advertisingYou know how the sexiest things are often the least sexy?  Here’s one.  From the outside, advertising creative development looks like a blast. I mean you’re making a mini-movie or still art….and what’s not to love about that?

Lots.  I have often said that developing advertising surprisingly became the worst part of my job.  A few campaigns I have truly enjoyed – I need to be fair — but not that many.

Some categories are genuinely fun to develop ads for, while others are less of a joy. Here’s why:

Most of the process is subjective.

There isn’t a clear formula for what makes great advertising.   And, not only do you debate concepts, but you debate e-ver-y-thing.  Concepts, casting, what they wear, music, hair, location….it goes on forever.  And, who wins?  Those with the strongest will OR those with the biggest paycheck.

Too many cooks drag the process out.

When I worked in the U.S. for J&J, the brand team plus the agency account team equaled about 14 people.  Discussing everything….and trying to build consensus.  Consensus!   See above.  Makes it worse.

Competing objectives.

Agencies are trying to build their business by winning awards while they help you build your business.  You’re just trying to sell more stuff.  The two don’t often go together.   Insert additional dysfunction here, which usually ends up in some sort of compromise ad campaign that nobody feels 100 percent stoked about.  The agency ultimately does get to inject some fun stuff while you get a bigger pack shot and brand logo so maybe I just need to see the glass as half full…

Brand teams can’t suggest ideas.

Only agencies are to come up with concepts and improved executions of a campaign.  Once you open your mouth with an actual suggestion, it’s off the table.  Undermines the agency’s role.   Just how it works, although no one actually tells you this going in.  If you’re a frustrated creative, you best go work for an agency.

Conservatism breeds templates.

You could be spending half a mil or more on an ad.  Although you can test concepts with consumers before you shoot, you really don’t know if an ad will work until you finish it.  And then you’re stuck with it.

Many companies are awesome at breaking the mold to get attention, though.  Just watch the superbowl.  Some awesome stuff there.  You know who doesn’t take risks?  Companies that sell medicine.   Just about all medicine ads come off like condensed versions of the creative brief, which has the following components (with the ad translation in italics):

  1. Consumer identification and connection (“I’m a middle aged Caucasian woman and I feel like crap.  Look at me.  I’m sad.”)
  2. Introduction of the brand / endorsement (“…but then my doctor/step-dad/hypnotherapist told me about CRAP-BE-GONE.”)
  3. Performance (“It’s fast and effective…”)
  4. Reason to believe (“…because it contains minoxophlegm…”; yes, if there isn’t an RTB, invent one.  Pantene was one of the early ones with its Pro-V)
  5. Payoff (“…which makes me feel great so I can be myself again.”)

There, that’s the template.  Now you, like me, will never be able to watch a healthcare ad ever again.