Villing & Company

Strategic & memorable: Creativity’s missing ingredients

Soon the Super Bowl will be here and we will be feasting on a bounty of TV commercials, served with a side of football.  These commercials will be discussed and celebrated as the pinnacle of marketing creativity.  But are they really?  To be sure, many will be clever and humorous.  But my standards for creativity are likely different than those of the average consumer.  I have always believed truly creative marketing requires a unique blend of memorability and strategy.

The 1950s and 60s were considered the golden age of advertising and one of that era’s most iconic figures was William “Bill” Bernbach of the prominent Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) agency. Bernbach famously said. “You are not right if in your ad you stand a man on his head just to get attention. You are right if you have him on his head to show how your product keeps things from falling out of his pockets.”

Being clever for the sake of being clever is nothing more than self-indulgence. Like the man standing on his head, it may get attention, but what does it accomplish?  Not much in terms of marketing value or impact. 

By contrast, let’s consider some ads in various media that do combine a clear strategic objective with memorability. For starters, here is a billboard for the YMCA:


Is this billboard memorable? Absolutely. Is there any doubt about the call to action? None whatsoever.

Full disclosure, McDonald’s is a client of Villing & Company, but we had absolutely nothing to do with this powerful print ad that effectively utilizes an “exaggerated graphic” to demonstrate where its signature French fries come from.


And this billboard for Lowe’s.  Again, a powerful visual image and an equally compelling, if unstated call to action.


And from the world of TV, a beautifully memorable spot for the iPhone – shot of course on an iPhone.


On more than one occasion, I have lamented the commoditization of creativity.  Indeed, I do believe the selling power of great, strategically-driven creativity in advertising has been marginalized in recent years.  In its place, we have either clever-for-clever’s sake advertising or acceptance of the ordinary, uninspired and uninspiring.  We might do well to remember another great quote from Bill Bernbach:

“An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all.”

Filed Under: marketing, branding

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