Mike Fromowitz
Jun 3, 2012

Creating The Big Idea

Our industry is going through massive changes with the expanding use of digital and social media. Given that many advertisers are focusing on the web’s potential and are dumping a great part of ...

Creating The Big Idea

Our industry is going through massive changes with the expanding use of digital and social media. Given that many advertisers are focusing on the web’s potential and are dumping a great part of their media budgets in that direction, one might conclude that the Big Idea is no longer necessary to the success of a brand.

Apple's 1984 entertained, and showcased the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality.

As long as there is a need for an idea, creative thinkers will always be in demand.

If we give up thinking that the Big Idea is important, no matter what the medium, aren’t we moving away from our expertise and what makes us valuable to marketers? What I mean by Big Idea is something that separates a brand from its competitors.

How does one go about creating the Big Idea? I can’t begin to tell you how difficult this subject really is. I  don’t know of anyone who can actually tell you how to create The Big Idea. You either have vision or the ability to create Big Ideas, or you don’t. I believe everyone is creative, in one way or another.  It’s just that some are more creative than others.  And make lots more money because of it.

"Fallen Angels" for Axe/Lynx Excite from BBH—one of my favourites

“Entertainment”—a dirty word, or one of the biggest ideas in advertising?

At the slight mention of the word “Entertainment” in advertising, many marketers would jump down your throat—most considered it a dirty word.  If you said you wanted to do this type of advertising in the past you were thought to be irresponsible. You were wasting the company’s money. Today, I’m pleased to say, I think more marketers and their ad agencies are more open to the fact that ads have to be entertaining first.

I believe Entertainment is one of the Biggest Ideas in advertising and marketing today.  Advertising that Entertains is one of the best and most effective ways to break through the clutter and create new avenues for reaching consumers with more engaging messages. Advertising that entertains makes consumers feel less directly pursued and they are generally more open to the advertising message; they are less likely to tune out advertising that has entertainment value and less likely to change the channel or skip to another website.

How often do you recall an ad for which you do not remember the brand being advertised? Fact is, about half of consumers who can recall an ad when it’s described to them (without using the brand name) cannot correctly attribute the advertising to the advertiser. Which brings up the age old argument...

Should ads be entertaining or informative?

How do ads that entertain translate into higher sales? The point of advertising is, after all, to get information about a product out to consumers (push) and to get consumers to respond (pull), and to sell the product.  Entertaining consumers is a good way to help them remember info about a product, but then, shouldn’t selling a product be the first goal of advertising?

Volkswagen's "Darth Vader" Super Bowl ad from Deutsch LA

In this YouTube era where all entertainment all the time reigns, it is believed that some ad agencies take Entertainment too far, and that the brand’s actual message is getting totally lost.  If there was even a message at all? There are some videos where people say, ‘That’s really cool, but what was the product?”

Some marketers see Entertainment as a disturbing trend for many large corporations. They believe, “instead of boosting sales, corporations are wasting good money on advertising campaigns that simply boost the egos of marketing executives and ad agency types who dream of being the next Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen”. They argue that Entertainment, does not effectively convey a company’s brand message.

The author, Jim Morris, believes “People have gotten confused between what is entertainment for entertainment’s sake and what is actually smart marketing messaging. The YouTube generation of advertising has forgotten that you can have a brilliant, unique, funny ad, but if it’s not coupled with insight it will be forgotten.”

For certain, not all Entertainment ads work. Especially those that don’t tell consumers what the ad is for. On the other hand, not all informative ads work because they’re too boring for people to pay attention to. So, as with just about anything in life, moderation is key. Add a moderate dose of information to an entertaining ad and you will most likely hit that magic button.

Most advertising fails because it fails to Entertain.

Creative guru Neil French once wrote the following which continues to resonate with me till this day: “There is one self‑evident truth in advertising. If nobody notices your advertising, you've wasted your money. Of course any damn fool can get noticed by entertaining an audience. Have a presenter stand in front of a camera and drop his trousers. Everybody will notice. Everybody will talk about it of course. But will it sell anything?”

For certain, entertainment which is relevant to the product will get noticed and sell products. Entertainment in advertising can build up attitude and feelings about a brand. It can help draw an emotion.

Companies fortunate enough to embraced the value of entertainment in their advertising are building good will towards their brands and will become, if they are not already, the market leaders. They know the importance of creating value because they know consumers today are in control.

