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On Advertising

Postby banana » Tue, 20 May 2008 9:40 pm

Sorry, this topic has nothing to do with posting of classifieds in the forums. Rather, I am interested in what the fine folk of this forum feel about advertising. As in the type you see in newspapers, billboards, in between shows, etc.

Most of us will claim to be immune to, maybe even annoyed by, these little interruptions to our daily grind. Yet the occasional spark of brilliance brings a smile to our faces. Like a joke well told or a timely nugget of wisdom.

Perhaps in a more innocent time, our defenses were not so guarded and we could appreciate these pockets of edutainment for what they were. Yes, edutainment. Advertising was once a way to educate the masses quickly about small pieces of information. There was a time when they tried to be entertaining as well. In a way it still is, except with the burning desire to make as much money in as short a time as possible, advertisers and their agencies have turned to less subtle means of communication.

So, with that I ask for the wisdom of the masses. What do you feel about advertising, as a consumer, as a marketer, as a parent, as a child. Any good ones you've seen so far, maybe even involved in. Pretty open topic really.

I am not writing an essay, academia is behind me. I am, however, in the industry though not with any of the big bad giants - simply a small time player looking to bridge one of many disconnects we face in this world.
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Postby ksl » Tue, 20 May 2008 10:44 pm

Advertising is probably more important than the actual sales person, in this day and age, it conveys better and more reliable information, than most sales people.

Advertising is an art form, in my opinion, which is grotesquely abused by the unscrupulous media, on many occasions, which misrepresents the truth. which I'm not very fond of, just to sell a storey.

In the hands of talented people it, is a wonderful tool of expressionism, that conveys, many social and interactive meanings, aimed at a target segment, it can be serious, humoristic, dramatic, and emotional, conveying direct or subliminal messages. psychology may play a very important part of the advertisement, which may prey on human weakness, through emotional or even entertaining experiences..

I'm a lover of art, advertising, marketing, and psychology, and I'm pretty good at astrology, palm reading, and other human weaknesses, for me, it's all about an inner passion to learn and express with images and text, just like an artist installation work, all though the motives behind, the work also play the basic role of proving the want's and needs of people, I say people rather than consumers, because every one is a potential client, how, I would target these people, would probably by household demographics, with a few more statistics, I could probably target the decision maker in the household, depending also on the cost of what i was conveying.

It's a great subject and there are really some cool adverts about, although monitoring the response, is also vital, for it to be cost effective.

The online advertsing leaves much to be desired, with many websites, trying to peddle there usefulness, like facebook and others with large, hits, however, those running the show, I believe are doomed, in many ways.

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Postby ukdesigner » Tue, 20 May 2008 11:36 pm

as someone in the industry I have to say I love it. :P And advertising is a form of psychology. Understanding how people react and think. Knowing what to say and what not to say is also very important. I firmly believe that people are not immune to advertising but in todays marketplace are more astute and certainly more aware when they are being conned. In other words, cheap tricks just don't work like they used to. Therefore marketing companies have had to get smarter and where in the past they could knock any old crap out, now they can't.

However I do get annoyed by misleading adverts, badly designed/ produced etc etc press, radio & tv stuff. Cheesy annoys me too and in most cases turns me off.

They have just conducted a study back in the UK about how the tv companies increase the sound of tv adverts compared to the actual programmes. It was found that it wasn't the tv companies turning the sound up but because of the data compression of the sound on the supplied material. Even so the difference in sound levels is massive and very annoying to boot. This in-turn turns most people to switch channels. Id they thought laterally and kept the sounds levels the same surely people wouldn't be so quick to change channels!

Of the stuff I have seen here I am a bit dissapointed but then again in a culture that is taught not to think too much out of the box what can you expect. In comparison I found Bangkok a breath of fresh air where expression showed creative thinking and got me quite excited.... yes I am the sad one who tends to know what font has been used in an advert!!

