Advertising and a few good articles.

I have been contemplating my next writing topic, and the vast subject of advertising and marketing immediately comes to mind. While I have expressed my opinions through social media posts and tweets, I have yet to delve into writing a comprehensive article on the matter. This article, though inspired, only scratches the surface of my thoughts. After spending weeks reading different perspectives from experts and industry leaders, I have begun to form my own opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the advertising and marketing industry.

Phillip J. Clayton
8 min readNov 15, 2021
There are better ways to make career — A banner for a job conference with a man bend over simulating ass kissing.
The Ass-Kisser Project

In the realm of Advertising and Marketing, there are certain perspectives that are widely accepted and contribute to potential issues. These issues primarily stem from client management and content creation processes. From my own observations, it seems that the creative aspects of advertising have been overshadowed or even forgotten, as there is now a strong emphasis on marketing alone. However, marketing on its own can lack excitement without the support of creative elements. While targeting a specific audience effectively may not require much effort to make sales, there is something truly remarkable about a bold and imaginative approach that enhances the value of marketing. When advertising resurfaces as an essential counterpart to the overall strategy, the project becomes more appealing, memorable, and impactful.

Amidst the collaboration of planners, accountants, and clients, the creative process is being stifled. The responsibility falls not only on managers, but also on creative professionals who may not fully grasp the significance of creativity in business or fail to advocate for creative processes. It is not necessary for every creative professional to excel in business acumen, but it is crucial to recognize the role of creativity in business and the importance of maintaining emotional and expressive advertising.

Copywriters, artists, and designers are frequently underappreciated, despite being the driving force once the objective is comprehended. Their role entails discovering methods to captivate a specific audience and construct concise yet informative awareness.

“Fishing the way fish want to be caught Simply put, if you don’t speak to your customers the way they want to be spoken to — at a particular time, about a particular product, in a particular medium — you will not succeed. No matter how great your media buy.”Martin Bihl

Content creation for most is nothing short of a grizzly bear catching salmon. They stand there and wait for the fish to swim upstream — the grizzly doesn’t need a strategy for catching the salmon, or a new one anyway. It is wired in their DNA to go to the easiest point to catch their meal. Much like the hungry grizzly, advertising has devolved into latching on to social media trends — the creative sensibilities are often lost in lieu of fleeting relevance. Online ads reflect social media, not advertising in its creative sensibilities and so content creation has become an effortless wading in ankle-deep waters for the next naive fish.

Not all online ads require a copywriter. It is unfortunate that a significant portion of online advertising and marketing is centered around flooding timelines with subpar, uninteresting, and generic content, disregarding the fundamental principles that remain relevant. Even in the realm of digital marketing, it is crucial to incorporate traditional marketing principles. Although the tools and platforms may differ, the objective remains the same: to create awareness and captivate customers by highlighting the advantages. The most successful digital marketers understand this and employ effective advertising strategies.

Effective advertising commences with a compelling copy, serving as the guiding principle for the entire campaign. It encapsulates a narrative woven through imaginative writing, a product of meticulous analysis. This message can be conveyed through various mediums, be it visual, auditory, or written. However, what often occurs in numerous online advertisements is an overwhelming abundance of content, where disparate elements are haphazardly combined. Although certain aspects may possess visual allure, the overall substance is lacking.

Based on my past experience, the request often received is to create advertisements for individuals, brands, or products. However, due to the absence of a comprehensive advertising strategy in digital and social media marketing, these requests often result in a simplistic graphic that is replicated across all platforms and referred to as a ‘campaign’. By utilizing appropriate keywords and allocating advertising budget, this approach becomes akin to distributing flyers to every household in the city. The primary objective is to capture attention (views), but I perceive this as a superficial approach.

Currently, advertising appears to prioritize visually captivating narratives over clever strategies aimed at raising awareness. Although there are still a few commendable advertisements, the landscape has changed significantly. These exceptional ones are few and far between, possibly becoming the new standard. They follow a familiar pattern — introducing music, showcasing talented individuals, and incorporating persuasive speeches. While many advertisers emphasize the importance of storytelling and leveraging insights, their commercials often resemble those of their competitors, with only minor discrepancies. Consequently, I frequently find myself perplexed about the intended message and purpose of the advertisement.

“Christmas ads are season’s greetings with no definitive or creative product heroes. Pharmaceutical ads are mostly funerals, insurance in the majority, are accountants trying to be funny…” The tweet that inspired this article.

A presentation by Dave Trott on advertising history, narrated through 25 commercials, serves as the perfect illustration to emphasize my point.

Dave Trott provides insight into what advertising does not encompass — it does not involve pricing, distribution, or training sales staff. It is separate from manufacturing, packaging, quality control, PR, investor relations, employee morale, or staff turnover. Fortunately, Dave also defined advertising as the voice, or embodiment of marketing. It revolves around ideas, and good ideas shock and scare you, making you initially believe that you cannot execute them successfully. Analytical thinking questions whether we can successfully execute these frightening and astonishing concepts, and it transforms into a quest to discover methods to accomplish them. Advertising also emphasizes the essence of the product and the reasons behind its greatness, which ignites imaginative communication.

