The dos and don’ts of ad creation


By Lawrence Papoff

You want an ad that sets you apart from the competition – something different from the old tried and true standards. Well, be careful. You might draw the kind of attention you planned for.

Stepping off the well-trodden path when it comes to ad creation can be a painful experience. There are plenty of speed bumps and potholes awaiting the uninitiated.

Ad man Michael Ney says the problem starts when a dealer talks to a member of his family or calls the ad rep from the local newspaper. The family member says they’ve got something sharp. Or the rep comes up with something new after the dealer rejects the same-old, same old. It sure looks sharp to the dealer and so it goes in.

Then the spit hits the fan. Ethnic groups find it offensive, even racist; women’s groups say it’s sexist. A letter from some big-city lawfirm accuses the dealer of copyright violations.

The dealer’s intentions were honourable: all he wanted to do was sell cars, not offend anyone. Now, the dealer has to figure out how to pacify the people in the community and hire a lawyer and deal with the damage to the store’s reputation.

“No matter what you say or do, it will all fall on deaf ears. Offended people will refuse to buy,” Ney warns. He says it will take time for your store’s reputation to rehabilitate.

Avoid common pitfalls
To stay out of trouble, first of all, steer clear of sex in your ads.

“Nothing overtly sexy because women buy cars. They don’t want to see women decorating cars,” he cautions.

Sure, your OEM might be able to get away with something sexy, but you aren’t your OEM. The dealer can’t take the heat.

“What’s good for your OEM is not good for you. Know who you are.”

Stay away from ethnic jokes. The Scots might like to be kidded about their thriftiness or their ability to drive a tough bargain, but assume no other groups does.    

Remember if what you’re being shown looks familiar, avoid it. Pictures and slogans are copyrighted; they’re someone else’s property.

“Don’t try to change something to make it work for you.”

Being creative
Canadian AutoWorld wanted to know how to draw up ads that stand out.

“Hire someone competent,” is his advice.

Ney says his agency, MPN and Associates, developed an ad campaign for Nurse Chevrolet (Whitby, Ont.) First, his staffers interviewed people in the area, asking them what the wanted from a dealership. Those ideas were the stuff of three different concepts ads.

“They took the ‘It’s the little things that count.’” It’s a slogan they were comfortable with.

Next, came an ad campaign for the fuel-efficient Chev Malibu. The headline read “Whitby to Ottawa on less than one tank of gas.” And to get the Whitby consumers’ attention, the subhead read “And that’s less than normal out of Ottawa.”

It was all in good fun and it worked, he recalled. Even Finance Minister Jim Flaherty joked about it in a framed letter he presented the dealership at its official reopening.

But is this type of treatment expensive?

“Not as much as you might think and a lot cheaper than the mess you can get into,” Ney says.

    Michael Ney has over 25 years’ experience marketing and ad creation. Over the years, he has worked for Rothmans Tobacco, Porsche Canada among others. He is the owner of MPN and Associates. He can be reached at 905-900-0465.