Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Since you’ve sat through the nattering nabobbery about bad ads, it’s only fair to talk about what actually does work. Blinding Flash of the Obvious – I have no demographic info and could not begin to guess about my peer group, which seems to be “young fogey.” This is just what works for me, Joe Consumer, an 18-35 type with a decent job. By blog logic, this means that it automatically applies to all of you. (Implied consent, just by loading the page. See what Microsoft can do for you!)

In general, the good spots have the same hallmarks – they’re simple, clever, and fun. You can get away with two of the three, or even one if it’s the only thing you’re trying to do, but you can’t flub them all, or you wind up with one of the spots we mentioned in our last post.

A lot of them are also musical. There’s nothing like a snappy jingle to fix a slogan in the mind. People in my parents’ generation can rattle off the musical spots of their youth the way rappers drop f-bombs: Brylcreem, Alka-Seltzer, Band-Aid, Budweiser.*

It should come as no surprise that many of my favorites are radio ads. Example: there’s a series of racetrack spots that run on the local stations, where a spot-on track announcer calls various everyday events like a horse race. “Guys Night Out” is hands-down the best of these: “And here’s Beautiful Girl! Single Guy comes up on the rail, but Beautiful Girl pulls away! Oh, no! Here comes Cheesy Pickup Line! It’s Cheesy Pickup Line, immediately followed by Getalife, You’re a Creep, and In Your Dreams!”

In general, this brings up the make-or-break guideline, the thing that makes good concepts into great ads, or blown opportunities: pay attention to details. The pacing and tone of the announcer make the track spots: CHEE-sy pickup line! If he misses the emphasis or sounds a false note, the whole thing deflates like a week-old party balloon.

Just don't do it too well. Back in 1989, the New Jersey gubernatorial race featured radio ads with a simple, catchy, sing-song refrain – “Flo-ri-o! Flo-ri-o!” The announcer would give a Florio Fact and then the singers would do their little chirpy bit, and so on. Florio won, and was probably grateful for the spots, which did such a good job of wiring his name into the voters’ brains.

Problem is, Florio’s side didn’t run those ads. His opponent, Jim Courter, did. The facts weren’t very flattering, but because of the jingle, nobody remembered them. Haven’t heard a lot of political singing since then.

* my generation has a healthy share of snappy jingles too. “You Deserve a Break Today,” The Children’s Aid Society, Wild West City (link has sound – see what I mean?), singing pills (“We’re Not Candy!”), and the gold standard, Schoolhouse Rock.

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