The Advertising Apprentice

November 24, 2009

Ask the Ad Man Part Two

Welcome back to part two of my WordPress exclusive interview with Terry O’Reilly, co-author of the recently released The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

You’ll note that this second part is void of any You Tube videos and includes just a handful of external links. This was done intentionally because I want you to really read the insightful, information-rich answers Terry O’Reilly provides.

Its been a long five days but it’s finally here, you’ve made it to the second part of the interview! Without any further ado back to the interview:

You put a lot of emphasis on the importance of “the contract”, this concept is the focal point for chapter 2 and throughout the book you refer back to it. Is the unwritten contract your way for marketers to be taken more seriously and earn respect? (You can hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in October 2006.)

Actually, we think of the Unwritten Contract as a way for advertisers to respect consumers. Not the other way around. We feel all ads should give something back to the public. The least of which is to be smart and entertaining, the best scenario is if the ads underwrite the programming, or bring ticket sales down in cinemas, or pay for the editorial content in magazines and newspapers. It was a good deal back in the 1920s when it was first struck, and it’s a good deal now.

Since becoming more involved in advertising I’ve heard the term “under promise, over deliver” countless times. It’s a phrase you use in chapter 2 on page 42. It’s a concept I’m just amazed by as it makes a lot of sense. Can you elaborate a bit further on this idea for those readers that may not have previously heard this phrase?

Basically, don’t overpromise. Not delivering on a promise breeds cynicism. People lose faith in brands and companies as a result. If you make a promise, make it attractive, but then deliver way above and beyond the call. The impact of that will never be forgotten. That kind of over-service leads to brand loyalty – that ever so fleeting, but vital thing.

Focusing on your quote from chapter 2, page 45: “toning down ad creative can be like giving a speech to an audience of a thousand without a microphone”. How do you tap into that creative aspect of your brain, that is how do you get the creative juices flowing? (Would a book like Roy H. WilliamsMagical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads, be useful in getting people into that mindset?)

It’s a process, like all creative endeavors. You train your mind to be able to look at a marketing problem like a puzzle. You absorb all the research, work it, re-work it, tear it apart, turn it upside down, try coming in the back door, make odd connections, and suddenly forget all about it. Then, while mowing the lawn, the idea appears, courtesy of your subconscious. I don’t think you can teach someone to come up with ideas. It’s an inherent, intuitive skill set. It’s not magic. It’s hard work. I know very little about Roy Williams. Neither does the ad industry at large. He is a very small peripheral player with regard to the ad industry. Way, way outside it.

You describe in chapter 11 on page 251 how a lack of time in building relationships by the brand between themselves and the consumer is leading to “advertising is shallow, meaningless, and just an annoyance.” Is this a trend where if continued you see as having deleterious effects on the industry?

Yes. A true customer-advertiser relationship needs time to develop. And smart advertisers nurture that relationship over the long haul. So the less real time devoted to cultivating brand loyalty will have huge detrimental effects over the years, for advertisers specifically, and the advertising industry in general. That relationship between customer an advertiser is the most important thing in marketing. Period.

In the first paragraph of the Furthermore chapter you state:

“I’m often asked about what’s ahead – about the future of persuasion. I’m somewhat wary of taking on the challenge because so many who’ve snapped at the same bait have been hooked, played, landed, stuffed, and mounted as monuments to humankind’s inability to look forward.”

So I won’t ask you to describe for us what you think is in store for the future of advertising. Instead I’ll ask you about the list of “Things I’d like to change about advertising and marketing” found in this same Furthermore chapter. They include “no more junk mail”, “no more telemarketing” and “banish commercials from movie theatres”. What do you have against these three forms of marketing? (You can also hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in March 2008.)

They don’t honour the great “Unwritten Contract” we reference in Chapter Two. Mike and I feel all advertising should give something back to the public. At the very least, ads should be enjoyable. But on a greater scale, ads on radio should underwrite the great music you hear. Ads on TV should underwrite the great TV shows you watch. Ads in newspapers should underwrite the journalists salaried. Ads in magazines pay for the editorial content. But telemarketing gives nothing back. It just wants to take. Junk mail and spam are in the same category. Cinema ads should be making ticket prices come down, not sure that is happening. I think cinema advertising companies can figure out how to honour the contract. And they should. Every time the advertising industry doesn’t honour the contract, the public’s annoyance with advertising grows.