Anyway... I personally like well crafted, simple and humourous adverts that speak to you. That's just me.
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Postby banana » Wed, 21 May 2008 9:23 pm

Gotta admit I'm a fan of Thai advertising as well. They manage to stir up emotional response that is universal (humour, compassion, etc) while retaining their cultural identity. Anyone from anywhere in the world could see one of their better ads and still "get it". Possibly even gain a little insight into Thai culture while at it. And that to me, is a good ad.

Of course that is going to set off alarm bells in marketers everywhere. "we don't care about educating the consumer about <insert>, we want them to buy! buy! buy!" this is where I bite my fist and hope the account gets over and done with as quickly as possible. A bonding session with a cold beer, a book of ideas/fonts/designs and gentle commiserating pats of "there there, they just don't understand" usually ensues.

some good Thai ads I've come across:
Top Chaoren Optical
Bridgestone Tyres
Image

On the other hand, online immediate response ads, the types thrown about with things like PPC, CTR, and other TLAs seem to be gaining favour with advertisers. Most of them are nothing more than glorified classifieds but I guess the data measurability makes the job of pencil pushers much easier.
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Postby Addadude » Thu, 22 May 2008 12:38 pm

I've been in the advertising business for nearly 22 years - 14 of 'em in Singapore, so I hardly qualify as a neutral party. A career in advertising can be one of the most inspiring, frustrating, infuriating, boring, challenging, exciting, dreadful, wonderful experiences you'll ever have. And you'll frequently feel all these emotions in the space of one day - sometimes during the space of one meeting...

I'm not convinced that it is an art form and it's certainly not a science. it is most definitely a business tool and the best advertising is often the most powerful of business tools - and that's how it justifies it's existence. And, while I am in almost total agreement with Serigio Zyman ("The End Of Advertising As We Know It") that the main purpose of advertising is to SELL, it is the WAY you sell through advertising that makes a difference.

I prefer to see advertising as a form of conversation with the consumer. I can talk to them with words, images or sounds - and these are the tools I will use regardless of whether I am doing a press ad, a TV commercial, a radio commercial, a piece of point of sale, a direct marketing mailer or an interactive piece.

Nobody likes to be SOLD to. But if you talk to them with respect, chat with them, get to know them, charm them, make them laugh or smile (or cry when they need to), they will most certainly be receptive to what you are trying to sell them. They won't even see it as a selling pitch.

And that's where the "art" part comes in. But then again - is it really art or is it instinct? Being pretty old school, my favourite examples of advertising come DDB's classic ads of the sixties and early seventies - the Volkswagon campaigns, Alka Seltzer and so on. I really don't believe that the talented people at DDB saw themselves as "artists". I think they just thought of themselves as good advertising professionals.

For me, the real art in advertising comes in the crafting - choosing just the right font, the right photographer, the right talent or voice over artist, tweaking the copy to get that finely honed balance of message AND tone and manner just right.

Of course another part of the art (and probably the most important) is selling your magnificent creation to the client. And if any of you non-advertising people wonder why most of the ads you see in Singapore are crap, just sit in on almost any client presentation and you'll see exactly why. Clients don't buy pieces of art. They buy work that "sells". (Or work that they think sells.) And by golly, they want maximum return for their dollar invested. Every square centimetre of space in that full page ad in the papers has to SELL! (And you can't really blame them because it costs so much. When I started up a small coffeeshop with a couple of friends, I made sure that my ad had our logo and address as BIG as possible...)

This approval process becomes absolutely agonising when it comes to doing TV commercials. I think we all know what the average approval process is like in Singapore. When it comes to approving TV budgets and work, indecision is elevated to almost an artform. So I guarantee you that, if a good TVC comes out at the end of all that, it is the result of nothing short of heroic effort.

All this has lead to a complete dichotomy between the work that actually runs and the stuff that wins creative awards. There are three major advertising awards in Singapore: The Effies - which feature work that usually looks damn ugly but has written 'proof' of its effectiveness; the Hall of Fame awards which spotlight big, boring campaigns that we've all seen but were not particularly impressed by; and the Creative Circle Awards which feature cool creative ads we've never seen for clients we've never heard of - because the ads in question probably never really ran at all.

