Advertitis: The virulent virus within every creative review process
As marketers, we should be aware of advertitis as we incubate our ideas, protect them through the early stages of life and watch them with pride as they realize their full potential.
It’s new. It’s improved. It’s longer-lasting. It’s only available for a limited time. And, of course, if you mention the ad to someone, you’ll get 10 percent off something you never wanted.
Advertising, more often than not, is a confusing mix of messages and claims with little thought given to importance. Paralysis occurs from the headline down, with subheads, footnotes and taglines grappling for readers' attention. We're constantly juggling information overload. Place your hand over any given logo, and you’d be hard-pushed to guess the brand.
Perplexing though it may be, more often than not, the published communication didn’t start out this way. To understand the reason why, you have to go back to the moment the creative tissue -- the common term for the initial art director's sketch -- was conceived.
Creative tissue, drawn out for the first time, is exciting because it has infinite potential to grow into a powerful piece of communication. However, as the creative tissue goes through rounds and rounds of reviews and debate, opinions and posturing, its integrity is inevitably eroded. Every well-intended compliment prods, rips and tears the delicate structure. Many times, defense mechanisms, compromised positions, barter and negotiation are all part of the creative evaluation. Rather ironically, this is the detail that goes into saying nothing.
From an analogous perspective, the situation experienced by the creative tissue can be equated to the gradual inflammation of extremely delicate biological tissue. The suffix "-itis," by its very definition, means inflammation. So, what could be a more appropriate term for this marketing anomaly than "advertitis"?
Advertitis can be defined as the inflammation of the creative tissue, which over time swells, losing its integrity and purpose, due to external forces. Instead of simplicity, there's toxicity. In place of compelling, you have swelling.
The trigger for this inflammatory process in the creative tissue is manyfold. Initially, it's because a "best practice" process is not followed routinely, and there is a lack of compliance and/or poor use of tools available to help guide and review the creative work.
Creative Preventative Medicine
Just as many diseases and conditions are treatable, the same is true of advertitis. An effective diagnostic tool is creative criteria. A simple, easy-to-follow set of rules helps both agency professionals and clients exclude personal preferences and instead focuses on tangible values and builds consensus around the most original thinking.
At Greater Than One, we use creative criteria -- similar to the items listed below -- at the initial tissue stage and through the many rounds of research and continuous deliberation that inevitably transpires.
Similar to biological tissue, which has the ability to continually self-renew and differentiate, creative tissue has the ability to do the same. Employing the creative tissue method promotes a fluid, organic thought process, while creative criteria allow agency teams and clients to get to the bigger ideas faster. And not for nothing, as it allows truly imaginative thinking to flourish.
To avoid advertitis, here are a few of the criteria I recommend adding to your creative review process:
• On-Strategy: The strategy is the rock you build on.
• Original: Look at what the competition is doing. Then be different.
• Ownable/Branded: If your concept is on-strategy and original, you will surely want customers to remember who it’s from. How many times has someone approached you to enthusiastically ask, "Did you see that great ad on TV last night?" Yet, when prompted for the brand, they fail to remember.
• Compelling: Insights are like gold dust. Sprinkle liberally.
• Quick: The life of your advertising message only lasts as long as it holds the customer's attention.
• Campaignable: Is it media-neutral? A good rule of thumb is that a big idea tends to get bigger.
• Memorable: Your imaginative, compelling idea should live deep in the synapses of your customers' brains long after they have seen it.
Advertitis is by no means a bona fide medical term. Yet, you may well recognize it from your own experiences. I’ve worked in both the consumer and health and wellness fields. And as someone who has worked in some of the best of both at a national and global level, I know advertitis to be a worryingly pandemic issue. I also believe that, with early diagnosis, it is eminently preventable.
Whether you reside in healthcare or consumer marketing teams or on the agency or client side, we should, as marketers and "creative clinicians," be aware of advertitis as we incubate our ideas, protect them through the early stages of life and watch them with pride as they realize their full potential.