Arse Backwards

Submitted by: Dave Trott 17/02/2017

Creating great ad campaigns is an art - especially if they are to be effective across the entire media spectrum. We have teamed up with Dave Trott, one of the greatest creativity gurus, to inspire you...

During the 17th century, a German scientist claimed it was the movement of the trees that created the wind.

This was self evidently so.

When the trees moved their branches, there was always wind.

When the trees were still, there was no wind.

The same way when someone flaps their arms around they create a breeze.

But when they are still, there is no breeze.

Wind was the movement of air, so something must be moving it.

The most obvious thing, seen everywhere all over the world, is trees.

Therefore trees moved and created the wind.

Perfect logic.

But being logical doesn’t make it true.

Because we know it’s exactly the other way round.

He joined up the right dots, but in the wrong order.

Wind moves trees, not vice versa.

But for him the logic was seductive.

Similar to the logic of most brand advertising.

The logic goes that brand advertising creates reputation.

If we claim our brand is a certain way then people will see it that way.

If we claim trust, they will trust it.

If we claim reliability, they will believe it’s reliable.

If we claim modernity, they’ll believe it’s modern.

If we claim innovation, they’ll believe it’s innovative.

This is similar to the theory about trees and wind.

It joins the dots up, but in the wrong order.

Brand is another word for reputation or image.

And you don’t get a reputation just by claiming something.

Of course not, first you must be something.

Then you get a reputation by being it.

Then you can claim it.

Volkswagen didn’t get a reputation for being reliable by running a brand campaign claiming reliability.

Fifty years ago they ran ads saying, unlike every other car, they were small, inexpensive, and sensible.

They had no radiator so they didn’t freeze in winter; they were smaller so they got better mileage; parts were cheaper to replace because they didn’t change every year.

That was product advertising not brand.

But the product advertising built the brand.

Because, over the years, people’s experience of VW was that they were solid and dependable.

So fifty years on, they could run the campaign “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen”.

But they couldn’t have run that when they launched, because fifty years earlier they had no reputation for reliability.

The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.

Not the other way round.

There’s an old line “Don’t tell me you’re a comedian, make me laugh”.

But product advertising has fallen out of favour.

And advertising has reverted to the 1950s, pre-Bernbach days of claims not based in truth or experience.

Claims that aren’t believable.

Claims that mean nothing.

So for advertising, the only thing to do is make nice little pieces of film that say nothing.

Taken from 'One Plus One Equals Three' 
Written in Dave Trott's distinctive, almost Zen-like style, One Plus One Equals Three is a collection of provocative anecdotes and thought experiments designed to light a fire under your own creative ambitions.