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June 26, 2010
Paging J.J. Abrams! We're Stuck Between Parallel Ad Universes
Something doesn’t feel right in the ad world. I couldn’t put my finger on it until the light bulb went off. There on my TV appeared two commercials back-to-back that reveal how our ad industry is stuck between two parallel ad universes. 

Jack Link’s Messin’ With Sasquatch - Campfire


USPS Business Seminar 



Jack Link’s Messin’ with Sasquatch - Campfire dials up the humor. Sasquatch is invited to sit around the campfire only to land on a whoopee cushion. Now mad, he farts into the fire and sets it blazing. In USPS Business Seminar, it’s a straight delivery of business benefits for a simpler way to ship, and it’s devoid of any humor or emotion. 


I’m not saying one spot is better than the other. That would be taking the easy way out. What I am saying is we have two different approaches to making ads, and they come from two different ad universes.


Results Universe


It’s all about results. Creativity? Branding? Nobody cares in the Results Universe. Whatever works works. It doesn’t matter if it’s a print ad, a direct mailing, or a broadcast commercial. The message is a litany of benefits and strong calls to action. Design principles like hierarchy, proximity, and symmetry are set aside.


Some call it direct response. I disagree. I’ve seen some beautiful direct response in every medium that delivers benefits and drives people into action.


USPS Business Seminar made me feel like I was in an actual business seminar and staged every bit like a town hall meeting. If that was the intent, mission accomplished. Still, it was over-the-top (the clapping at the end?). None of the humor of past spots was present.


That’s how it goes in the Results Universe. Clients want to promote their message, and you deliver in a way that delivers the desired response. You live and die by the numbers.


Culture Universe


It’s all about the brand. Results matter, but it takes time to build a brand. You have to understand the culture to create advertising that resonates. It doesn’t matter if it’a print ad, a direct mailing, or a broadcast commercial. The message is about one thing. Simplicity is the goal. Design principles are strictly followed.


Some call it brand advertising. I disagree. I think it’s about creating advertising that stands out from the noise yet is warmly received by the culture. It’s real, authentic.  


That seemed to be the goal with the Jack Link’s Messin’ with Sasquatch - Campfire spot. Let’s do something unexpected and give them a couple of surprises they can relate to.


That’s how it goes in the Culture Universe. Clients want to promote their message, and we sell them that to stand out, to be remembered. You have to relate the product to the culture and the target audience. The "Mad Men" and “Carousel” pitch still gives you goose bumps.


One universe


Can’t we unite our parallel ad universes into one? Think about it. Marketing to one is the future, and the future is now. Make the ad about one thing -- results. Accept measurability and accountability as the new normal.


Now, let’s not forget our humanity. Let’s shoot for moving people emotionally because that’s what touches people. Strive for simplicity and relevancy to stand out and get noticedLet’s come to our design senses and take pride in what we create.


Who’s with me?

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Mike Ogden is a digital/senior writer based in Kansas City. Ad agency stops have enabled him to create for major brands like American Century, Capital One, Sprint, and USAA. Seasoned and sharp with a touch of gray, Ogden, aka Og, is known for creating and championing ideas. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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