Creativity is overrated.
This is especially true when it comes to advertising.
Don't take it from me, though.
In the famous words of advertising legend David Ogilvy…
“It is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”
But he has a point: creativity alone doesn't sell.
Here's some good news, though:
You don't need to be a “Creative” to write great ads
Despite popular belief, you don’t need to be a creative genius to push the buttons of your audience.
Sure, we can applaud an ad for its clever message or off-the-wall copy, but does that truly make it effective?
Ogilvy sure didn't think so.
Here's another classic quote from the man himself:
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
Conventional wisdom would tell us that the best ads are rooted in creativity, but this isn’t always the case.
In fact, what if the exact opposite was true?
What if the most “groundbreaking” ads out there weren’t breaking new ground at all?
What if effective advertising was rooted in tried-and-tested templates, instead?
And importantly, what if you that you could start using those same templates today for yourself?
Uncovering the tested templates that make prospects “tick”
In 2007, brothers Dan and Chip Heath released Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, a blockbuster business bestseller which highlights an eye-opening marketing study in the book's introduction.
Here the short of it.
In 1999, a group of Israeli researchers surveyed 200 award-winning ads to find common threads between the best of the best.
Their findings were fascinating:
89% of the top 200 ads reviewed could be classified into six basic categories (or templates).
Not twenty. Not a dozen.
The emergence of these six templates suggested that perhaps creativity could indeed be taught.
But it gets even crazier…
To further drive the study home, three groups of advertising novices were tasked with creating their own ads using a variety of creative strategies.
The winning group, whose ads were deemed at least 50% more effective than their competitors, relied on these six templates.
And while the other groups took significant time to finish their ads, the group relying on templates completed their winning ads within the span of two hours.
And that includes writing, design, layout—everything!
Now, let's take a step back: there is no “silver bullet” to effective ads.
However, it's high time marketers stopped using writer's block and a lack of creativity as an excuse for advertising snafus and disappointment.
With a bit of spare time and the right templates in your toolbox, you have the potential to work wonders via advertising.
Especially when the proven templates for awesome ads are right under your nose.
The magnificent six ad templates you can deploy in a matter of hours!
Alright, so you've got the meat of it:
Six ad templates that you can implement right now.
Tried, tested and proven to work.
But what do those templates look like?
Before we dive in, bear in mind that these templates are primarily pulled from print ads; however, their principles have been applied time and time again across multiple industries over the course of decades.
Some are subtle, some are in-your-face.
Pay attention the techniques these ads use to pull you in.
As you study, think about how you can take a similar approach yourself.
Now, let’s get started
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?
With pictorial analogy ads, products are given symbols that illustrate them beyond the package, likening the product something visually striking or surprising.
Check out this example from Orbit gum:
(Orbit, “For Bright, White Teeth”)
Not bad, huh?
Let’s break this one down.
Sure, we know that the promise of brighter teeth is a classic selling point of chewing gum; however, that message has been done to death.
The basis of this ad which uses the exact same message in a totally fresh way could have been devised in a matter of seconds:
“Quick, name something bright and white…”
“Okay, now how can we relate lightbulbs to teeth?
“Ah-ha! Let’s line them up as if they were a smile.”
“Yes! Print it!”
It’s clever. It’s cute. It’s effective.
But hey, it’s not rocket science.
One could even argue that the tagline here could have been something more “creative,” but it doesn’t need to be, does it?
Let’s look at another example, this time from Tabasco:
(Tabasco, “Explode Your Sense”)
Again, imagery speaks volumes.
We know that Tabasco is spicy: the reader doesn’t need to be told that.
This ad is something more extreme (a concept we’ll discuss soon enough) and visually striking.
Finally, here’s one from Lego:
(Lego, “Pure Brainfood”)
Lego markets itself as the playtime option for kids that gets their mental gears going.
This ad is a double-whammy as it includes the product itself to illustrate its potential for creativity.
Pictorial analogy ads are especially effective when trying to make a compelling case for a product in a heavily sophisticated market.
