"Creative communication always works according to the same rules"

ADC President Jean Etienne Aebi on the "added value of surprising advertising".

ADC President Jean Etienne Aebi on the "added value of surprising advertising "Creative advertising is not "l'art pour l'art". It actually has a more successful effect on the market than non-creative advertising. An image study also shows that more and more responsible marketing people believe in the real added value of campaigns that have won awards from the Art Directors Club (ADC) (see also pages 12 and 18). Jean Etienne Aebi analyses the background to this.Are you satisfied with the results of the study conducted by the IHA.GfM survey institute among 200 top advertisers and 50 heads of leading advertising agencies?
Jean Etienne Aebi: One could almost be euphoric. The comparison with a similar study from 1996 shows: ADC's external image has changed enormously in a positive way. We can see a very
decisive increase in the opinion that ADC is seen as competent. People think ADC is important. More and more responsible marketing people are even convinced that ADC significantly improves the image of the industry.
So are creatively excellent campaigns more successful in the market?
Aebi: The study clearly shows that not only the CDs and ADs in the advertising agencies, but also the vast majority of the responsible marketing executives in Switzerland are clearly of this opinion.
How do you experience this in practice? Do advertisers and creatives like the same ideas right away or do they still need a lot of persuasion?
Aebi: The vast majority are convinced that the more creative advertising is the more efficient. But when I look at the newspaper this morning and perhaps watch television this evening, I naturally get a question mark: What is considered creative by a majority here? There are, of course, different opinions about the criteria for what is creative in the sense that a campaign achieves its effect in the market.
In figure skating, a distinction is made between compulsory and free skating. Does this separation also exist in advertising?
Aebi: Even in the successful freestyle, all jumps and steps meet the compulsory requirements - only it attracts much more attention and interest from the audience, i.e. the target group. This is exactly what creative implementation in advertising achieves.
How can the mechanisms that come into play here be theoretically analyzed?
Aebi: When the commercial break comes on, I already know what a commercial wants to tell me before the first picture: I am the best! You have to buy me! I'm exactly what you need! All advertising comes down to this. A priori, it just bores me. The how-it-will-be-told thus becomes the sole decisive criterion. Those who irritate me stop me and make me curious about the punch line, the offer and its benefits. Advertising achieves this when something comes off that I haven't seen before. I primarily honor that someone tells me what they need to tell me in a slightly different way. If you communicate in a more interesting way, you're more interesting.
There are many different studies on the effect of humor in advertising. How do you personally deal with this topic?
Aebi: Humour is one of the fixed recipes - for the simple reason that no one sits at home in front of the TV after a busy day and is incredibly interested in hearing any lectures on insurance or pea soup. People want to get a bit of stimulation and be entertained at the same time. And as an advertiser, I respond to this psychological expectation. Humour is known to be one of the best recipes - but certainly not the only one.
Advertisers come from an intellectually demanding environment, know the latest trends and live in a world with a lot of media consumption. Is there a danger that advertisers apply different standards when judging creative advertising than the average population?
Aebi: Specifically, you can't deny that advertisers sometimes find ideas funny because they come precisely from the humus in which they personally live. But the study now available shows that the ideas that advertisers think are so great are precisely those that also achieve their effect in the market. The vast majority of campaigns that win prizes at Cannes and other competitions are also campaigns that work in the market. This is also shown by the fact that ten out of eleven Effie prizes in the last round are identical to works that have been awarded by ADC. That we as creative advertisers are doing "l'art pour l'art" is a prejudice that should slowly but surely be buried.
Are there industries that are predestined to be considered the gravediggers of creative advertising?
Aebi: Not at all from an advertising creative's point of view. In the eighties, people still believed that it was impossible to creatively design advertising for detergents. In the meantime, the opposite has been proven several times. Creative communication works according to the same rules for all products. But there are customers who actually believe that we could not advertise insurance or a car just as imaginatively as we do for chocolate or a travel agency. In order to attract attention, the same mechanisms apply everywhere. That's why it's also dangerous to multiply within an industry and say, "We've always advertised this certain way." Rather, one would have to realize that in all industries, it is always the breakout, always the exception to the rule that yields the most successful creative solutions.
You yourself have often been on various juries and have been highly decorated yourself. Do you have a few solid criteria with which you can ask: "What is good advertising?
Aebi: Idea, idea, idea and once again idea. And that means: it must surprise me. Then this surprise must let me conclude winningly on the offer, make it compelling for me. Being funny alone brings just as little as soberly saying all the right things. In addition, there is my personal feeling. Would I like to see more advertising of this sort? Am I slapping myself in the face for not having come up with an idea of this kind myself a long time ago? Interview: Andreas Panzeri
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