Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What makes a bad ad?

It’s widely believed that to be a good creative director you need to know what makes a good ad.

But there’s something far more important you need to know:

What makes a bad one.

The spectre of mediocrity awaits advertising at every turn.

And it falls upon the creative director to ensure their agency’s shit filter remains regularly serviced, in optimum working order and pointed in the right direction.

Many hours of our days are spent preventing disasters happening.

Unforeseen disasters. Unintentional disasters.

They can occur at any time along the production chain.

But the most critical touch-point is always the first one. The first review.

Every day we’re asked to study scraps of paper filled with words and pictures and gaze into the future.

To foretell, in milliseconds, what the finished item will look like in months to come. And whether it’ll work. (Our business cards could read: Company Soothsayer.)

That’s why every time a creative director is presented with a concept a million questions bloom in their head:

Is the work on strategy?

Will it get noticed?

Has it been done before?

Will people like it?

Will it add value to the brand?

Do we have the budget to make it properly?

Do we have to time to make it properly?

Might the client be able to remove the idea and still insist it gets made?

Could research suggest some ‘improvements’ that do anything but?

What client politics would be involved in presenting it?



There’s no end to the possible pitfalls waiting to crucify an idea as it moves from conception to birth.

And the questions we ask on that crucial first glimpse are what dictate whether the world will be exposed to another beauty or another beast.

Approving great ads is one of the easiest and most enjoyable parts of the job.

Stopping bad ones leaving the building is one of the toughest and most important.

But the only way to stop one scuttling out the door is to recognise it for what it is or could become.

So next time your creative director pauses before giving a point of view bare this in mind: he may well be pondering on more than “Did I make that reservation at The Ivy for 1.00, or 1.30?”

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