Principle Five: Advertising is Not Logical
Law is all about logic. It’s all about facts, arguments, and inescapable conclusions. Look, Your Honor, here’s the gun, here’s the body, here’s the motive. We just proved who did it. Ideally, emotion is irrelevant – facts carry the day.
In advertising, facts share the stage with emotions. People are not going to see, remember and act on your ad because of the facts in it. They’re going to respond to the feelings you invoke in them. These emotions may be supported by facts, but you always have to be aware of the feeling of your ads.
One of my heroes is David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather. Ogilvy was a genius, and when he wanted to, he was the absolute master of the emotional ad. As an example, an ad for the British Travel Association has an enormous, breathtaking photo of the inside of Westminster Abbey, and the heart-stopping headline: “Tread softly past the long, long sleep of kings.” Here’s a paragraph from the ad copy:
When you go to Britain, make
yourself this promise. Visit at least one of the thirty great cathedrals. Their
famous names thunder!
This is brilliant, incredibly evocative, deeply moving copy, and in an awesome tour de force, which is just kind of a throwaway, Ogilvy ends the paragraph with the simple, elegant call to action – “Get a map and make your choice.” He is such a master than he can write at an extraordinary pitch, and then bring it all back down to earth, and make it all look easy, even obvious.
Principle Six: You Do Not Know What You’re Doing
When you create advertising, you’re going to work with designers and writers. Get out of their way. Let them do what you’re paying them for.
One of the most sickening things in advertising is the client who, deep down, believes he knows more about design or writing than the designers and writers, and then proceeds to hamstring them, or hem them in with so many requirements and restrictions that they can’t do their jobs.
This happens for two reasons. First, as human beings living in the United Sates in this century, we’re all exposed to bombardment of advertising. We all see so much of it that we think we understand it. But unless you’re in the business, you don’t. Also, the advertising you see is mostly very high-level branding work for consumer products. Advertising for law firms is completely different. The principles behind a campaign for Pepsi, or Apple, or United Airlines – the stuff you see all the time – are totally unlike what your firm’s advertising requires. They’re apples and oranges, chalk and cheese.
Second, lawyers are smart people. They know they’re smart. However, they’re usually not particularly creative, and by telling a designer that the ad has to be in a certain shade of blue, has to have a certain typeface, and has to have a picture of the firm’s reception area, you’re pretty much dooming your campaign to obscurity. Tell the creative people what you’re trying to accomplish, tell them what you like and don’t like, but as much as you can, let them do their jobs.
Principle Seven: Keep it Paris Hilton Simple
I’m a lawyer myself. I love complexity. It’s kind of weird, but I really enjoy intricate ideas. In law school, you often read cases that are so complex that you need to draw little maps of what happened when involving whom in order to understand them.
I’ve also had a career in advertising. And I learned,
sometimes the hard way, that good ads are simple.
They have to have one idea, powerfully expressed, and instantly understandable
by anyone. Imagine you’re writing an ad for Paris Hilton – if she’ll get it,
it’s simple enough.
Here’s an example. This is an ad for Viagra, which ran in
Principle Eight: A List of Images You Should Never, Ever Use In Law Firm Advertising, No Matter What Because They’re Incredibly Clichéd and Bespeak A Complete Lack of Creativity So Overpowering As To Alter The Very Fabric of Time and Space
- Courthouse Steps
- The Scales O’ Justice
- Piles of Law Books
- Nautical Themed Stuff (unless you’re an admiralty lawyer)
- Groups of Middle-Aged White Lawyers in Suits
The more you know about advertising, the better the work you get as a client will be. Like a lot of things, creating advertising may look easy but in fact is brutally hard. When I was a copywriter, the most difficult part of the job was coming up with concepts, which meant spending a lot of time just staring into space.
There are all kinds of blogs, books and resources out there for the taking. An education in advertising is easy to get, and unlike, say, an education in how the DMV works, it can be fun. A few recommendations:
· The One Show: The advertising industry’s annual book of best ads. Sort of Advertising’s Greatest Hits. Expensive, but beautiful and worth it.
· Any book written by David Ogilvy
· Up the Agency, by Peter Mayle. A funny, revealing look at how ad agencies really work, written by an insider.
Whipple, Squeeze This, by Luke Sullivan. The nuts and bolts of what makes
great ads great.
· Adverblog: www.adverblog.com. Review of good creative work, worldwide