As a result of all this 'scam ad' activity, Singapore is generally perceived by teh world-wide ad community as "Scamapore". But, let me be very frank here. It wasn't Singaporeans who started doing these scam ads. If I were to pinpoint the party most to blame, it would have to be the Australian expat creatives who arrived on these shores in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Many a reputation was built on ads for restaurants that didn't even know they had ads running, or for charities that exisited only in the minds of the creative people who came up with them. These scam ads elevated their originators to the heights of professional success and thus perpetuated the tradition of doing these mock ads in the process. To this day, most creatives looking for jobs will have two kinds of work in their portfolios (or 'books'): scam ads (the PC term for these ads these days is "Initiative Work") and work that really ran. And CDs will often hire them based on the kind of scam ads - sorry Initiative Work - most likely to win awards.

I truly believe that the Singapore ad industry is in a very sorry state at the moment because of this. Thailand on the other hand is an inspiration to us all on how you can do really unusual creative work for REAL clients that REALLY runs. I'm sure that this has to do with the fact that Thailand firmly believes in its own culture and the intelligence of its people. This belief and self-confidence is something that is sorely lacking in Singapore.

(Boy - this turned into a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng reply... sorry about that!)

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Thu, 22 May 2008 12:51 pm

Might be long, but a darn good read. I learned a few things for sure!

sms

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Postby QRM » Thu, 22 May 2008 1:12 pm

Addadude wrote: if any of you non-advertising people wonder why most of the ads you see in Singapore are crap,


They are so crap its makes me cringe, (bit like some of the radio stations here, DJ with mock American accents trying to be funny), I remember reading an article from one of the big international agencies saying they have to dumb down the adverts here because the less sophisticated nature of the populace. A process that is now called “adjusted to be inline with cultural differences”

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Postby banana » Thu, 22 May 2008 3:33 pm

wow addadude, I think you just summarised Neil French's autobiography, David Ogilvy on Advertising and Hey Whipple, Squeeze This into a neat little local package!

Where do you think the lack of belief and self-confidence stem from though? Back in the day, I've had MDs veto my hire with "I can get an Ang Moh for that price".

Oh dear, it's back to the Ang Moh vs local thing again :lol:
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Postby Addadude » Thu, 22 May 2008 5:36 pm

When I first arrived on these fabled shores back around November '93, I was hired for exactly that reason - the local boss/owner (of the legendary - and now extinct - Henen Advertising) thought ang mohs were generally more talented than locals... and especially Singapore innocents like me who naively trusted him when he talked about the "low" cost of living here...

At that time, there might even have been a certain amount of truth in his assertion. But it is certainly not the case now. If you look at most of the international agencies here, many of the top positions in creative and account service are held by locals. (It's interesting to note that there are also quite a lot of Indian expats in powerful positions too.) The only area creative-wise where I feel Singaporeans are generally lacking is in English copywriting. It is still very hard to find a really good local writer. But, on the other hand, many of the local art directors here will knock the socks off any international art director.

The lack of confidence thing has, I believe, a lot to do with the percieved "newness" of this nation. The cultural heritage of Singlish and creative mix and matching of various dialects and languages which has formed naturally seems to be frowned upon by an establishment trying to enforce 'proper' English and the clear separation of languages and the elimination of dialects. Then when you add in the almost constant influx of 'foreign talent', many of whom have absolutely no intention of adapting to the Singaporean way of doing things and the fact that Singapore society itself is rapidly changing (I won't say evolving...), you have a recipe for confusion and self doubt.

QRM, the idea that one has to 'dumb down' adverts so that the 'man in the street' can understand them is hardly unique to Singapore. I've heard it as an almost common refrain in Ireland and the UK too. Most of the classic books devoted to creative advertising refer to it as well, so this phenomenon is probably as old as advertising itself. In some ways it is a valid point: before you can talk to your target audience you need to understand them and converse with them in a language they can appreciate. It doesn't mean you have 'dumb it down' though and I actually have a huge respect for the Singaporean sense of humour - it is a LOT more sophisticated than the local 'comedy' shows on Channel 5 would have us believe!

