By Augustine Cerf
Don’t Stu in your own juices. Go out and get opinions.
Stu Outhwaite gave us a kick up the arse. Get a book now, said Stu. Get on with it. Go out and get opinions. Don’t just sit on your laurels and wait for them to come to you. You’re shit and you should know that you are. Accept this and just get out there. Don’t be an entitled creative. Don’t wait until portfolio day.
But he didn’t just put the proverbial ants in our pants, inciting us to rise up and become creative thinkers, to question everything and to become psychologist, philosophers and anthropologists, he also gave us his list of 9 routes into that Big Thought.
They overlap and advertising isn’t (thank goodness) an exact science, but they’ll guide you to a proposition like the bright star leading shepherds who kept their flock at night to baby Jesus’ manger. If you’re struggling to close in on your strategic golden ticket, write these gems out onto 9 different bits of paper and riff off them. I hadn’t done a mind map since primary school workshops but, boy, does it feel good. I’ll set them out here for any advertising student (aspirational or otherwise) who wasn’t lucky enough to sit where we sat, listening to the man himself. Thanks, Stu.
- Just make a big promise.
Examples of this include Snickers, Weetabix and Lynx. If you use our deodorant, you’ll get laid. Promises don’t get bigger than that.
- Make a big claim
Ford Transit is an example of this. They position themselves as the cars that make up the backbone of Britain. Transit established itself as the van. Everything you consume ever has probably been transported by a Transit. How’s that for a claim? Try to name another van. Ford Transit are the second thing I think of when I think of vans, the first being the time in Peep Show when Superhands told Jez to get a van so they could be ‘men with ven’.
- Be really honest about yourself in a really arresting way
Marmite dominates this field: they got hold of a problem with their product and celebrated it. They managed to convince a nation that the only possible response to their product were extreme polarities. Through honesty, they created a kind of cult and seeped into common parlance. Advertising should get hold of truth. Find the truth that works for your product and grab it by the horns.
- Make your greatest weakness your greatest strength
Stella Artois is a glorious example of this: ‘reassuringly expensive’ was a stroke of genius.
Consider your failings and limitations and see if you can say something interesting about this. See what everyone else is saying (in Stella Artois’ case ‘lads, lads, lads!’) and go elsewhere. Be brave.
- Take on your direct enemy
Dixon’s ‘and then go to Dixons and buy it’ totally killed it. Find your position amidst the competition and milk them dry. Another classic example of this, Avis’ ‘We Try Harder’, will go (has gone) down in (advertising) history.
- Find a more interesting enemy
This one is quite brilliant and pushes you into even more unexpected places.
Persil didn’t take on Ariel, they took on dirt.
Step out of your category, shoot and kill.
- Make enemies
Girls bought Yorkies. Make people want to say ‘fuck you’ and buy your product. When Marmite made an ad about rescuing neglected Marmite, their clin d’oeil to animal cruelty charities was lost neither on the public, nor on the charities. Stir the pot a little bit. When your ad sends people up in arms, it can sometimes create the right kind of buzz. Choose your enemies wisely.
- Find another category
AA put themselves on a par with emergency services. That’s big thinking.
This is similar to ‘find a more interesting enemy’, but don’t cut corners. Write it on a different piece of paper anyway. See what the difference in angle and phrasing will unlock in you.
- Set out to save the world
You know who these are: the Doves and Toms of the world.
Ask yourself: if your brand was a social movement or a political party, what would it stand for?