At the end of season three Peggy is assigned a Western Union account. Tim offers our Pegs some guidance.
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Great ads are simple.
The talented people who work in advertising agencies know this. But, god help them, they often can’t help themselves. A talented wordsmith may want to squeeze in just one more clever line. The art director may want to add just one more stylistic flourish. And that’s just in the creative department. The account executive might want to hedge his bets and work in some more sales copy about a second or third product line in order to please his client. And all bets are off if the client gets down in the trenches. Or (shudder) the client’s spouse.
And that’s why there are so few great ads.
This one is. Throw out the fact it’s selling telegrams. Ignore the dates headline typeface. Don’t worry, modern reader, about the lack of a website address for more information. This would be a great ad in 1983, 2003, or today.
The crafters of this ad understood human nature. Tell us to ignore something, and we won’t be able to. Snap. Which is the entire idea of the ad. Not just the idea of a clever copywriter/art director team, mind you. Those are a dime a dozen. No, it’s the very essence of a Western Union telegram. It’s not just a powerful idea, it’s a relevant idea. And those kinds of ideas are worth their weight in gold.
Now notice the craft of the art director. The layout forces you to quickly glance at the yellow telegram, but the bold typeface and dramatic white space pulls your eye upward to the headline. You’ve already noticed that there is small type in the telegram and, good grief, there’s no way you’re not going to read that copy.
Now notice the craft of the copywriter. The copy gets right to the point. Because, again, that’s the idea of a telegram. This is no time for fluffy copy or clever wordplay. And while the writer no doubt could craft a double-entendre that would make your head spin and smile in admiration, he or she should be commended for showing masterful restraint here.
Now notice the craft of the creative director. A powerful creative hand helped guide this ad through final approval, no doubt. See how there are no superfluous elements? No background texture. No colors to distract from the yellow telegram. The copy is contained in the telegram. There’s not even a need for a logo, as the client’s name is proudly displayed on the telegram itself. There’s not a single detail here that’s not needed (or organically part of a Western Union telegram). Everything has been stripped away so the focus is on the idea itself.
A single, powerful, relevant idea simply executed. It sounds easy. It’s not. Whether you worked in advertising in 1963 or today.