis Armstrong said about jazz: “Man, if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.” Everyone thinks they know what an idea is; yet so many ads completely lack one. They just list stuff about a brand with no overarching, unifying concept, no singular thought that makes them memorable and simple to grasp.

3. The idea is too expensive for the budget
Okay you have an idea, a nice one actually. But it needs a high-end photographer, or an expensive director, or a particular song, or a more robust website…that all cost more money than you have. So you use a lesser photographer, get a cheaper director, put in a piece of stock music, don’t build out the full website. You hit the budget!…with a compromised piece of mediocrity. Create to the budget you have, and do the most interesting execution that budget can afford. Also know, people rarely remember that you came in on time and under budget. They remember that they love the final piece, or that they cringe every time they look at it, and curse you as the reason.

4. Poor execution
There are hundreds of individual decisions made when you are producing any piece of advertising, type design, color palette, director, photographer, location, casting, wardrobe, music, sound effects. Each decision is one piece that adds to the greater whole. Brilliant executors make more smart creative decisions every step of the way, and the end product shows that. And vice versa on the bad ads. While each decision is only a little bit, it all adds up to a lotta bit.

5. The ability of the makers
Either they don’t know how to make a good ad, or they do, but just had an off day. There are many people out there paid to make ads for a living who lack the talent to make good ones on a consistent basis, just like there are lots of professional baseball players who bat .200. And even the super talented ones who make greatness on a consistent basis don’t bat 1000. The best swing and miss often. Overall body of work is always the truest test of talent level.

6. Chickening out
It’s hard to put yourself out there, your idea, your baby, four months of your life, to take that shot, and let it fly. What if people don’t like it, or worse yet, hate it? Creativity and insecurity go hand in hand, which makes it easy to tone it down a bit, so you’re not dangling out there so nakedly.
Then comes the financial insecurity: I have a mortgage, a family, car payments, college tuitions, so let’s just go with the safe one that won’t get me fired. In both cases, the result is chickening out.

7. People don’t like it
Sometimes, you can do everything “right,” and still people consider your output a bad ad, and no amount of explaining will convince them otherwise. Welcome to the 100% subjective world of advertising. And often times the dislike is for ridiculous reasons: they hate the color red, or the guy in the ad reminds them of a former boss that bugged them. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad ad in reality, but in perception, which sadly counts more.

If you think you are about to make a bad ad, spot which of the above 7 culprits might be to blame, then fix it before it’s too late. Because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Your name is on a very bad piece of advertising for eternity. And that is as bad as it gets.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks#15

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The One-Shot Answer: Brand salvation in today’s disaster of complexity.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 2.25.20 PMWhat is your brand trying to mean to people? Right now. The strategy behind all your marketing? If you can’t state the answer in one crisp, concise phrase, you don’t have an answer, you have a 45-page deck, a long-winded website, a brochure, an undisciplined blah blah blah that talks in endless circles around it.

If you can’t clearly and succinctly articulate your brand in one phrase, how can your consumer?

Ask eight different people who work on your brand, and the odds are good you’ll get eight completely different answers, or minimally, eight noticeably different wordings.

That’s why brands desperately need one short, provocative, razor-sharp set of words that states exactly what the brand means to the world. A single, pithy phrase that directs and connects ALL communications. A One-Shot Answer. That’s what we call it at The Baiocco And Maldari Connection.

Anyone who has spent any time in marketing knows how epically hard it is to get to a single phrase because “adding” is a marketing disease. Everyone must add something. It justifies positions and titles, it legitimizes research, it validates boatloads of money exchanging hands. No one gets paid a million-dollar fee for not adding anything, for saying “I think it’s good as is.” Not gonna’ happen. Also, we’re quite clever at making it all fit, at playing marketing Tetris. But just because we can make it fit doesn’t mean it should be in there. There’s a great Antoine de Saint Exupery quote: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Great marketers realize this. They avoid self-inflicted confusion. They look to purify, not add more toxicity. I can state unequivocally, of the thousands of things I have worked on in my career, the best were driven by one, unifying brand phrase.

Here’s why the One-Shot Answer works:

It galvanizes everyone that touches the brand.
-It can be put up on a wall. All can follow it.
-People can rally behind it. (It’s hard to rally around eight different povs.)
It provides a guiding principle for all the work.
-You can now more easily decide if any given piece serves the brand or not.
-It gives your consumer one consistent, driving message, so you create cumulative brand power.
It assures you are driven by brand not platform.
-It counteracts the trend to chase every new technology whether it’s right for the brand or not. With the One-Shot Answer, decisions become clearer.
-All new tools, tactics and technology serve it, versus the opposite.
It generates more proprietary ideas and executions.
-When you’re forced to cull it all down to a short phrase, you must be more choiceful, and more clever. So a One-Shot Answer automatically starts from a more distinctive place, which means your output becomes more uniquely your own.
-It provides the launch pad for an explosion of ideas across all media, R&D and beyond.
It’s easy to act on because it’s clean and to the point, so ideas get to market faster.
-No one is paralyzed by interpretation.

Most people would probably agree simplicity is good, so why is it so hard to get to a single, unifying One-Shot Answer? The communications world is an overloaded disaster of complexity across the board, and makes it next to impossible to achieve singular clarity on anything. Besides the obvious maze of too many meetings, layers and testing, the biggest offender is language itself. Trying to get to a marketing answer, you drown in a sea of semantics: platform, essence, the comms idea, the creative idea, the idea statement, the campaign idea, strategy, activation idea, area, approach, purpose, digital plan, digital framework and on and on. It’s beyond excessive. I have sat in hundreds of meetings watching very smart people wrestle with these. No one can negotiate them all. That process takes over, and becomes the job itself, versus trying to get to the right answer for your brand.

On the tech front, exciting new things are born each day, and many companies chase every shiny new object, not knowing if it has anything to offer the brand. Which actually provide value? Which are cool widgets, but have no advertising applicability? Which should I do, which should I skip? How can anyone navigate, 50 million downloaded apps, billions of random youtube clips, over 1,000 TV channels, and so on? Someone needs to make it simpler, to provide a filter to help with the overwhelming decision process.

It’s time to unknot the messy tangle of language, to streamline it down to what really matters: one short, compelling phrase. The one that drives all your marketing. The one that puts clarity where there was once complexity. The one that inspires an explosion of multimedia ideas. The One-Shot Answer. What’s yours?

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks#14