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Postby banana » Thu, 22 May 2008 9:43 pm

On copywriters, the cause may be two-fold.

First, English is touted as our first language. This means that anyone who did not do better in his/her mother tongue is led to believe that his/her command is par excellence. Often, to squeeze out that bit of brilliance in writing, some rules have to be broken. And when a writer does that, everyone becomes an English teacher. Including the art director.

Second, negotiating daily interaction with colleagues, peers, clients require matching codec to some extent. As you can imagine, when that happens, it just reinforces the underlying misconception that writers are dead weights. Afterall, if Scribey McScribe is speaking the same language as me, surely I can do his job. Besides, an ad is 80% visual, 20% copy. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, that means I must be doing 4000 times his work!

Flawed logic? Yes. That's probably why you don't see people playing Win, Lose or Draw at every street corner.
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Postby ukdesigner » Thu, 22 May 2008 10:00 pm

Besides, an ad is 80% visual, 20% copy


If only client understood that! :shock: ](*,) ](*,)
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Postby Addadude » Fri, 23 May 2008 12:50 pm

"Besides, an ad is 80% visual, 20% copy"

Er, no guys, it most certainly is not. Write out those words nice and big on a large sheet of paper. Crumple it up and throw it with great force out the nearest window. Because nothing could be further from the truth.

An ad is a piece of communication first and foremost. Your job as a creative is to find the best way possible to communicate your message. It may be with just one picture. Or two pictures. Or a thousand. It could be with just a headline or a page full of bodycopy. It could be a blank sheet of paper with the logo at the bottom. Or no logo at the bottom...

The other cliche that people like to throw out (or throw up) is of course "people don't read body copy anymore". Again, this is complete bollocks. If that were true, sites and forums like this one wouldn't exist. look at how many words have appeared in this thread alone... yet I'm willing to bet that you've read every one of them. The fact is, people don't read body copy that they are simply not interested in. So, by golly, your job as a writer (or art director) is to make them want to read it.

Lastly, two words that will settle this debate about ads being mostly visual: "The Economist".

in case you are wondering, when I arrived in Singapore, I was an art director first and foremost. I ended up doing mostly copywriting because of the woeful lack of decent writers here. (So, I am genuinely approaching this debate from two different perspectives.)

I've found that the four biggest problems with local writers here are 1) In many, many cases, their grammatical skills and grasp of tenses are very poor. 2) They love to show off their vocabulary and often use words and phrases that they themselves don't understand. 3) Those that can write 'properly' write too properly and end up with dull as ditchwater copy. (I'll get back to this point in a little while.) 4) Many of the writers I've met are only interested in writing headlines and coming up with concepts. They genuinely believe that writing body copy is beneath them.

Here's a tip for any budding copywriter out there - or any writer who wants to get better: google George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language". This very short essay will give you all the rules and guidelines you need to write better copy.

Banana, you're comment about everybody becoming English teachers got me laughing because a couple of years ago one of my clients literally asked her secondary school English teacher friend to vet my copy! The English teacher then rewrote my copy to make it more 'correct'. Actually, my account director was more upset than I was. So we called them up on a conference call and I asked if I could read out both pieces of copy aloud. The client said yes. I read both pieces, using the same standard of vocal inflections. There was a good 10 seconds of total silence from the client and her friend. Then the client quietly said, "Ok, I think we'll use YOUR copy. Thanks."

The art of copywriting is very simple: it's not writing. It's talking. I am not writing to a consumer. I'm talking to them. When you write to someone, it normally comes across as pretty formal and a little cold. When you talk to someone, it is much more personal and warm. It really is that simple. Other than that, the rules of good grammar and tasteful writing ALWAYS apply. See Orwell's essay!