Discuss your thoughts on the challenge faced by reaching an audience that is becoming increasingly more fragmented day-by-day and that is so hard to reach on a mass level.

That problem is not going away, in fact, it’s getting worse. In the 1960s, if you advertised on Bonanza and the Ed Sullivan Show, you reached 80% of the North American public. Those days are long gone. So now we don’t rely so heavily on demographics, which tell us age and income level, and rely more on psychographics, which tell us about the state-of-mind of the target market. Once we know more about how they think, what they like to do, what TV shows they like to watch, what movies they like to see, what their values are, it gets a bit easier to create commercials that they might like. But that still doesn’t solve the media problem of trying to find them. It gets very, very expensive to advertising, because the audience is spread across so many TV shows, and magazines, and websites. Especially if you want to reach them with any frequency. I suspect the web will provide some of the answers. The greatest thing about the web is that it creates communities. So that, at least, gives advertisers an address.

Provide some tips for people looking to break into the advertising industry. What can and should they be doing from a practical standpoint to work their way to getting a job at prominent agency in Toronto?

If you’re interested in the creative end of the business, you must read and absorb the award annuals. They are the “How-To Manuals” of the business. Young creative people should be devouring them. Many of the award shows feature work from around the world. So, so important to gain that perspective. There is a great store in Toronto called the Swipe Store, and they only carry ad books. It’s fantastic, and I could spend all my money in that place. Creative people should also be working on a great spec portfolio that shows a creative director how their mind works. Remember that creative directors are looking for “idea” people, not writers or art directors. Ideas are the currency in advertising.

If you are interested in the account service side of the business, study great strategy. Find books and pour through the Cassies website (the award show that awards results) for great case studies of outstanding strategies. I always say his business has enough good creative people, what we really need are great strategists.

If you do have any of your own questions that you’d like Terry O’Reilly to answer, post them here or send me an email and I will be sure to forward them to him and when I get a response I’ll update the post.

(A sneak peek for next week’s entry: subliminal advertising, is there such a thing?)

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November 19, 2009

Ask the Ad Man

It turns out being gutsy does pay-off! Let me explain; a couple entries ago I wrote about product placement and I even offered up my own tongue-and-cheek attempt at it by placing the cover of Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant’s new book, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, in the entry. I had no real intentions for anything to come from this; rather I was just trying to be funny. Well turns out O’Reilly found my blog and graciously offered me an interview.

(By the way, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture is available at fine bookstores across the country and online at sites such as Chapters and Amazon!)

So this week I am proud to feature a WordPress exclusive interview with co-author of The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, host & writer of CBC Radio’s The Age of Persuasion, founding partner and creative director of Pirate Radio, Terry O’Reilly.

I hope to make this a new, regular feature of The Advertising Apprentice where every month or so, I interview a key figure in the world of advertising/marketing that is really doing some great things. I’ve already got a few people in mind, but if you guys have any suggestions of people you’d like me to interview, let me know I’ll see what I can do!

Given the length of the interview I’ve split it up into two entries. Today’s entry introduces you to the authors, their aspirations for their new book, and how social media has been beneficial in promoting the book. While the second part of the interview, which will be posted early next week, deals with specific ideas raised in the book.

You’re a founding partner of Pirate Toronto (and Pirate New York). You’re also the contact listed on the Pirate Entertainment Group’s website. You host a show on CBC Radio The Age of Persuasion (a show that’s widely respected and listened to religiously by people in and out of the advertising industry). You participate regularly in the community in giving speeches and presentations and now you and Mike Tennant have written a book, The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. Have I left anything out? Where do you find the time?

Dad, husband and martial artist. I have always been very disciplined, a gift of the martial arts. I make the best use of my time, stealing moments here and there to do most of it. Mike Tennant and I put the show together nights and weekends. Mike is able to dedicate more daylight hours to it than I. It’s a juggling act, to be sure. But the one thing this business teaches you is how to be a world-class multi-tasker. One more thing – each thing I do feeds the other. So being a busy commercial director gives me stories for the radio show, which gives me stories for the book, which gives me speech topics, etc.

