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October 26, 2007 / davebirss

Creative Cheat Sheet: Part 3

Beat up the competitor

Is your product better than the competition? Even in just one way? Show people how your product compares favourably. Do a good-old-fashioned side by side comparison to show how your product stacks up. Or, if it can be done in an acceptable way, rip the competition to shreds.

For example, if you have a brief for a smaller quality newspaper, show how unwieldy and awkward the other big broadsheets are. If you have a brief for a lower-rate bank loan, show how the competition’s customers are having to take on more work to pay their loan off.

If the competition has had some bad PR, twist the knife while the wound is fresh. Play dirty. Even if the ad never runs, being a bitch is fun.


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  1. Damien Parsonage / Oct 27 2007 6:55 am

    When I was first trying to get a job in advertising I wrote to lots of big CDs for help and advice (and a job obviously). Most were very nice and usually helpful, but especially Dave Trott, who sent me a photocopied guide to advertising he’d written himself.

    It was genius. And his core message was “keep it simple”. He even suggested using the tactic you’ve described Dave, referring to shirts: if your shirt is half the price of the competition, show two of your shirts next to one of theirs with the price message.

    Simple, direct, effective. Don’t overcomplicate things. If youve got something to say, for goodness sake say it.

    If I were less of an idiot I would have kept it safe and referred to it often throughout my creative life. But I left it at my paretns’ house and my Mum threw it away. D’oh!

  2. davebirss / Oct 27 2007 9:15 am

    I remember that document. So I had a hunt for it and eventually found it here:

    Well worth a read.

  3. Damien Parsonage / Oct 27 2007 2:36 pm

    Dave, that is fantastic, I can’t believe you found it! This Interweb thing is pretty useful isn’t it?

    That certainly brought back some memories; I haven’t read it for about 18 years, but I can still remember the advice – even the shirts example he uses beautifully to explain how to write an ad, and how to write campaigns and straplines.

    It certainly made its mark on me and reading it again I think the messages are still absolutely spot on. In these digital times, with technology leading far too much creative work in my view, it’s lovely to read his views on scamps, for instance, and his assertion that ‘you are being hired for your ability to think not to draw. And people paid to draw earn a lot less than people paid to think.’ Exactly!

    Another big influence on me at the time was David Ogilvy, whom another CD had recommended reading. He was another salesman who understood the importance of simplicity and the difference between art and selling.

    And both still relevant today. Hurrah!

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