Does It Work?

By: Mark Schildberg

I have been in this business so long, I remember when radio spots were recorded to 8-track analog-tape machines. I remember dubs being hand delivered to clients on audio cassettes. I remember the meaning of the word “keylining.” Care to cut me open and count the rings inside?

Well, before you pick up your hacksaw, let me add that I also remember one very important truth about ads: If they don’t work, you’ve wasted the client’s money.

Yes, I’m aware that the definition of what “works” varies from human to human, but I have a very simple set of standards about ads that fail. I learned them early on in my first job, and I have applied them to every ad I’ve touched ever since. An ad doesn’t work for one of three reasons:

  1. You are saying the wrong thing.
  2. You are saying the right thing the wrong way.
  3. You are saying the right thing the right way, but to the wrong audience.

Now, what constitutes “wrong” depends on how well-crafted your strategy is. If it is clear and articulates the type of audience you are talking to, and if the proposition is easy enough to understand, management can quickly figure out what ideas work. On the other hand, if the strategy is murky or even non-existent beyond the objective “Sell stuff,” you experience the phenomenon that my mentor called “Dancing on Jupiter”; i.e. a helpless, weightless feeling of floating aimlessly and without direction.

The best insurance policy for a good creative strategy is to keep the channels of communication open. Talk to your account executive. Talk to the writer and the art director. Talk to the creative director. Talk to agency management. I mean, overtalk it. Make sure that nobody is confused about what the work is trying to accomplish. If they can’t see it, point it out to them. Articulate it. Many times, I have seen agency staff confused and panicky because they had questions which were not answered. At such times I remark, mostly to myself, “We are a communications company, aren’t we?”

Mark Schildberg is KK Bold’s Associate Creative Director.

Posted on March 14, 2011 in KK BOLD

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