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“I like it!”

May 20, 2011

Who would have thought that the phrase “I like it!” could be the most dangerous words in advertising? Well, according to Phil Johnson who wrote this article, indeed those words are dangerous! Why? Because an instantaneous approval of a big idea from one person in power (such as a creative director), is not an accurate way to measure the success of an idea. Many big ideas start out this way and later flop because they were not properly analyzed. Here’s what he suggests to make sure a good idea can succeed:

There has got to be the element of surprise that shakes up your thinking, whether it’s an ad or a digital experience. The worst is when the work reminds you of another campaign you’ve seen somewhere. The more imitative the idea, the less power it has to connect.

Look out for the lazy and the obvious. Who cares about originality if it lands on your brain like a brick? Do you really need an agency to tell that your product is like ____ on steroids? The same goes for weak analogies: “It’s like taking a shower, but without all the work.” Still, there must be a pretty good market for those ideas because you see a lot of them, and someone must have said, “I like it!” (Sometimes people confuse reaching the lowest common denominator with being obvious. Great work often draws upon simple ideas in sophisticated ways, or unites seemingly unrelated ideas with new connections.)

The agency should disappear. You only see the client’s product and their world, not the clever people who made the work. Like a good movie, you’re not thinking about the actors, you’re absorbed in the story.

I want to detect a human connection. If I respond to the idea, the offer, or whatever it may be I’m experiencing, I want to know there are some real people involved and that I’m not looking at some conglomerate’s bureaucratic interpretation of how people think and act. I also want to know that the people who are trying to sell me something have thought through the value proposition in the same ways as an intelligent consumer.

Great work finds some shared commonality of knowledge or experience that we can all relate to. Whether we’re talking babies, beer or automobiles — not to mention pharmaceuticals and microchips — there should be some element of the work that makes sense to all of us and leads us to a common conclusion.

There should always be insight into the inner life of the audience. Putting a kid on a skateboard doesn’t mean that you understand a thing about her world. Good creative always breaks through the stereotypes and the surface attributes to some original knowledge. If you can’t see beyond the surface, that’s because there’s probably nothing there.”

 Some great insights! Enjoy!


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