What is the one, powerful tool that is essential to developing lasting advertising ideas? The answer: Strategy. Without strategy, it's virtually impossible to connect your brand to your target audience, and connecting brands is what great advertising is all about!

In episode two of our study of The Anatomy of an Ad, Nathan Spell continues guiding us on our journey through the definition of strategy, what separates good strategy from bad strategy, and some of the strategies behind famous ad campaigns.

Podcast Transcript

Have you ever wanted to know how brands develop powerful advertising ideas? The answer in the word Strategy Strategy forms the basis of all great Advertising, because without an airtight strategy, it's impossible for your brand to reliably connect to your target market. And connecting brands to people is exactly what all great Advertising most do. The word Strategy can seem daunting. What exactly is strategy and how does it work well in today's Part to Episode of our series in The Anatomy of an Ad, we'll answer those questions and more. So join us as we dive into what may be the most important aspect of all Advertising. We'll look at what separates good strategy from bad strategy, how strategic insights help inspire ideas and talk through some of the strategies behind famous ad campaigns.

So let's get start Advertising. We're all competing for attention. Advertising strategy is, is all about finding like what's the human insight hidden in plain sight. That's where you find the insight of what is the problem is at the core of that piece of Advertising. Hey Nathan. So we are back again with part two of Anatomy, have an ad this time focusing on Strategy again in the same vein as the first episode, I kind of want to go over to Strategy as if I'm nude to the entire concept.

(1m 26s):
So let's just jump in and talk about what exactly is Strategy. Strategy is loosely defined as an approach that you take to win. And the reason that it's described as an overall approach is to compare Strategy to something like a tactic or even a point by point plan Strategy, especially when it comes to Advertising is more of an informed opinion on how to win. So strategists will basically make sense of raw data to develop an angle of approach in light of that data. That means that you can't really come up with Strategy using the template. If you Google Strategy templates, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of examples of Strategy, kind of fill in the blank, almost like Madlibs.

(2m 14s):
But the reality is that's not really what we're talking about and you could fill in the blank and call it Strategy, but that's not really this sort of powerful idea generating tool that Strategy can. And should it be, So what role does Strategy play in Advertising, Advertising? We're all competing for attention and strategy is ultimately about defining our best available guests at how to get the kind of attention that we want. So the strategy has to take into account everything that we know about the audience, about the brand, but the product. And even more importantly about the context the strategists might make use of all of the information out there and the culture as well.

(2m 58s):
That means that strategists will often make decisions in light of trends, but you know, something to keep in mind is that a trend is like the opposite of a Strategy by definition, because trends are not planned or thought through it at all. They sort of come about almost on their own and, you know, a strategy like our brand is going to be a trendy brand. That's a little bit like saying as a person, my financial plan is to win the lottery because ultimately you're not in control of how the trends will change. I guess more specifically, if you try to piggyback off of one trend in particular, that's not necessarily the best bet. Whereas, you know, as Strategy to find some sort of a guiding principle about how to navigate society as it changes and as trends change, that's a little bit more of the sort of inclusive thought full Strategy that we, that we're looking for when it comes to advertising.

(3m 53s):
Are there, would you say that there are common features that translate beyond Advertising Strategy or is every type of strategy different? So there are Definitely common features. There's sometimes lines of demarcation about Strategy. Like you have your business strategy, you have your marketing strategy, you have your advertising strategy and maybe you have a thousand other, you know, where is that you can put in front of Strategy. But the thing that kind of wraps them all up is, is summarized in a great book by Richard <inaudible> is called a good strategy. Bad strategy in the book is about the difference between What true Strategy his that's, what he means by a good strategy. It's not so much like your strategy worked, your share that you didn't, that was good.

(4m 37s):
That was bad. It's more like this was truly strategic. And this was something that we call Strategy that was never Strategy in the first place. A good strategy in that sense has three features. It has a diagnosis of the challenge that we're facing. It has some sort of a guiding policy, or in other words, to know the overall approach that we're going to take in facing that challenge. And then finally it codifies a set of coherent action steps to take the number one feature of a strategy is the diagnosis. It's the defining stage where you clearly come up with the problem or problems to solve that.

