Creative advertising: Make the known unknown

“[In advertising] people are just as capable of being bored as they are of being excited and inspired. The border that separate these two states is originality,” Bob Isherwood, a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, said.

I think Isherwood made a great point here. Great because in modern times advertising has grown in difficulty as people have learned to avoid ads. Some even loathe ads.

Michael Newman, the author of Creative Leaps, said if our ads are original and artistic, we can cross that border and reach out to people.

Take as an example from a TV commercial of Audi RS3 Birth, which depicts Audi R8 giving birth to RS3 to convey the ad’s core message of inheritance and transformation.

Original, creative and artistic are the characteristics of this ad. To borrow Newman’s words, this kind of ad is “actively avoided by the modern eye, disbelieved by the 21st century brain, and thought to be condescending by its bruised and suspicious audience”.

For that very reason, it gets noticed, I think.

It has well exploited Victor Shkovsky’s concept of “defamiliarization” through what Richard Moran calls “fictional characters and events” of the car that gives birth –  to create a mix of emotions and tax our attention. The car that we knew before was now made so unfamiliar that it was hard for us to comprehend or believe until the last moment when RS3 came out with its birth certificate.

It caused us to feel doubtful (or strongly put it, disgusting) at some point and surprised and excited at the other time. It’s seduced us so well that we do want to come back again each time we see it.

That’s why it’s a great ad, an ad that Newman says just doesn’t look like an ad at all. It doesn’t conform to general rules of ads, but moves away from the obvious and commonplace. It was like a movie, not a blatant sales pitch, which Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert argue is what consumers are longing for.

The concept of defamiliarization has proven successful here in making the Audi RS3 an original, creative and artistic ad. But Stefan Iversen, who studies permanent defamiliarization as rhetorical device, has a word of caveat for us: cultural difference may decide the fate of the concept.

Take another example from Bailey’s Nutcracker, which uses ballet as a way to pitch its product.

This TV commercial doesn’t look like an ad either, but also could be a movie. But is it a great one to some countries like those in Southeast Asia who are stranger to ballet dancing?

You be the judge, but I’d give a big fat NO. With this dance, this ad could be used to sell anything in these countries. And the defamiliarization doesn’t make its way.

Whatever it may be the case, for students like us, author Michael Newman suggests remembering that “great ads are perfectly simple”. And I’d say, too, a simple ad is no simple at all.



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