Can anybody really write a great ad?

21 Feb

First, the mythology: Amateur advertisers are going to put us all out of work.

Joe the Plumber (no disrespect to plumbers) from Bumpkin, Arkansas (again…) sees an online invitation to win pots of cash for writing a TV commercial for a major brand of whatever and decides to have a go. He’s always figured he could do it better than the big city ad agencies, and now’s his chance to show his stuff.

He comes up with a script, videos an amateur but sufficiently charming animatic of the idea and submits it. Trumpet fanfare: his spot is voted the best and he wins $600,000 in prize money and has to move his family to Manhattan for his new job as Creative Whachamacallit with hotshop Gibblets, Goblins and Boils.

And they all lived happily ever after, cue credits.

Only in the case of DIY advertising, the real script runs like this:

Doritos seeks consumer-generated idea for the big cash. Joshua Svoboda, the “amateur” who crafted the winning entry, works as a Creative Director already, at 5 Point Productions (he’s on Linkedin, check him out) in advertising hot city Raleigh North Carolina. He works with another guy at 5 Point, Nick Dimondi, who won a similar Doritos contest a few years back.

The myth, which advertisers have been only too happy to perpetuate, is that consumers know what consumers want to see better than advertising people.

The reality is that the people winning these contests are ad people, writers, directors.

Of course anybody can write an ad. But when it comes to crafting a 30 second spot for a major brand on major networks, my money will be on the people who understand how advertising works.

Doritos’ money too, apparently.

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6 Responses to “Can anybody really write a great ad?”

  1. James February 22, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Good post. The talented folks with skills and experience will still be the best people to do great creative work.

    The difference is that now you can use web platforms to connect directly with those creative folks and get the work done. That’s what we’re building on AdHack – http://adhack.com

  2. dougbrowncreative February 22, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Thanks James. While I applaud getting consumers excited about advertising in the way that Doritos has, I wonder which professions will be next to join the Let The Public Do It sweepstakes: Medicine? Law? Aviation?

  3. James February 22, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I think you can see all those professions opened up by the same social and technology changes that are opening up the ad creative business.

    The difference is that doctors, lawyers and pilots all have governing bodies controlling access of workers to the jobs, and with each of these professions the consequences of poor performing workers is high.

    With advertising, almost anyone now has the tools to create and means to distribute their work. We’re entering an era of abundance.

    The challenge is finding good people to work with and managing the process so it’s not too taxing.

  4. dougbrowncreative February 22, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    It’s an interesting area.

    Of course the consequences of an underperforming ad don’t really compare with those other professions…but we see patients already demanding treatments from doctors based on Internet recommendations and pharmaceutical company spin.

  5. jason July 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Ahh – but who put the spin on the pharmaceuticals….pretty sure it wasn’t the research team

  6. Mario Parise July 20, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    These contests reveal a few things about our business.

    First, if your agency can’t do better work than the general public, you probably deserve to go out of business.

    It’s harsh medicine, but it’s true.

    Second, these contests are about entertainment – not sales. (The actual marketing strategy is the contest itself, not the actual ads being produced for super cheap.)

    If your task is to sell more stuff, you need sales people to lead the effort. Lots of people can be funny. Very few can be persuasive.

    Third, these contests highlight the kind of quality you can get when an idea is allowed to be developed freely, without layer after layer of revision. John St, that creative powerhouse in Toronto, talks about how potential recruits need to have a portfolio of work that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the award books, because once you’re in an agency your ideas are gonna get the living hell beaten out of them.

    Imagine what Monty Python would have been like if every line and gag had to be approved (and revisions dictated) by management people. “You can’t have a naked man in a window being mistaken as Jesus! You can’t crucify him to the sound of a show tune! You’re fired!”

    Of course, advertising HAS to go through that kind of revision process because (drum roll please) our primary objective isn’t to entertain. We have business objectives to meet. I’m not sure the Python crew could have sold much of anything (though it would have been entertaining to watch them try).

    So when you say your money is on the professionals, I’m 100% with you. So long as those professionals are trying to sell sell sell.

    If they’re simply trying to entertain, I would think other professions would be more likely to win. (Ex: If Will Ferrell participated in a Doritos contest, he would win. I doubt any ad agency could be more entertaining or draw as much attention as he would.)

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