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Postby banana » Fri, 23 May 2008 3:24 pm

My bad. Pretty much all of the second paragraph (Afterall......his work!) is hypothetical. A dramatisation of what goes on in the head of an angsty designer, if you will.

As a primarily copy based person, I've found having to teach myself some basic design skills to get by as a creative. It's probably nothing to do with truisms like "ads are 80% visual 20% copy" or "people don't read body copy". Rather, language is so fluid and constantly in flux, interpretations are almost always debatable.

The words we use today are not the same as the words we used 20 years ago. The syntax, meaning, it all evolves. Consider also different education levels, cultural backgrounds and socio-economic status. Another MD once told me "we need to use hip language". What does that even mean?

One thing I've found from working in Australia and now here is that Ozzie creatives are more open to cooperative brainstorming sessions. Over here, everyone is fighting to have their idea, the last word, that oh snap remark that more often that not, you end up with a mash up of layers than a well polished piece. Of course that could just be my personal experience, perhaps you guys would like to share yours?

Disclaimer: before the PC brigade jump in, I'm local. lah.
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Postby ksl » Fri, 23 May 2008 3:52 pm

addadude:"Besides, an ad is 80% visual, 20% copy"



I believe a slight misunderstanding may have taken place, I think when the other guys are saying it's 80% visual, and 20% copy, are basically meaning...eye contact before anything else, it maybe pictures or text, it is still eye contact, one needs to attract.

My other point would be, that professionalism and expertise can be very difficult to measure, if one doesn't know, the occupation, and everyone see themselves as the expert.

Like art in general, the painter paints for himself, and the consumers like it or not, their are literally millions of artists out there, and only a handful, are able to have influence to earn a living, locally, for the advertiser, he needs to be looking from the consumers perspective, of emotional, humoristic, educational, secure, needs and wants, wavelength! I think maybe the maslow pyramid also applies in the concept of design.

My point is, that even a great piece of advertising maybe subject to zero votes, by many consumers, because they don't get the message, although the main point of the exercise is to target a group to sell products...for most clients, it's a shot in the dark, and trust in a advertisers abilities, become the main area of discussion.

By having a little knowledge and interest background, in consumerism and psychology, it does help to identify a person selling his abilities, I play around quite a lot with my own skills of art & design, and quite often ask friends, in the business, to see, what they think..guaranteed it will always be, changed, and they will say, well what do you think of that, and on many occasions, it's been an improvement.

Although i am never 100% happy with my finished designs, I ask myself if it will do the job it's supposed to do....what I dislike, in advertising, is the trend setters, that are stealing the concepts of others, without any real creative skills used. The yard stick of advertising soon becomes a mile long, with so many punters, to choose from, so applying my own thoughts, helps me, to be satisfied, with the requirements in an advertisement, where many corporate marketing professionals, may not even have the ability to apply their theory, of advertising, and must rely on trust.

My serious question to any professional would be, "How do you know, you have the right advertiser for the job"?

My instinct tells, me the word passion, along with the ability to express in colours and out of the box, idea's is a good starter, my attention needs to be attracted to listening, to the sales pitch, I can then know, at least we are on the same wavelength, with all the relevant points, turning up, in a conversation.

But like I say, I am no professional in advertising, so it would be very rewarding to get an opinion of, how does a professional advertiser, choose another advertiser, from his own perspective, and his he critical of the finished product.

Dumbing down is also needed for mass market attention, it's the difference between the layman knowledge and professional subject area.

My wife who is a skilled academic, doesn't have a clue, when it comes to creativity, because her skills have never been developed, and that, sadly to say, is quite often, in the case of Chinese, due to the cultural demands of a child parents to concentrate on subjects, that are more likely to support the family, although this is changing, especially so here in Singapore, where creative expression is now well in development, although still a minority of parents adopt, creative arts, for their children.

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Postby QRM » Fri, 23 May 2008 7:19 pm

I speak from an architectural perspective, In answer to KSL question “ is he critical of a finished product”


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