(5m 17s):
I think so many strategies don't get right. And that's what is argued in the book. If you ever have someone that posits a Strategy where they've never even laid out the problem with the first place, you know, that you're not dealing with a good strategy and in terms of Advertising, how that plays out is not only do we want to know all of the problems that relate to our brand or our business, but also there's an important moment when you're trying to come up with a human approach, right? And that, that involves finding the core conflict inherent in the product itself or the category itself, or even in the consumer that we're because it's only by sort of mining those difficulties, those problems or the tension that's inherent in those key areas that you're going to find anything interesting.

(6m 8s):
It's like drama, that conflict that we're looking for is its sort of built on this, this problem search. So Advertising Strategy is, is all about finding like what's the human insight. That's going to make sense of all of this data that we started with and every great brief, every great creative like kickoff starts with some sort of an insight, some sort of strategic re-imagining of the data and, and to get there, you really are trying to almost remove everything that is not that because the best strategies are ultimately really clear. They're really simple. And partly because of that, there really powerful insight in that sense is truth.

(6m 48s):
But it's an unspoken truth and strategists are all looking for that unspoken, but instantly recognizable truth. Something that's maybe never been said, but always been sort of, there is a really great quote by bill Bernbach. Who's one of the giants of Advertising and he says at the heart of an effective creative philosophy is the belief that nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature. And he goes on. But I think the point there is really what we're talking about. The thing that brings all Strategy together is the need to find problems. But the thing that also differentiates Advertising strategy is that those problems are ultimately about the human at The, at the core that the person that you're trying to reach.

(7m 36s):
So you've mentioned insight a few times. How do you find that insight? I used to create Strategy Where the process of what's called segmentation comes in. So at the beginning you have all of this data and you sort of, you could get lost in it. You have a lot of customers that have a lot of different behaviors, a lot of different data points and, and figuring out how your customers behave. It's really important and really useful to sort of set some boundaries to define segments, sort of almost like archetypes within all of this, you know, plethora of information. So the way that that starts is usually by defining, you know, one of the things that we're most interested in as we start to sort of divide these customers up from an advertising perspective, that's usually kind of trying to get inside their head, but Allston sat there life and understand what are they really like?

(8m 31s):
What are their life goals? What do they do in light of those goals? How do they behave? Does it contradict itself? Like do, do they have a goal, but behave differently? What sorts of things do they keep in mind when they're making decisions and do their decisions that reflect that those seem a little big picture, but really that's kind of the point. And you know, there's lot of details about their age and their, their gender or their, their buying habits that are also important, but really defining who they are at a psychological level is also really important. All that being said, you end up with these sort of what's called sometimes personas or avatars, which are substitutes really, because I can't write an ad for a million strangers, but I can think about one person that I've come to understand.

(9m 23s):
And so they sort of aggregates a bunch of, of what would otherwise be really, really difficult. A lot of moving targets into something that we can shoot for and you know, they're not perfect, but they're useful because they help us prioritize. Like what sort of customers do we want more of? What sort of customers exists? What sort of customers don't exist? Could we even create those customers'? Is there a potential opportunity there? And in digging into those personas that you'd start to develop through the process of looking at the data and making the segments you sort of start to see. And especially if you start talking to real people, which is always the goal, you start to see that there's something underneath the surface and that's where the insight is going to lay.

(10m 7s):
It's going to be the underbelly. That is going to be the why behind the what. And when you identify that, why that's often hidden in plain sight, that's where you find the insight. One way of thinking of insight is it's a metaphor. Obviously we see metaphors in literature, we see metaphors in an art all the time, something close to that would be incentive comedy, right? The sort of taboo that comes out whenever a new connection on stage, the reaction is laughter and a smile. But what most people don't realize is that laughter in that smile is partly a fear response. 'cause it's the unspoken thing that we weren't, we weren't supposed to reveal that we were thinking on being made manifest.

(10m 52s):
So in that sense, the end of the true truest insights are impactful because they're a little scary, especially if you're a brand, because usually what it means is it's the truth is not necessarily something that is in your control and that's, what's, that's, what's scary about it. So for example, you know, gotten milk, the insight behind that campaign is that people are forgetful about their milk. I mean, that's not something that you want, you would think it's counterintuitive. You think if I am trying to get more people to drink milk, I don't want them to think about how forgetful they are about, I don't want them to think about how easy it is to forget. But the flip side of that is think about how terrible it is whenever you really want milk.

