A-class lessons from C-level experts

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KEEP current, be curious, and never stop listening. These are `a few true golden rules' that G. Steven Dapper, founder and chairman of Hawkeye Worldwide Communications, reveals in `The Art of Advertising.' The slim volume is a part of `CEO Speak' series from Vision Books ( , bringing together `lessons from business leaders.' The `real experts' chosen for giving `real world advice' belong to `C-level', which means they are the CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO or partner, so it pays to listen to what they say.

Begin, therefore, with `advertising at the speed of smart', as Jordan Zimmerman urges you towards. "If you don't know your client's business intimately, you are likely to focus on attributes that really aren't important to the consumer, often at the client's request," he cautions. `Five not-so-easy pieces to success' that Jordan lists are accountability, media savvy, unyielding commitment, discipline and creativity. "Clients won't stay for the wrong reasons," he warns.

Next is a chapter by Ernest W. Bromley on `breakthrough advertising' as a mix of science and art. The science is in copy testing and qualitative and quantitative research techniques, he explains. "The art is in the ideas. It's in being able to see something that others don't see and to develop creative ideas around it." When reviewing ideas, set aside your own tastes and put yourself in the consumer's shoes, advises Ernest, "because nine times out of 10 you aren't the target consumer anyway."

When do brands die? When there's no longer a use for them, answers Steven of Hawkeye. "The communication has become stilted, or has been untruthful, or the brand promise was fictitious. Consumers are a very smart group. They don't love people or brands that annoy them or bring them false hope," he elaborates.

The creative part is only 10 per cent of what advertising agencies do, says David Hadeler. "The rest of the time is spent learning, researching, understanding, and massaging information so that we can actually deliver a message that makes sense and produces results."

It may sound blunt, but David says clients get the advertising they deserve. Great clients, who end up getting great advertising, "invest knowledge, time, information, a willingness to work as a partner and an adequate budget to make it happen." The opposite the recipe for failure is to go ahead when `ill-informed and poorly budgeted'; an unfortunate exercise, much like trying to create the proverbial silk purse out of a sow's ear, rues David.

A common pitfall, according to Paul S. Allen, is that companies want to talk about and advertise things that are irrelevant to outside audiences. "For example, a client may want to advertise that it has this division and that division. Customers don't care." Paul also advises against the use of internal jargon and acronyms that mean nothing to potential customers, but only create `instant barriers.'

Advertising is something that interrupts someone's attention long enough to be able to sell them something, reminds Joe Grimaldi. "Fundamentally, you're imposing yourself - intruding upon someone's time and finding a way to connect with a passive mind in a very brief period to help inform or intrigue with something that has value to that person," explains Joe. The `art' part is in using the entertainment qualities to capture interest; and the `science' part is "in the ability to understand what you're going to do when you have those two or three seconds of attention."

Mike Toth sees the future of advertising as `merging with entertainment,' and also going `under the radar' to do street advertising and `infiltrate' some of the `really cool groups.' Ron Berger describes how advertising works as a blend of common sense and clarity. Stan Richards helps assess `good creative,' asking `Are we delivering $10 worth of value to the client for every dollar he spends?' And Christopher Santry writes about combining branding and direct marketing to create `active branding.'

A-class read!


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 27, 2005)
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