8 advertising rules that help create better websites
Over the past decade the shift from print to the internet has been dramatic, and in the process a lot of the creative skills have been lost. It doesn't matter whether it's an advertisement in a magazine or a page on the web, the art of clear communication remains the same.
These advertising rules were written by an American advertising agency many years ago. The rules were written to inspire young creatives to produce great work, and are just as applicable in web design today.
Advertising Rule #1. Base your work on a strategy
This is your blueprint. It tells you who you're talking to, what he cares about, how she thinks, what life-stage he is coming out of or going into. It also tells you what factor about the product – or how the promise of using/eating/wearing/driving the product – appeals to this audience.
Remember that all great work begins with a marketing solution, not a creative solution.
Advertising Rule #2. Have an idea
To work, all advertising and every individual execution needs a creative idea. Execution for execution's sake doesn't work.
Typefaces that change size from the top of the ad to the bottom is not an idea.
Scanning interesting visuals into the Mac and manipulating them with Photoshop is not having an idea.
Cutting lots of visuals together and setting them to music to make a TV commercial is not having an idea.
Showing how a remote control locater works by portraying a husband who doesn't even notice his skimpily clad wife anxiously awaiting him, even though she’s in the same bed that the beeping remote leads him to, is a good idea.
Advertising Rule #3. Think in words and pictures
If you're a writer, think of a visual to convey your message. If you're an art director, think about what your message should say verbally.
Remember, the two work together. A picture that finishes the thought started in the headline, or vice versa, is always better than either one attempting to do the entire job alone. Why? Because it involves the reader.
Dozens of studies now show that interactive communications have higher retention than one-way communications.
Advertising can work the same way. If readers have to take one piece of the equation, add it to the second piece and figure it out, they've gotten emotionally involved with your communication. They also feel pretty good about themselves.
Just don't make your equation (picture plus headline = message) too difficult or complicated.
Advertising Rule #4. Be your own creative director. And be harsh about it.
We all tend to think that just because we thought it up, it must be good.
Eighty percent of what great creative directors come up with is garbage. The difference is that the good ones know it and keep working, generating idea after idea, challenging them, relentlessly working to make them better.
The creative process typically works something like this: First, we think up a lot of lame ideas. Cliches. Plays on words. Ideas that have been done before. They're familiar to us and in our minds, so it's natural that they come out easy.
Bad creatives stop here. That's why you see so many lousy, thoughtless ads.
Second, after we've admitted to ourselves that we've generated nothing but lame ideas, we hit a brick wall. The fact is that even though it's difficult to admit an idea is bad, it remains even more difficult to come up with a great one.
Third, however, if you push – if you come at the problem from different directions: from the competitors', perspective, from the pitiful non-users' perspective, from an emotional rather than logical perspective, etc. – you just might come up with some new way of saying what you have to say.
Have you seen the Honda ad showing a hand with five chewed fingernails, the result of driving an unreliable car? The Honda then becomes the guaranteed solution to nail biting.
A pretty different way to talk about a car. Definitely not the first idea this creative team had.
Advertising Rule #5. Take risks
Great advertising shouldn't be comfortable. It should go against the grain, challenge convention, make us see things differently. For something to be truly memorable – and that's one of your first objectives – it should be unfamiliar.
So surprise people. Not for the sake of surprise, but for the sake of making them pay attention.
Advertising Rule #6. Stay in touch
Today we have a discipline in advertising called account planning. Planners are people that represent the consumer's point of view. People that are supposed to know what consumers in general, as well as in a category, think about, care about, react to.
They spend their lives conducting focus groups, studying trends, understanding the impact of social and economic changes on peoples lives, dreams and self-esteem.
But this is no excuse for you to be out of touch. So hang out at a mall. Go to the movies. Read important literature as well as an occasional best seller. Pick up the newspaper every day. Get on the Internet. Spend time in a chat room.
Remember, you're selling products, services, promises and hope to actual, individual men, women, teenagers. If you don't know who they are, how can you reach them?
Advertising Rule #7. Don't steal ideas
You've heard the expression that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Well, in advertising it just doesn't work.
Any good creative director in this business knows the majority of great ads that have been done going back to the '80s.
So while you should always look through the award show books to be inspired – to compare your ideas to what creative directors consider great work – avoid the tendency to make them your own.
The fact is, if they're in the books, they've already been done anyway, and as rule number five suggests, "already been done" don't work.
Advertising Rule #8. Don't follow rules
An example of great creative communication
In 1994 Range Rover introduced a new model to the American market.
The press ad offered perhaps the best example of truly brilliant art direction seen in any automotive advertising that year - nothing more than a 90-degree profile shot of the vehicle sitting stationary on a blank background.
Well, consider that there's a single red helium-filled balloon tied to its bumper, representing the first half of a message that gets completed with a headline that reads "When was the last time the British were this excited about anything?"
What a wonderful way to tell you that this machine is new, different, remarkable, worthy of attention.
No off-road shots. No mountain tops. No tracks through the snow. No pictures that we've seen a hundred times telling us that the four-wheel drive we're looking at is a four-wheel drive. Instead, just the cleanest, most traditional layout you've ever seen.
This is a concept. Half visual. Half verbal. Completely compatible with the brand. It shouts that this is an extraordinary new Range Rover but with such wit and warmth you feel as if you're being let in on a joke rather than being sold or over promised.
So next time someone tells you "Do something that's never been done before. Make it fresh. Original. Different. Unexpected," don't go looking for a typeface or a colour or a layout. Instead look for a red balloon and some helium.