(11m 34s):
It's the only thing is the only thing that you need, right? And that moment and you're out because you forgot to check. That's an insight. So I think that's a really long and winding answer. But the point is that only by really understanding the people that you're trying to reach to that Advertising created gut milk. Can you give us an example of a finished Strategy? Is it, Is it simply this statement of the insight and the persona or So I finished Strategy can look, it can look a few different ways depending on who you're working with while it's true, that strategy is not something that you can simply fill in a template at the same time. Strategists will often frame the communication of the strategy and a few kind of common frameworks.

(12m 18s):
So you might see some strategists use called get to buy. And in that case, it's, you know, get the persona to do a certain behavior by the demonstration or the promise that the brain is going to show. So in the case of like the got milk thing that we were just saying, it's like, get forgetful would be milk buyers to think of milk first when they go to the grocery store by demonstrating that whenever you're really out of milk, it's the worst another framework is, is for, and only because, and that is for the cyber person, basically all of these are doing the same thing though. Another good one is show that X is Y I like that one, which I found through a strategist who everyone should check out named Mark Pollard.

(13m 6s):
He's got a great book called Strategy is your words and a good website for anyone that's interested and reading about Strategy, especially Advertising Strategy. But the cool thing about show that Xs, why is that it gets right down to the, the metaphor, you know, show that in the case of a game where it can stick, we've got milk. And that showed that milk is not just an essential it's, it's something else. Right? So I don't know exactly what the word would be in this case, but it might be something like milk is not just a last ditch kind of thing. You, you remember at the last minute, it's like top of the grocery list, all that being said, the Strategy usually comes about not just by saying, okay, here's the insight. Here's the persona.

(13m 46s):
It's a little bit more like making that lateral thought through investigating that insight, if that makes sense. So it's the process of converting and flipping The, maybe the thing that you thought was obvious that is not true of a good example of this actually of how a finished Strategy can evoke. Like the whole campaign is COVID zero. This is one of, I think my favorite pieces of Advertising that I've ever seen, hopefully everyone is familiar with the campaign. It's the taste of infringement campaign were the original Coke executives, supposedly in the Ad, they are getting together real lawyers and the ads. And they're pitching to the lawyers that this Coke zero that's in front of them.

(14m 31s):
It tastes a lot like Coke. And the lawyers are like, yes, I agree. It does. It does take the taste remarkably like Coke. And then the Coke zero brand executives go on to ask the lawyers, if they had any grounds to Sue Coke for tastes infringement. The whole joke at the end, there is that Coke is like somehow suing itself. And it, it it's great. It plays really well. But if we try to deconstruct the Strategy, like what is the problem at the core of that piece of Advertising? Well, the brand's problem is how do you market a sugar-free Coca-Cola to young men, which was the target for the most part who really don't want to be associated with diet Coke, diet Coke, its sort of been in their minds associated with maybe older people, maybe more predominantly a female target.

(15m 22s):
And you know, if you think about a young guy at the time, at least the idea of going on a diet, it was not cool. So how do you position a diet Coca-Cola that is not called the diet Coca-Cola and then there's the other problem, which is building that tension within the product itself. So Coke, zero, unlike diet Coke, it tastes so much like regular Coke that the fans itself might mistake Coke, zero for the original, like that is the conflict that's being played with him. And at that point, the insight is Coke. Zero is stealing from Coke. Like this is what's going on. This is theft. The target market might not mind cutting calories, but what they don't want is to be associated with a diet beverage.

(16m 4s):
So ultimately that's how you get to something where tastes infringement Coke. Zero is stealing from Coca Cola. It ties back this idea of like, okay, this isn't a diet Coke. This is something that's fun and cool. And it's associated more with Coca-Cola as a brand, even though it is a low calorie beverage. So that's kind of an example of like a really sketchy kind of view of how Strategy might tie in to a real life campaign. All right. So you've brought up tension, conflict and taboo, which are generally negative words. So why are these negative words so important to Strategy wouldn't negativity and Advertising associate negative emotions with the brand?

(16m 46s):
Yeah, that's a good question. I don't think any brand goes out asking for people to create What I shouldn't say. Every brand doesn't want this because I'm sure there are some out there who have no scruples, but most brands do not want to simply go out and target with negative ads. You know? And so there is some times there's some times an interesting challenge because a strategy is a writer will be presenting something like a conflict to a brand. And ultimately the reasoning is that conflict is what sells now. What that doesn't mean is that the brand should ever be associated with the conflict.

