The advertising high ground

How to map out a successful battle plan

Winston Fletcher

Should advertising be intrusive or unobtrusive? Informatory or emotional? Short-term or long-term? Serious or fun? Aimed to win new buyers or hold existing ones? Regarded as a short-term cost or a long-term investment? The rules are there, and it is wise to stick to them - but they are different for different products.

'All in all, compared with even twenty years ago, we understand more about the complexity of what we are dealing with.'
Colin McDonald, How Advertising Works (1992)

THE KEY WORD is 'complexity'. Much of our recent learning has been derived from the IPA Advertising Effectiveness Awards. Nearly five hundred case histories have now been entered for these awards, and almost a hundred of them have won gongs.

In aggregate, they constitute far and away the most comprehensive and authoritative investigation into the many different ways in which advertising works ever published, anywhere. And that is exactly what they have established: advertising works in many different ways. That is why most previous attempts to explain how advertising works fell at the first ditch. Advertising is not a homogeneous entity. It cannot be unified or simplified. Personal column classified and detergent commercials are as dissimilar (though they are both called advertisements) as tiddlywinks and rugger (though they are both called games). To attempt to squeeze all types of advertising into the same mould is as futile as it would be to try to win at Twickenham with little plastic counters.