Why bad ads exist

On the way to work one day, I saw an advertisement on Suntec Convention Centre’s jumbotron and the first thought that crossed my mind was how dated it felt.

The advertisement wasn’t badly produced. It was just...cliché.

Premise: A father successfully uses the family’s brand new washing machine, so that his wife and children can get their day off. Mom gets a wonderful surprise when she returns; son gives dad an approving wink. Bravo. The stereotypes used were blinding.

The question is - who thought to approve this 90’s inspired ad? The final approval may be on the onus of the client, but there are many ways a creative spark can eventually become your dirty laundry.

1. Rubbish in, rubbish out

Not everyone know what the “perfect project brief” looks like. Having been on both sides of the fence, I try my best to provide clear briefs from at the start of every project discussion. It is always about working closely together with your client / agency, collectively brainstorming and pulling together content and design.

If you start with a bad brief, don’t expect your agency to be telepathic or perform miracles. Similarly, if the brief isn’t clear enough, ask questions, clarify and ask again. It will save you time from backtracking and in worst cases, starting everything from scratch all over again.

2. Compromising standards

Remember when suits lamented about nightmare clients and their out-of-this-world requests? While that is not going away anytime soon, internal stakeholders may be a good place to start managing expectations through a “best practices” education.

Having a brand guide and not adhering to it due to 1) stakeholder requests, 2) pending deadlines, and 3) rebellious streaks, are simply poor excuses. Creative standards and guideline are in place for a reason and keeping to it not only ensures a consistent brand, it also promotes accountability for every employee as a brand custodian.

Consistency is key!

3. Just for “the sake of”

Recently, I was advised against the potential pitfalls of creating a blog for an upcoming campaign launch. As we navigated between internal naming conventions (e.g. blog site, microsite, content bank) and managing expectations (e.g. traffic targets, downloads, conversions), the one thing we had to constantly remind ourselves was that we are not commissioning the blog just “for the sake of” having it.

Nobody likes addressing that elephant in the room, but every project needs to have clearly defined objectives and not being pigeonholed by terminologies.

Everyone had a different definition of “BLOG”

Executive: Frilly stuff

Designer: Wordpress and UX

Writer: 300 – 500 words

Digital Strategist: Need to drive traffic as ROI

Content developed and its format can work together to drive clear objectives. The way to avoid doing things “just for the sake of” is to start having the hard conversations from the start and be your own harshest critic - before your customers do that for you.

See article on designing around jobs.

4. “Because I said so”

As Uncle Ben said, “with great powers comes great responsibility”. Our System 1 thinking tends to kick in whenever we hit a roadblock or have to take a tough decision, and being in the position to make a decision doesn’t necessarily mean we always make the right ones. Take a step back , sleep on things or just always do stock take of objectives (see point 3), before making the call. This way, we can at least sleep easy tonight, knowing that we’ve done our best in creating work that we are proud to call our own.


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