We know what gum is.
We know what hot sauce is.
So show me something new: don’t just tell me about it.
In the world of attraction marketing…
You can use pictorial analogy to tap into pain points & desires of your audience
Maybe they're struggling to make ends meet, or perhaps they're searching for the secret to financial freedom.
You can communicate their desire to “escape” without exactly saying it.
Sure, this is a “loud” example, but you get the idea.
Note that it's best when it's your own pic, of course.
Through image-based ads, you can show your audience the benefits versus just telling them about it.
I think you get the picture (pun very much intended).
These are always fun.
Here’s the kitchen table description of extreme situation ads from the original study noted in Made to Stick:
“The extreme situation template represents situations that are unrealistic in order to enhance the prominence of key attributes of a product or service.”
In other words, the features are turned up to “11,” often to the point of being absurd or ridiculous.
Here’s a great example from the glory days of arcades in the '90s:
(Mortal Kombat, “So Real It Hurts”)
Back during this era of gaming, graphics and realism were a huge selling point for gamers looking to get the most action and excitement out of their precious tokens.
This ad hypes both the good times and realism behind the game it’s advertising without actually showing off the game itself.
Extreme situation ads work well for products such as video games which operate in a world of make-believe, but what about something a little more low-key?
For example, let’s say you were tasked with advertising a frog exhibit at an aquarium to make it seem more extreme.
Tell that to the Vancouver Aquarium:
(Vancouver Aquarium, “If Frogs Go Extinct…”)
For example, an extreme example of attraction marketing could be relayed through the idea of doing business from a yacht or the comfort of a private island.
The idea here is that network marketing not only provides financial freedom but also something larger than life.
However, extreme situation ads don't necessarily need to reflect a total fantasy.
For example, your audience could find themselves with the desire to make money minus the nine-to-five, doing something they love (like gardening), which seems pretty extreme in and of itself, doesn't it?
Such ads are effective because they aren't making outlandish promises.
All products have consequences, plain and simple.
With an extreme consequences ad, you take one of two roads:
- You show off the positive implications that come with the use of your product (i.e.: consequences)
- You show off the negative implications of what happens when you don’t use your product (i.e.: inverted consequences)
Extreme consequence ads can take many shapes and forms.
They’re perhaps one of the most effective means of leveraging the ever-so-powerful aura of fear in advertising.
This is displayed brilliant in this example by Adidas, which brings to the light the potential consequences of not trusting your feet with their brand:
(Adidas, “Fake Hurts Real”)
Yet not all extreme consequences ads have to be gloom and doom.
Consider this example from Nintendo which suggests that their product is fun enough to kill you:
(Game Boy Color, “Don’t Forget to Eat”)
Here’s a humorous yet striking example from Durex (because honestly, how many ways can you really market condoms?) that’s simple, straightforward and highlights an unexpected “bundle of joy” as a potential consequence:
(Durex “More Control”)
Such ads are likewise the bread in butter of “warning” or activism campaigns which essentially thrive on the concept of consequences because of negative actions (or simply inaction):
(Greenpeace “An Inconvenient Truth”)
(Canadian Boating Council, “Don’t Drink and Boat”)
A more straightforward example for our space would be “transformation” or “before and after” style ads we always see in the world of weight loss:
Providing your audience with a crystal clear pictures of their potential results helps them visualize their success, ultimately putting a positive spin on your marketing.
These ads are arguably the most successful at making you stop, look and think.
Yet the ability to write a consequence-based ad relies on only one question: what happens if you do (or conversely, what happens if you don’t)?
We all have competition.
Whether it’s another business in our industry or simply an idea that we’re rallying again, the inherent conflict and controversy of calling out a competitor oftentimes leads to advertising gold.
Per the study in question, competition ads “portray situations in which the product is subjected to competition with another product or event from a different class.”
Why do these work?
Well, consider how most people think in black and white.
- Pepsi or Coke.
- Democrat or Republican.
- You’re either “with us” or “against us.”
