When preparing your advertisement, you should first define your product's Unique Selling Proposition (USP). To find the USP, ask yourself "How is this product different?"

Make a list of your product's pros and cons. This will help you think about what message you want your ad to send.

Positioning is an attempt to place a product into a certain category in consumers' minds: "the best", for example (best deodorant, best soda, etc.) ("The best" is, however, extremely difficult to establish for a new brand). Types of positioning are Against (eg, Hertz vs. Avis, 7-up vs. colas), Niche (a sub-division of a category), New, and Traditional.

A Brand Character Statement sets the tone for an entire campaign.

A simple way to start preparing your advertisement is with this statement: "Advertising will ____A_____ ____B_____ that ____C_____ is ____D_____. Support will be ____E_____. Tone will be ____F_____." where A is a verb, B is a target demographic (such as, "girls between 14-18 years old"), C is your product, D is an adjective or phrase. E is what the meat of your ad will be. F is your ad's "attitude".

For example, "Advertising will convince artistic types age 18-35 that Apple computers are hip and cool. Support will be two men discussing Macs and PCs. Tone will be humorous."

Part B of this strategy statement is the target audience. Advertisers use many methods to gain information about this group, including demographics, psychographics (how the target thinks), and focus groups.

Part C is the product itself. Advertisers spend time studying this as well. Important questions to ask are "Why would anybody buy this?" "What's the product's advantage?" and "What is the client's image?" The last one is important to consider in order to make sure that your ad doesn't jar with the public perception the company has created for itself. For example, hip or edgy ads probably won't go over well with a company that has a public image of being "conservative" and/or "family friendly."

Support is anything that can demonstrate or otherwise back up the premise presented in the first sentence. Some examples are facts (e.g., statistics), images, or a scenario.

  • Reason Why - How a product delivers a benefit.
  • Combination - Two or more benefits are demonstrated.
  • Permission to Believe - A clever story or character(s) make claim(s) believable.
  • Nine-Wheel Logic - Specious support used when real support would be too awkward.
  • Image - An attitude or lifestyle that advertiser attempts to link to product.

A strong "call to action" is another element used to good effect.

Exercises edit

  1. Pick 5 products and write up USPs for them.
  2. Pick 10 products and write a strategic statement for each one using the formula above.
  3. For each of the 5 types of support mentioned above, find one ad that exemplifies it.
  4. Choose a brand and reposition it.

The FCB Grid edit

The FCB Grid.

The FCB Grid was created by Richard Vaughn. With this model, messages are categorized by "thinking" and "feeling", "low" and "high."

  • Low Think (practicality, pragmatism)
  • High Think
  • Low Feel (sensuality, pleasure)
  • High Feel (product as extension of self)

A Low Feel commercial demonstrates the pleasure obtained by using the product. This approach is popular for foods.

A High Feel commercial could emphasize how the product makes the consumer hip or cool. This approach is popular for advertising products like clothing, shoes, or sportscars.

The Harris Grid edit

The Harris Grid.

Tom Harris created the Harris Grid for preparing MPR campaigns. It measures a product's level of interest in consumers versus the level of interest in mass media.

Some examples:

  • High Consumer/High Media. Computers, cars, movies, and high-tech gadgets fall into this category. These products make news, so they should have high-profile campaigns.
  • Low Consumer/High Media. Cereals, vitamins, and medications fall into this category. These products also make news, but are not very interesting to consumers. It is therefore important to highlight new scientific findings that are beneficial to the product's image.

Y&R Creative Workplan edit

The firm of Young & Rubicam have a process called the "Creative Workplan." This crafts a strategy that plans how to attain an objective, which solves a problem, defined by a key fact. In other words, the advertising is designed in order to solve a problem. For example, the problem may be low sales, or a need to change the corporation's image.

To start, define the problem and identify the key fact showing the cause of it. Then, state your objective (what to do to solve the problem).

The four parts of the Creative Workplan's Creative Strategy are:

  1. Prospect Definition - The "prospect" referred to here is the demographic you are aiming your ad at (also known as a target audience). How is the product used by the prospect? Use demographics and psychographics.
  2. Principal Competition - Why would the consumer buy the competition's product instead?
  3. Consumer Benefit or Promise - What does the product do for the prospect?
  4. Reason Why - Rationale for how a product delivers on its claim (e.g., "Avocados are good for you because they contain 'heart-healthy' fats that help lower cholesterol")

GE Focus System edit

  • Focus on the Receiver
  • Focus on the Proposition
  • Dramatize the Proposition - "Break the boredom barrier!"

Relevance, Originality and Impact (ROI) System edit

ROI stands for "Return on Investment," but at DDB/Needham it also stands for "Relevance, Originality and Impact." The ROI System was designed by DDB/Needham. While covering the same territory as other systems (the target, a product claim, support for the claim) it also looks at creating a corporate "personality", as well as personality of individual products. Another important aspect of the ROI System is "aperture": the timing and placement of the ad to maximize success. The system helps you to determine the cheapest media for the greatest impact.

The Ladder edit


Types of advertising messages can be arranged in a hierarchical ladder, based on what perspective they use to discuss the product.

  • Values (This product makes me Y)
  • Consumer Benefit (This product helps me Y)
  • Product Benefit (X does Y)
  • Product Feature (X can do Y)
  • Attribute (X is Y)

The further up the ladder you go, the more consumer-based the message becomes. The further down you go, the more product-based it becomes. You can see that the first two statements tell how the product helps the consumer ("me"), while the other statements focus more and more on the product (X).

Here are some examples:

  • Values (Axe Body Spray makes me irresistible to women)

Try/Keep/Retry edit

This strategy works on three types of customers: future, current, and past. Instead of just trying to get new customers, work on maintaining current ones, and find out how to bring former customers back.

  • TRY to get new customers
  • KEEP current customers
  • RETRY former customers

TRY techniques focus on offers to bring in new customers, and something to bring them back (a "bounceback").

KEEP techniques work on increasing current customers' frequency of purchases and "ticket size" (how much money they spend).

RETRY techniques attempt to figure out why the customer left the company, and how to give them a reason to return.

Brainstorming edit

Exploding the Dot edit

Learn/Feel/Do Circle edit

The Time/Money/Quality Triangle edit

The Time/Money/Quality Triangle illustrates an advertising truism, that "you can't have all three." If there is little time or money, then ad quality will suffer. The more time and/or money that is available to the project, the higher the quality can be. However, the level of quality must be appropriate to the product...not all products should have high-quality ads!

The Time/Money/Quality Triangle. You can't have all three!

In her book Hitting the Sweet Spot: How Consumer Insights Can Inspire Better Marketing and Advertising, Lisa Fortini-Campbell argues that an advertising "sweet spot" can be attained by combining consumer insight and brand insight.

A concept board can be used to demonstrate your ad campaign to your client. These boards (often quite large, so they can be appreciated by a group) outline the core idea of your campaign, a "key visual", and perhaps some bullet points.