(17m 26s):
But you know, you're, you're acting as a salesman in a sense as a, as an ad maker, but you're trying to sell your, trying to sell one on one, but to the, to the masses. And as we know, there's just so much out there that you really want to be the best that you can be out there that you want to be the most interesting and the most intriguing, the most engaging person that are the Ad that people on the other end actually will seek out. They, if people are, are Googling to find your ads, then you know that you've you've done well. I mean, the fact is that anyone can go out and list the positives, the features and the solutions, but what it actually grabs attention is the tension that is really made by opening these, these new loops.

(18m 15s):
So to speak, you know, the, the opening, The, the thought process to go to the challenges of the problems and the tension. So the way I think about this, and I've heard it described as why do we love the villains so much? I mean, why did we love scar in the lion King or Darth Vader and star Wars? Why is Darth Vader endlessly cooler than Luke? And why is it even captain hook? They eventually had to give him the movie title because he was the most interesting character, even with Robin Williams up there. So the point is that the villains are, they're basically drama in Carnot and that's what people like.

(18m 59s):
We like the explosions are gonna put us on the edge of our seat. It's it's one of the red light saber comes on the verge of like, who does faders here? All that being said, this is how we sort of, we, we have to bring in that kernel of drama to have an Ad that is engaging at all. It isn't itself the Strategy. So like I said earlier, you don't want to make your brand, the conflict. You don't want your brand to be identified with the villain ever. So the one way that you can do that is Allstate's always there for you to protect you from all of the crazy stuff that is out there, that's the solution, but what if you personify the problem and that's where the, the mayhem character really succeeds is in a really fun and engaging way.

(19m 44s):
It demonstrates the conflict at the heart of insurance, which is the mayhem that happens whenever you're, whenever you're least expecting it. So thinking as you go into the Strategy, you were into the later parts of creating an Ad as your trying to stay on the strategy, which you're always trying to do is find that human insight that's built on the sort of inherent tension, the inherent mess, the chaos that's in the, at the core of whatever you're dealing with. And that doesn't mean that you can't also demonstrate the features of the benefits and the solutions, but it has to come from the tension. It can't be that you can't lead with the solution.

(20m 25s):
You have to lead with the conflict. All right. So what ultimately determines is Strategy, success or failure. And the biggest test of a strategy is how well does the Strategy translate to really good work? So does it give creatives enough stimulation to build really powerful extensible concepts top of it? Does it hog all the ideas, one example of a strategy that does it would be if the Strategy like the strategist behind the Coke, zero campaign had written the taste infringement. That's, that's not a strategy that's taking the idea itself. And the concept, the strategy is, is earlier on in the process and ultimately the best ideas come about when Strategy doesn't try to go too far.

(21m 10s):
It simply gets to the core conflict and expresses like the insight and the target in a way that allows creatives to do that work. In other words, to the strategy that gives you an overall approach that allows for ads to be built on with enough guidance, but also enough of a leash because otherwise one way or the other, you know, we want enough constraint and, and the freedom. One example, again, we were talking about the Allstate ads earlier, and those ads started out as a campaign, but it's truly been built into a sort of a platform, Luke Sullivan. Who's another great writer On copywriting. He's got a great book called, Hey, Whipple, squeeze this.

(21m 51s):
He has a presentation that it was discussing this idea of tension and conflict. One of the things that he was discussing is also the idea of ads that can be built into a platform. And I think that that's where Strategy really can, can build into something more than just the campaign. It's whenever the strategy allows you to almost like create a universe with its own rules, but in order for that to happen, you have to have enough of an insight up front with enough freedom for creatives to create on the backend. But they all stayed example that I was, I was going to say as a platform, you know, that really is an example where it's, it's not just this one strategy or this one execution of this one campaign, but it's turned into sort of multiple iterations that have all been built around this sort of set of rules that they created upfront.

(22m 38s):
So truly that the success of the strategy is the success of the day Work. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions, or ideas for future segments. If you would like more info on Ad Results Media and what we do, please visit us online at Ad Results. Media dot com. This podcast is an Ad Results, Media production.