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“Advertising isn’t a science its persuasion. And persuasion is an art.” Bill Bernbach, co-founder of DDB and creator of the legendary VW campaign

A planner asked me recently who Bill Bernbach was.
I said that “he invented modern advertising and the fact that you don’t know who he is should be regarded as a fireable offence”.


A planner asked me recently who Bill Bernbach was.
I said that “he invented advertising and the fact that you don’t know who he is should be a fireable offence”.
Of course this version of events isn’t quite right but along with David Ogilvy he certainly pioneered the discipline of creative persuasion – a form of salesmanship, yes salesmanship – that I am worried is being lost.
Few people in advertising really want to sell any more, least of all the creatives who used to be at the heart of the process.
Creatives have been progressively deskilled in the art of creative persuasion.
And we did it. Planners took away the role that creatives had in thinking about how a product or brand should be sold to consumers and left them to do the colouring in, or rather to dramatise other peoples’ selling ideas. Planning killed the selling instinct of the creative salespeople in advertising. Or maybe planners became the creative salespeople in advertising.
Or maybe they deskilled the creatives and didn’t properly fill their empty boots but instead minced around claiming to be the voice of the consumer or worse some kind of inspiration tool for creative teams.
So I am suggesting both a new role for planners and a new role for creatives. As you have come to expect its an extreme point of view designed to provoke you lot.
I think that planners (or half decent planners) are the natural airs to the legacy of Bernbach, Ogilvy and Abbott not the creatives. It is their job to devise a brand’s sales promise to the consumer and to prove the brands delivery against this promise. It is the planner’s role to be the salesperson. The planner is tasked with effectiveness.
This frees creatives up to present the promise and the proof in the most compelling way possible. The role that creativity plays is as the media multiplier that converts £X of ad spend into £Y of effect through attention, engagement, transference of meaning, memorability and desire to disseminate. In this world the creative is tasked with efficiency – getting more effect out of limited budget.
For all you delicate creative flowers out there this may sound like a mechanistic view of creativity but that is exactly the role that Juan Cabral, the Fallons creative on Sony Bravia is playing. Even though the paint on tower block ad is still in post production it has already generated far more conversations on and offline than the TV budget with ever deliver on air. That is the creative media multiplier at work. Let only hope that the planner has depth charged this work with a strong sales message.
So let’s embrace the new division of labour within the ad agency. Let’s here no more mumbling about creatives creating art not ads(being artful is their job) and lets stop planners hiding behind consumers or shooting the breeze with creatives rather than working.
Planners sell, creatives multiply.

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