The 2021 Christmas commercial from John Lewis has just been unveiled, known for its narrative approach to holiday advertisements. After watching the commercial titled ‘Unexpected Guest,’ I found it to be more of a heartwarming story rather than a typical advertisement. The message seemed to focus more on seasonal greetings with a touch of solemnity rather than trying to create hype. Although I appreciate the brand’s decision not to aggressively promote products, I didn’t feel the urge to make a purchase.

The advertisement seemed somewhat ordinary and lacked the emotional impact it was aiming for. John Lewis’s previous commercials have been known to evoke tears. This year’s ad, however, did not focus on specific product attributes. Instead, it portrayed a brief tale of a boy and his fleeting bond with a kind alien. It appears that the main goal was to capture the essence of Christmas rather than promote a particular product. Nevertheless, viewers unfamiliar with John Lewis might find themselves questioning the ad’s message.

However, I perceive it merely as a pleasant narrative with a touch of melancholy. It found itself caught between an enchanting fable and a clichéd compilation of all the expected components for a typical Christmas advertisement. Effective advertising is straightforward and enjoyable, yet this commercial attempted to rival instead of acquainting us with something new or evoking the familiar affection we have for John Lewis.

The primary objective of advertising is to generate curiosity and establish brand recognition. Marketing, on the other hand, formulates comprehensive strategies to communicate sales tactics. A well-crafted copy is essential in conveying the message effectively through advertising. Instead of striving to outshine the best narrative, it is important to acknowledge that sometimes a complex story may not resonate with the audience. Opting for a simpler approach is often a favorable choice, although it does not necessarily guarantee safety.

“Getting it right is marketing’s job, getting heard is advertising’s job.”

— Dave Trott

I am primarily focusing on critiquing the thinking behind it rather than criticizing the individuals involved. My main concern lies in the potential for improvement in these advertisements. However, issues arise when we develop unrealistic expectations for certain functionalities.

“The first rule of production is to have an idea worth producing. The second rule of production is to always enforce the first.” — Lee Clow’s Beard

Begin by gaining a clear comprehension of the disparity between media buys or ad spots and advertising. The capability to purchase spots is provided by client management, but if your sole objective is to acquire the appropriate spaces, then the significance of creative communication becomes obsolete. Marketing is responsible for securing the spaces and formulating comprehensive strategies, whereas advertising is the driving force that entices individuals to develop an interest in the offer.

“Unless you begin with an interesting problem, it is unlikely you will end up with an interesting solution” — Bob Gill, artist, designer, teacher, writer, provocateur 1931–2021

I have consistently highlighted the absence of brand design and development perspectives in advertising, particularly in today’s industry. Understanding a brand’s identity and business purpose is crucial for grasping the company’s vision and intent, leading to improved copywriting. This gap in knowledge gave rise to “branding agencies”, many of which prioritize visual elements. While they emphasize logo design, storytelling, and visual identity, it is unclear how these aspects can be effective without a solid business strategy to address specific challenges.

“Agencies must re-establish themselves on the strategic playing field and add an upgraded ‘strategic brand and performance consulting’ capability to the front end of their resource offerings.”The Agency Review

Upon entering a market segment, you are automatically viewed as competition. All others in the same space are your rivals, particularly if you hold a dominant position. Instead of engaging in direct competition, focus on setting yourself apart by offering an innovative solution. While the product may still serve its purpose of cleaning, does it do so in a unique way? As a wise friend once mentioned, strive to differentiate yourself — “You can’t wrap a turd in Christmas paper and call it a good gift.” — This is how I think about brand design, advertising, marketing and art and design as a whole.

“The client knows what they want. The agency knows what they need. It’s the account handler’s job to get the client to want what they need.” Risk: “If you’re a market leader this is not a problem, if you’re not it’s a waste of money.”Dave Trott

“So what’s the problem? Change. Because unlike most tools, the two components that make up process — assets and goals — are constantly shifting at advertising agencies.”Martin Bihl

It is essential to comprehend the roles of Advertising, Marketing, Brand, and the company, as well as identifying the appropriate team members for each area to ensure a cohesive process aligned with common objectives. Establishing a structured client engagement process and a flexible framework capable of addressing various challenges while maintaining consistency will enhance client management and outcomes, fostering trust.

“If a client pays you enough and you are desperate enough — they can have you do the most horrible, ineffective advertising, and you’ll smile in their faces while doing it. That’s the ugly reality. Most of us are not brave enough to push back — our real prove this. That’s real.” — A Tweet thread from Derek Walker

I have a deep affection for advertising, brands, and marketing. My critiques are primarily based on personal observations. I genuinely admire the efforts made to stand out and be distinctive. Interestingly, I belong to a minority who never skip ads or mute the TV. I find value in witnessing both the commendable and the flawed aspects of advertisements.

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Phillip J. Clayton

Brand consultant | Strategic advisor | International brand & marketing design judge: pac-awards.com | Writer | Creative director