“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules … but there’s one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art.” – William Bernbach
Advertising is funny.
It requires creativity and unconventional thinking in a place where your individual ideas can make fast impacts on the world around us – all while working in a collaboration rich environment. Despite this, advertising isn’t typically given its due, nor spoken of in the same breath of other fields of creative design.
Typical thinking is ill-suited for the designer, so let’s go ahead and be atypical.
There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules … but there’s one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art. – William Bernbach
Bill Bernbach is a big name in the advertising industry. While you won’t have heard the name as often as you might have heard of such fictional ad men as Don Draper (Mad Men TV Show) or Darrin Stephens (Bewitched TV Show), Bernbach shepherded a creative environment that has continued to shape pop culture in a way most entertainers could never hope to. His agency’s campaigns focused on simplicity, fun, creativity and collaboration. Where once the copy editor and the artist would work separately, under Bernbach they’d work hand in hand. This is the working environment that allows seemingly impossible briefs such as the Volkswagen Beetle to succeed. You may wonder what is so impossible about selling the VW? Well consider selling a small German automobile to America, a land of giant cars when World War II was fresh in the mind. To succeed in doing that takes more than a good product – it takes creative minds with good ideas and balls of steel.
Bernbach is only one of many great people who have changed how designers make an impact on the world. Though when I learned about important figures in design history, I didn’t hear very much about Bernbach, David Ogilvy or Mary Wells.
Advertising has taught us not to trust it.
The most truthful part of a newspaper is the advertisements. – Thomas Jefferson
From birth we’re made to trust, and yet we’re all grown-ups who just don’t. If we could all get together and find the common link of that first liar in our lives, I’d wager it’d be an advertisement.
We have all been sold on something that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and it’s happened so often that we’re on our guard the moment anyone tries to sell us anything.
At least a used car salesman is personal, as they have to do the selling. They have to talk to you, they have to convince you and lie to your face so you’ll feel some personal responsibility for having trusted them. . When you’re in the advertising business, you have to sell from a distance. It could be the best used car in the world, but your job is at it’s most effective is when you get someone to let their guard down and consider your product – preferably without them realising you did anything. You have to do this because people who weren’t as talented as you, lied.
Advertising in itself isn’t lying.
There is always a reason to buy one product over another; conveying the right angle by choosing a way of presenting something to make it look it’s best. There’s always a way to sell a product’s strengths and there is no lost cause – you can sell the Nazi-approved small car to patriotic 50’s Americans without misleading anyone. Remember that.
Done correctly and ethically, it’s no more lying than make-up or a wonderbra.
Those in the advertising industry who lied to you are people who may have known how to sell, but they didn’t know how to be creative. Uncreative salesmen are better suited to politics; we don’t need them in advertising.
You’ve likely heard of “Dumb Ways to Die”, a simple campaign developed by a Melbourne agency in service of safety around trains. “Dumb Ways to Die” is also the most successful viral media that has ever originated in Australia, and has won top industry awards. It’s something people loved, it made them laugh, it made them happy. It was a positive message, and it was done so damn well that the message reached a global audience.
People like you made that campaign.
Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does. – Steuart Henderson Britt, Marketing Management and Administrative Action
Plenty of opportunity, especially for young minds.
Young creative minds are even more important in this era because nobody knows where to find the modern consumer anymore. People aren’t held captive watching television or reading magazines in nearly the numbers they previously were, and yet the potential audience for your work hasn’t dropped – it’s grown tremendously. So it falls to the young creative mind to reach others like yourself.
There will always be a need for advertising, and with the changes currently going on there are incredible opportunities. Your good idea could immediately have an impact on more people than the best logo you ever design, the best drawing you create, the most elegant layout or the most beautiful typeface. Our modern day image of Santa Claus was popularised by Coca-Cola. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer was a promotional gimmick for a department store and diamonds being the only acceptable stone for engagement rings all stem from marketing campaigns in the 30’s. This is the impact of advertising on our world, and however you feel about that, it showcases how uniquely it can shape modern culture, and why it’s so vitally important that good creative people are a part of it.
In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. – David Ogilvy
The most vital addition to your career as a designer.
But for yourself, no matter what disciplines you enjoy (or not) advertising will ask you to use them all. Everything that you’ve learned in design and everything you continue to learn will be constantly relevant to what you do right now. You will need to pitch and be clever at the drop of a hat. You will need to keep your muse on an IV drip full of coffee. You will be unable to settle into any kind of safe style. Advertising will also make you better at something vitally important to your livelihood and career as a designer – it will teach you how to sell. Be it your concepts or yourself, the more you’re able to get a client excited by the pitch and your ideas, the easier the job should be and the better equipped you’ll be to deal with whatever ‘notes’ the client gives you. At the end of that brief, however nightmarish the process of conception to delivery is, you still want ‘the baby’ to look a little like you. Advertising’s broad focus and ability to help you sell ideas ensures you’re better placed to discover that even if ‘the baby’ has daddy-client’s ugly nose – it will at the very least have your eyelashes.
The plain truth is that the only consistent theme in advertising is the absence of any consistent theme. – William Hesse, President, 4A’s
This may not be your cup of tea, and if you love type and want to create it then the world needs that as well. Advertising will always challenge you creatively, it will keep you invested in others, up to date regardless of your age, and to continually pay attention to the world around you. Creativity isn’t the only skill in the advertising space of course. If just the idea of this kind of work environment appeals, there’s always accounts and the very key media department. That’s where they figure out where and how to place the advertising and get the best value for money. They need to know how best to reach the most people effectively without spending where it isn’t needed. However creative work is probably the most interesting for designers, so in the ad biz you could be looking at such job titles as copywriter, art director, illustrator, creative director and it only gets bigger from there – however when you’re getting started you’re likely to start out as a junior one of those.
The advertising business can engender the same drive and vigour as any creative pursuit. If you’ve not thought about advertising as a career, think again.
Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on – Jerry Della Femina