Can Entertainment value be a product feature?

In a world gone mad with commoditised products, and parity advertising, can entertainment value be a product feature?  I believe it can. If indeed consumers are exposed to over 3000 messages a day, as some research would have us believe, your advertising must work hard to compete for attention.  It certainly does sharpen one’s appreciation for the task of selling through mass communications.

Listen to consumers trying to remember the commercials they saw last night on TV, or the banner ads that flashed across their computer screens, or the ads they read in the morning paper.  It’s a humbling experience. This is what makes advertising so difficult for ad agencies and so expensive for clients.

Simply put, people discriminate between brands for the same reason they discriminate between people.  They either like them or they don’t. If they find your message trite, or boring, they turn off. However, if you entertain them, they feel rewarded.  And you’ve made a friend.

Research has shown that people respond emotionally to ads first, then rationally.  Our attention has to be gained before our reason moves into gear. Whatever your product’s appeal, be it rational, emotional or sensual, it must be distinctive.  The challenge is to be noticed.

Neil French sums it up well: “After all the advertising research has been done, after all the marketing plans are written, after all the strategies have been agreed, after all the focus group testing, and, after all the marathon meetings in the boardroom, the only thing that stands between the Brand and the Consumer, are the ads”.

Entertain. Entertain. Entertain.

So no matter what you do, a word of advice. If your brand or product fails to have a distinct product benefit, or if you feel you have nothing new to say in your ads, then ‘shut up, and get on with the show’. Entertain. Entertain. Entertain.

Today,  in certain product categories, amongst certain consumers, particularly young consumers, they are requiring that entertainment in advertising becomes the selling proposition — the USP—the Unique Selling Presentation.  Brand leaders understand the Big Idea of entertainment. Look what Lynx, Nike, Apple, VW and Levis have done.

In England, one of the categories where the Big Idea of Entertainment is perhaps most developed, is in beer advertising. In this category almost all the advertising entertains. From endless research done in London, consumers said:  "If you do it well, and we like the advertising, then we'll buy your product" ‑ simple as that.

Given the great new opportunities for Entertainment that digital media and digital devices bring to the table,  not much has changed it seems. Our industry is still working with the old formula's of advertising. Clients and their agencies are throwing vast amounts of mundane advertising at consumers.  They are spending horrendous amounts of money with the hopes that their boring advertising messages will be effective, most of them by sheer media weight, or by using the web, social media and Youtube.

Yes. I know that many will argue this point and say that there is some good stuff out there. There always has been — some. Still, most advertising we see and hear on the Internet, on TV, on billboards, on the radio, is boring—not the kind of stuff you want to see a second or a third time.

Every ad has to work hard for its living.

With increasing evidence of the public’s ability to mentally filter out ads, every communication that we make has to work hard for its living. And whether we care to admit it or not, most people don’t like advertising. Many people would be content to see none of it at all. So, no matter what the media pundits may tell you, no matter what research they lecture with, media exposure is voluntary—be it on TV, in newspapers and magazines or on the Internet.  Consumers choose whether or not to tune in to a commercial message, and these days many of us are choosing not to be exposed.

On the other hand, advertising that Entertains relies on the creativity of the message rather than on the weight of the media. In a nutshell, advertising that Entertains is more welcomed by consumers the first time they see it.  They don’t put up their defenses. It sells because it Entertains.  And people love to be Entertained.

Creating Entertaining ads isn’t as simple as it looks.

I have to admit, in all honesty, it's a whole lot easier to talk about Entertaining advertising than it is to create it. It isn't as simple as it looks. I can't stress enough,  the importance of Entertainment as a legitimate selling tool.

I'm not sure at all just how many of you play a critical role in the development & planning of advertising, but if I have been able to influence you just a little, and been able to make you see the importance of entertainment in your advertising — then I have hopefully done a great service to consumers who are switching off their TV sets, skipping the ads they see in magazines, newspapers and on the web.

We must realise that in a marketplace where communications has reached massive proportions, advertising has become something that people try desperately to avoid.

Entertainment, that Big Idea, that powerful idea,  offers a chance to reach in and influence people.

I tend to see it as the future of advertising.

And that - is not a prediction.

Mike Fromowitz


Here's a few more ads I like:


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