Speaking of Mike Tennant (pictured below), little seems to be known about him outside of the brief bio included on The Age of Persuasion’s website and the write-up found on the inside back-cover of The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. He certainly doesn’t have anywhere near the close to 1200 Twitter followers that you do. (As of this afternoon, he had just 20 people following him.) I get the impression he likes to be behind the scenes, but what can you share with us about him and what it was like writing a book together?

After doing some research I was able to find the following video of Tennant:

Mike is one of the best radio writers in the country. That’s how he and I met originally. I was looking to hire the best freelance radio writers I could find, and I had heard a very funny spot on CHUM FM. So I called a friend there and asked who had written it. It was Mike. That has got to be almost 15+ years ago. Mike is incredibly prolific and resourceful. He is one of those people who simply gets things done, and there are very few in this world. He is also the producer of the radio show, so he is really responsible for the entire sound of the show. I always say Mike is the heart and soul of our AOP brand.

On the evening of Monday, October 26th, the eve of your book hitting the shelves of bookstores across the country, what was going through your head?

Ha. Would it be lost in the busiest book season of the year? That was first and foremost on my mind. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of celebrity books right before Christmas. But I am proud to say we hit the Best Seller List only 12 days after the launch. We couldn’t believe it. Random House is pretty excited, too.

As of this morning it had made it to eighth on the Globe & Mail’s Bestsellers List.

What do you want people to take away from the book? For instance a 35-year-old mother of three, living in Saskatoon has just finished reading The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. What are you hoping she’s feeling/thinking? Were the myths you talked about at the end of each chapter a way of eliminating any misconceptions people may have had about the industry?

We wanted to take people on a fun and wild ride through the hallways of advertising. Give them a look at what is really a fascinating business. And if they could see how decisions are made in the advertising boardrooms, how commercials are created, maybe – just maybe – they would gain a better appreciation of great advertising. And stop spending money with bad advertisers.

Yes, the Myths at the beginning of each chapter are the myths we get asked most about as admen. We thought it would be fun and interesting to tackle each one of them.

You have said that this book isn’t aimed at people within the industry but rather people outside the industry. With all of yours and Mike’s years of experience, why not write a book aimed at marketing/advertising professionals where you enlighten this group on your many years of experience and share some of your insights?

We were more interested in talking to the general public. The book is aimed at the people ads are aimed at. So is the radio show. Marketing people know how ads work, and they pretty much know the history of the business. But it’s the public that works from only one side of the coin. We wanted to be like the “special features” section of a DVD for regular people. Tell them the stories about great advertising. Tell them the stories of campaigns that didn’t work. Connect the dots for them along a history timeline.  We want people to judge advertising by the best that’s out there, not by the slowest ship in the convoy.

Talk about A) the novel idea of an advertiser writing a book on advertising and then B) the role social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in helping you promote this book.

I think the real surprise was that the CBC took a radio show on advertising. We didn’t know if they would even consider it, but when we pitched the show as a media literacy show, brought to you by two functioning admen in the trenches, they loved it. So the notion of a book on advertising being written by admen isn’t as surprising, but I think readers will be pleasantly surprised how interesting the business is from the inside.

Our AOP Facebook page is a very popular site. It helps us talk to our fans, it gives us an opportunity to post interesting ads that don’t fit in our show themes. It lets us ask our fans for help sometimes. I said in a speech recently that AOP is advertising’s greatest focus group. It’s the unsolicited feedback that makes AOP so fascinating for Mike and I. Facebook and Twitter were also instrumental in launching the book. We were able to tell fans where we’d be, where we’d be signing books, or speaking, in what city, what location, at the precise time. Both sites let us post when the press interviews would be aired or printed. I don’t think we could have made the Best Seller Lists without social media.

Here’s a great video shot at an event where O’Reilly and a couple other authors spoke. The event was held about a week after The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture was released.

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview where I ask O’Reilly about specific topics discussed in The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture. These concepts include the Unwritten Contract, the meaning behind the phrase “under promise, over deliver”, and O’Reilly provides his suggestions for people who want to make a career in advertising.

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