Originality in Advertising is costly and best reserved for big, national advertisers with money to spend on Madison Avenue agencies or Silicon Valley consultants. For the rest of us, the better course of action is imitation.
A new book out is Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. In it, Kleon argues that great artists and musicians always start their careers learning and copying the masters. Then, and only then, do they begin to find their own voice and style and learn to tweak great art into something that is their own.
The motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, makes the same argument. He believes if you want to be successful at something study someone is already successful at that very thing. If you want to diet, mimic the habits of someone who is already thin. If you want to be an effective advertiser, mimic the great advertisers.
Those who try to be original in advertising rarely have the resources to be effective, and end up only flattering themselves. Advertising has enough ego in it already. Ego is the reason many local auto ads don’t work on late night TV. Do you, as the consumer, really want to see the owner, his dog, wife and family? Does it really help you trust them?
Instead, study great ads and uncover what you like about them or why they work. You know the old saying: “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” But, here’s the catch, just don’t imitate anyone, and certainly don’t imitate your direct competition.
Instead, study the national greats and ask yourself what you like about their ads. What you’ll probably see is great visuals, few words, strong benefits positioning and very little about the product or store itself. There are always exceptions, but exceptional ads tend on the minimalist side, in direct contrast to most small business ads, which try to stuff as much copy in an ad as humanly possible.
The Walk-away: Unless you’re Pippi Longstocking, less is more. A great set of legs don’t need to wear garish socks or stockings. A great ad is generally simple as well and lets its true beauty shine through.