This is one of the assignments I like to give to my copywriting students.
You’ve probably seen one of these before. It’s an egg.
I want you to write something on an egg that makes me want to eat it.
Take any angle you want.
Go to the store and buy an egg and write the thing on it and bring it to class. You might want to use a hard‐boiled egg.
These are due in Monday’s class. I will give you a pass/fail grade on it. If you fail, you can try again in any other class. If you pass, you can be finished, or you can try to come up with a better egg. Or you can give your idea to a struggling classmate.
You get to keep your eggs.
At the start of class, I would have the students, one at a time, set their eggs in the middle of the table. I would read whatever was on the egg. I would judge the egg based on one simple factor: did I want to eat that egg? I wouldn’t think about it very much.
Some eggs were very clever. Some tried to be funny. Some gave a functional benefit—protein or healthy snack.
Sometimes the message made a difference. I might feel like I could use a healthy snack. Sometimes I would chuckle but not want to eat the egg. Sometimes I would pick the first egg simply because I was hungry. Sometimes I would pick no eggs because I wasn’t hungry.
It was frustrating for the students, because it was like their creative idea only sometimes made a difference in whether or not they passed or failed that day. Which was exactly the point.
There are dozens of factors that go into whether or not a consumer buys the product you’re trying to sell. Your creative idea is usually pretty low on the list. Way below whether or not the consumer happens to be hungry at that moment. So remember that. You have to be relevant. You have to be persuasive. You also have to be lucky.
You’ve probably already gone through the CA Advertising Annual and preordered your copy of the One Show. (If not, why haven’t you?)
It’s easy enough to go through these books page by page, thinking “Cool…Cool…How’d that get in?…Cool…I had that idea…”
But if you’re serious about understanding what makes an award-winning ad, you can’t just flip through the annuals. You have to study them. Yes, study.
One of the best techniques I know came from my old copywriting professor, Coz Cotzias. Here’s what you do…
- Sit down with an annual and a pack of Post-It notes.
- Go through the book flagging every ad you totally dig as a creative.
- Put the book down. Go see a movie. Read a book. Whatever. Just step away.
- Come back to the book, but this time, viewing only the executions you tagged as a creative, look at them as a consumer. Tag the ones you dig as someone who might actually buy whatever it is that’s being advertised.
These are the ads you want to aspire to. Why? Because they’re not just clever. They’re smart. They’re effective. They’re the ones that are rooted in a strategy. The ones that are really solving the client’s problem creatively.
For extra credit, go through all of these ads and see if you can figure out what the strategy was and who specifically they were trying to talk to. This isn’t to turn you into planners. It’s to make you better creatives.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Gary Goldsmith…
We all pay less attention to the process than we should. If doctors and scientists operated in the same manner that we do, it’d be a scary world. What they do is creative, too, in its own way. They’ve devoted a lot of thought to the way in which they arrive at a diagnosis, and the way in which they treat it. But with us, it’s almost like we have this thing in our head, we don’t need to do that, we should just sit down and come up with ideas.