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Do you remember when the very first cake mixes came out? They were an abject failure; because there was nothing for the cook to do, except add water

Do you remember when the very first cake mixes came out? They were an abject failure; because there was nothing for the cook to do, except add water. Using a cake mix was unrewarding, and not seen as proper cooking.

Cake mixes became successful when one ingredient was left out. Now the cook had to add an egg, and cake mixes became a concept that really was cooking.

It's the same deal when creating ads. We always know what we want customers to think, and what we'd like them to do, that's what briefs are for. It's just that, if we tell them all this, they're left with nothing to do; you're merely giving information, rather than engaging them, and allowing them to appreciate your brand.

Yet, when you look through journals, you see ad, after ad, all assuming doctors are like sheep, all just dying to be told what to think, feel and do.

The real trick is to let your `mark' take part in the communication process too, by giving just enough information to start them off, then allowing them to think it through for themselves. That way; not only will your customers feel rewarded when they reach the opinion or decision you're leading them to, they'll remember what they've learned because they'll feel they've come to this opinion or decision for themselves.

A classic case of having your cake, and eating it too.

Cerazette - for contraception
What on earth is the point of trying to shoehorn an entire brief into an ad, thereby turning it into a morass of muddled messages?

Now even I can see what the message should be: a contraceptive that you can prescribe to breastfeeding women. In fact, that's what the headline is saying (assuming the headline is the larger of the half-dozen or so messages on the page), yet we also have a picture of someone breastfeeding through what looks like a porthole.

Clearly, this is here because doctors haven't the foggiest idea what breastfeeding is, so it's best to show them. Then, as if that isn't enough, there are five other bits of information splattered about the place, all in different sizes, all trying to outdo one another in unreadability.

I know it's easy to criticise, but surely it must be possible to come up with a single, compelling thought - and nail it.

Movicol - for constipation
Now I get the distinct impression that this product has something to do with water. That's mainly because there's a vacuous, twisted, female contortionist floating about in it, whose entire purpose seems to be to hold up a board, with the reasons to believe the proposition written on it. That's the problem with the proposition, there isn't one - and without it, this ad doesn't say anything.

Oh, granted, it does babble on about there being four dimensions, yet regales us with four actions or features, call them what you will. But there is nothing here to hang on to, enjoy, believe or motivate; it just confuses and annoys.

Yet, the entire point of this ad may be found, if you search around for long enough, in the body copy, as if a busy doctor idly leafing through a journal, is going to be bothered to do that.

The moral is: if you've got something to say then say it, if you haven't then you're wasting the fourth dimension.

Mirena - for contraception/menorrhagia
Now this we like. It's not earth shattering, slap in the face creativity, but then it doesn't have to be. Simple, unexpected, clear and, perhaps most importantly, focused communication is the key here.

The proposition is crystal clear too and that, after hours of trawling through the journals, is a blessed relief.

It simply cajoles you into taking part in the communication, then lets you get on with your life that little bit richer in the knowledge department. And that, I believe, is one of the great secrets of communication. Potty? Flowers? Window sill? Oh, I get it.

When it's done well, as it is here, your readers not only feel some ownership of the message, but also smile as the message inculcates the brain.

Prostap 3 - for prostate cancer/endometriosis
Sometimes, if you care to look, you can find a small, bright, shining light in the darkest of places. This ad not only sneaked up on me, but also left me with a warm glow, because it's so refreshing to see some real thought, care and well-judged creativity put into a small-space ad. Now if this ad has run in a double page spread, then forgive me, I haven't seen it.

It would have been so easy to have gone straight down the `ah, bless', inconvenience route; you know, with a sweet old man looking pathetic and unloved. But they didn't. Instead, they've gone for a very simple idea, and crafted it well.

The headline just `tells it like it is', giving the reader a chance to make his/her own decision, without being told what's right, and what should be done. The art direction is subtle, and crafted with a confident feel.

Thank you for putting a smile on my face.

Cialis - for erectile dysfunction
Now I know erectile dysfunction is a tricky subject to handle. But if you beat about the bush too much (no pun intended), you just end up with a thoroughly beaten bush, and now't else.

Let me put it another way: speak, and the world may listen - mew and you become invisible and this ad mews like a frightened cat.

It doesn't say anything meaningful, and it has no real proposition.

Trying to be positive, it kind of tries to say something, but then, startled by its own audacity, it scurries back behind the sofa to hide. What, may I ask, are these two catalogue models supposed to be doing? If they are improvising then, bearing in mind what the `script' is about, they are just so off Broadway.

Now I know I've been banging on about letting your customers complete the communication circle, but do, at least, give them something to go on. Now come on.

2nd September 2008


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