Good advertising helps people solve problems.

Today ad legend Steve Harrison came to my uni to present a lecture about “Problem/Solution. Or How to have a big marketing idea”.

He has worked as a copywriter, European creative director and global creative director for Ogilvy and Mather. He has won more Cannes Lions Awards than any other creative director in his discipline. In 2009 he published ‘How to do better creative work’ and this year saw the publication of his latest book ‘Changing The World Is The Only Fit Work For A Man’.”

The average person sees nearly 3,000 pieces of communication i.e. advertising every day yet only EIGHT are remembered admirably.

You’re not competing against other pieces of advertising as the majority of them are bad. You are competing against all other pieces of communication: newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, emails etc.

How can you make your marketing stand out and be effective to your target market? The answer is easy, it’s by taking the time to listen and relating your message to the pain of your client.

Adverts just aren’t as useful as other pieces of communication. In a world bursting with information, the average consumer has learnt to zone out ads that don’t help them. However if your advert told the reader something useful, then people will see it. If it’s not useful then people will not see it.

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. And sometimes it’s an ad.” – Howard Gossage.

The key to a big idea is Problems. Everyone has problems. And your product/service solves them.

This is a technique to grab attention, to engage people who have the problem. Or people who want to avoid getting the problem. Or those who are concerned about the problem for other reasons. Or perhaps you want to alert consumers to a problem they may not even know they have.

This technique works particularly well when your target audience has a big problem, a big concern. The bigger the problem, the better it works.

A creative brief should always have a clear problem that the consumer has, and a clear solution that the product/service provides.

Good advertising helps people solve problems. Gives them concrete reasons to buy this specific product/service. Explains them why this tomato sauce tastes better, why this computer works better, why these jeans make you look nicer, why this service is more convenient or tells me why this product gives me more value.

You have a problem. We have a solution. 

It’s crucial to remember that the purpose of an ad is not to solve the client’s needs and boost their sales, which is what a vast number of ads do. But its purpose is to solve the consumer’s problem.

If you convince consumers that by solving that problem your product will make their lives better or easier , consumers will buy it.

The creatives role is to take the creative brief and dramatise/demonstrate the solution in an interesting way. If the brief isn’t right, then the creative isn’t right.

It needs to have a clear, single-minded proposition, one sentence that sums up the solution. Imagine you’re stuck in a lift with your ideal customer, how would you sell the solution in seconds?

Advertising: “It’s a simple game made complicated by fools”.

What’s do you think? Is the ‘Problem/Solution’ approach really the key to having big ideas?


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