You get the idea.
When you make an argument for one side, you’re inevitably arguing against the other.
Advertisers know this all too well and likewise use competition ads to stress their own strengths, highlight their competitors’ weaknesses and ultimately frame themselves as the “winner” in the eyes of their audience.
That being said, marketers who have the guts to run a competition ad must have a sense of tact.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with calling out your competition, but writing an ad that simply says, “Hey, the other guy sucks,” isn’t exactly a brilliant idea.
Remember those Apple’s “Mac versus PC” from the mid-2000’s?
(Apple, “Mac vs. PC”)
What made these ads so great wasn’t the idea of pitting Mac versus PC: the rivalry was already out in the open.
Mac simply positioned themselves as the trendy, “modern” computing solution versus the PC character who was seemingly aloof and out of touch (but still competent).
Remember the Pepsi Challenge?
Similar concept with a more in-your-face execution.
Pepsi fans don’t necessary think that Coke is undrinkable swill: they just feel that their preferred brand of cola has an edge on the competition.
Fast food companies infamously take shots at each other all the time, but note the playful tone of this Burger King ad:
Check out another tasteful example from Avon, providing a visual of how buyers can enjoy high-fashion make-up at a fraction of the price of their competitors:
Bringing up competing marketers or products in your space may seem taboo, but sometimes highlighting the weaknesses of others help emphasize your own strengths.
Calling out the competition doesn’t have to be a complete teardown or smear campaign: it simply means putting yourself in a different “class.”
Oftentimes our prospects feel like they have little or no stake in the advertising they’re constantly bombarded with.
A marketing email here, a commercial there, a pop-up around the corner.
Interactive experiments represent an out of the ordinary experience which makes your prospect a willing participant in your ad.
Trust me, you’ve seen these before: they were all the rage when magazine ads still reigned supreme.
Check out this relatively recent example in print from Smuckers:
These ads ask readers to do something, which is a subtle yet significant undertaking for marketers accustomed to simply talking at their prospects.
Interactive experiments don’t scream “buy now,” but rather work to pique the curiosity of those willing to participate with the ad itself.
The evolution of the web continues to create more opportunities to turn passive prospects into active participants such as in this example from Skittles:
For network marketers, interactive experiences are more than likely going to happen in the realms of social media or email.
Perhaps you could ask to share a personal anecdote or provide some sort of feedback and use their responses as part of your advertising in the future.
While these ads may seem like little more than novelties, they’re certainly a breath of fresh from traditional marketing messages.
Sometimes it’s not how a product gets us from Point A to Point B that’s remarkable, but rather the end result itself.
Dimensionality alteration play with our sense of perception.
In the words of the original study, these ads “manipulate the dimension of the product in relation to its environment.”
In many cases, the element of time is the easiest to manipulate as a marketer.
Long-term transformation blog post and videos are perfect strategies for relaying dimensional reality.
Whether in the financial freedom or weight loss niches, showing the “big picture” journey behind your product not only allows you to tell a story but show off the merits of what you're selling.
Although the trend of time lapse ads has somewhat cooled, they have an inherently viral nature as viewers are forced to pause and ponder the role that time plays in using a product.
In this example, the message perhaps trumps the product itself but the impression on the viewer is powerful nevertheless.
Such an ad is simple yet speaks volumes.
And that’s the thesis of these ads, really.
Despite the millions of ways to write an ad, these six templates offer a wealth of options that don’t require you to rack your brain.
Your next great ad is already out there
So now what?
These six templates spell great news for you as a network marketer.
You don’t have to fall prey to creative blocks, nor do you need to experience a grandiose epiphany to create awesome advertising.
Does relying on such templates mean that you’re “stealing” or taking the easy way out?
Besides, why would you try to reinvent the wheel when these templates are proven to work?
Why would you create more work for yourself?
Instead, why wouldn’t you take these templates and run with them, quickly amassing a body of ads that you can roll out quickly and with confidence?
Until next time,
Director of Content