I recently read the book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, a historic look at advertising – the good, bad and the ugly. The book is co-created by master copywriters Luke Sullivan, a veteran copywriter with 33 years of experience and Edward Boches a partner and the chief creative officer at Boston-based Mullen.
The book covers topics ranging from starting out and getting work, to building successful campaigns, providing a real-world perspective on what it means to be great in such a fast-moving, sometimes harsh industry. The authors explore a range of different advertising concepts including:
- How to turn great initial ideas into fully fledged successful campaigns
- Producing channel neutral campaigns that work effectively in all media channels
- Advice on what you need to do avoid the kill shots that will sink any campaign
- How to protect your work in a very fast moving and competitive marketplace
The first thing I learnt from the book is that adverts that come across as irritating and nonsensical can be extremely successful. Sullivan used the example of Mr. Whipple’ known as “this irritating guy who kept interrupting my favourite shows” who actually became a sensation and sold toilet paper “by the ton”. Although everyone disliked the ad and the slogan, it was very catchy and memorable.
Simple is best
The second thing I took away from the book was that all ideas take time to become something great and that simplicity goes a long way to captures people’s attention in busy environments. An example given in the book was an advert created by Dublin Advertising Photography, simply saying headlines this dull need pictures’ in basic and bold this text.. The company realised the best way to capture the attention of their audience, wasn’t to flaunt fancy pictures in their faces but to lure them in with a simple, single line of text. They took away the clutter and unnecessary bits and bobs that go on adverts and stuck to ‘simplicity’ which created the attention they desired.
Thirdly, chapter four ‘How to get ideas’ showed me that an advert starts with a single idea but that it takes a lot of work to come to fruition. The author describes that no idea is ever made on the spot, it takes time to perfect and sculpt it into something that represents your brand in the most wonderful of ways. They describe that first you must “uncover the central human truth about your product” which means writing down the truest thing you can write or say about your product or brand.
No book on advertising is complete without a debate on digital advertising. Sullivan argues that “it’s not about making “digital advertising”. It’s about making advertising for a digital world”. He believes the power of controlled messages have lost their impact and that customers, readers and viewers now control the likes of the broadcasters and publishers.
I have learnt many more interesting and new things from this book, and would recommend anyone starting out in marketing communications to give it a go.