How to create a brilliantly effective poster in five minutes

We’ve all seen them, the desperately sad home-made posters pinned to trees and lamp posts. “Lost cat. £250 reward. Call 0123 456 7890” Plus a picture of the hapless feline.

These are a perfect example of how posters should work. You get what they’re about in a nanosecond, thanks to the headline and picture. They have a totally clear call to action, the phone number. And a powerful incentive too, the reward. Instinctively the person making the poster knows what are the important things to focus on.

You see the same thing in the newsagent’s window. For Sale: Ikea Sofa £100 or nearest offer. Call 0123 123 1234. There’s a picture of the sofa and, bingo, job done.

And yet, when people become marketeers, or designers, or copywriters, they suddenly lose the ability to do posters as effective as this. They start trying to be clever or, heaven forfend, “creative”.

Suddenly we get meaningless headlines, obscure pictures, type you can’t read because it’s in capital letters or white type reversed out of a coloured background, and tiny calls to action.

So here’s my five minute guide to how to make a brilliantly effective poster.

Headline: What is this poster about?

What is it for? And who is it for? What is the single message we want the punter to INSTANTLY take away from the poster?

It’s probably not ‘about’ the name of your company, or a pun. What are you offering the passing customer who has mere moments, or less, to see it and understand it? Is it something free, is it something delicious to eat, is it a short-term special price?

Look at our lost cat posters. They all have the identical headline, everywhere in the world: LOST CAT. Or MISSING CAT. No more no less. In every nation and every language. What does that tell you about effective headlines? (Of course, if your lost cat poster goes on a wall full of other lost cat posters you might have to think slightly harder to make yours stand out.)

Picture: What is this poster about? The picture and headline should work together to instantly communicate the message you want to get to  your chosen audience. So use a simple, clear image that can be understood at a glance.

Body copy: ideally, a poster shouldn’t need any body copy. People passing in cars can’t read it, people passing on foot won’t read it. But if you must have some additional info, keep it super-short and super-easy to read. Opening times, location, price — the stuff the punter might want to know after her attention has been caught by the headline and image. Again, the Lost Cat poster at the top gives some extra info that might be useful, where the cat was last seen.

Call to action: what do you want the punter to do? Phone, go online, choose it at Tesco’s? Then tell them! Big phone number or big web address. Make it as easy as possible for them. (You won’t believe how often art directors and designers will fight to keep these “hard-sell” elements to a minimum because it spoils their beautiful design. Madness.)

It really is that easy. Naturally, if you’re producing a poster for something a little more nuanced than a lost cat or dog you might have to work a little harder to isolate the key message and make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. But the principles and techniques are identical. LOST CAT £250 REWARD.


How NOT to do a full page press ad

This is a real jaw-dropper. Back page of The Telegraph, full page broadsheet press ad. And it’s a brilliant case study of everything you should never do in a press ad. Look at the picture and see if you can guess what it’s advertising.

  1. The headline: it’s on its side. Why? Why make it hard to read. Can you think of any reason why it’s on its side? (I’ll bet you a million quid the team responsible said “It’s more eye-catching because it’s unusual”. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.)
  2. The headline: it doesn’t say anything of interest to me. (Or anyone else.) What is says is this: In 1925 the revolution nearly wasn’t televised. I have no idea what this is about. I have no idea who this ad is for, or why I should read it. (It’s a teaser headline, everyone will be intrigued!”)
  3. The headline: it’s in capital letters. This makes it hard to read. But as it’s also on its side this is hardly the worst sin of incompetence on display here.
  4. The eye-catching picture: oh. There isn’t one. Why not?
  5. The logo: never mind, all of the above, I’ll whizz to the bottom right and look for the logo so I can spend a split second finding out what the brand is. Oh. There isn’t one.
  6. The body copy: it’s presented in a stupid fan layout. Why?
  7. The body copy: it’s printed in rainbow colours making it really hard to read. Why?
  8. The body copy: it’s about the history of television. And how John Logie Baird’s invention wasn’t taken seriously. Oh OK, so that’s the revolution mentioned in the headline. Why are you telling me this? What is this ad about? I still have no idea what it’s selling me. (And let’s face it, I’m the only person reading this crap, and that’s because I write this blog.)
  9. The body copy: line 18, yes, line 18. It says “Next time you’re enjoying watching people watch television…”  (what???? Is this is a reference to Gogglebox? Why? Where has this come from?) “…think about the small revolution  happening the other side of the socket: the smart meter.” So finally, they get to tell us what this pitiful mess is about. Smart meters. WTF?
  10. The body copy: apparently smart meters are the ‘”clever new device that’s helping homes across the country see how much their energy is costing”. Blimey, that’s a little user benefit creeping in there! It only too til line 20 to get there. And that’s it. That’s all we’re told. No more benefits. No more reasons to buy or enquire. No clue as to how or where we might get one.
  11. The body copy: the last line is that favourite of utterly incompetent copywriters: the lame attempt at a joke. I think. “Perhaps watching your smart meter might become as mainstream as watching Scandinavian crime dramas.” Really? I mean REALLY????
  12. There is a tiny URL tucked at the end of the copy. Same size, same typeface, same rainbow colours.

I find this ad genuinely shocking. Smart meters are useful, they have a clear benefit to the user. They are a physical thing so you can show a picture of them. Lots of people will want to know how they can save money, and how much, by installing them. But this ad fails on, literally, every level. Everyone involved with it should be deeply, deeply ashamed and the client should fire the agency immediately. Except the client signed it off too.

Is your brand issue really a company structure issue?

More often than we’d like to think, what is described as a problem with a brand is actually a problem with a company’s structure. I found myself in a meeting last week where this was particularly evident to everyone but, it seemed, the company concerned.

The client (a large financial services brand who shall remain nameless) was telling us that we need to look at the brand’s messaging and its imagery and tone of voice — the usual stuff — as their website doesn’t seem to be delivering the growth they’d expect.

All the latest fashionable stuff is trotted out: how important storytelling is. How we need to revisit the brand’s message house. How we need to workshop some new positioning statements and ensure we have a firm grasp on the customer personas we’re dealing with.

Absolutely nothing wrong with doing all of the above from time to time, if necessary. But the real issue in this instance (as it often is) was nothing to do with “the brand” per se. It was entirely an issue of how the company structured its product offering.

Put simply, the company was offering two main types of financial service: protection (ie insurance), and pensions (ie savings/investments). Each had their own sales and management team. Each had their own revenue and profit targets. They even had separate buildings in different parts of town.

As a consequence of this internal structure, each had, effectively, their own website with just a shared initial homepage. Plus, each had their own advertising campaign with markedly different imagery and messaging.

In other words, each product area was pretty much a separate brand.

So the customer would, to all intents and purposes, be dealing with two separate entities. She couldn’t get a statement that showed her protection and pension products on a single document. The documents she did receive were entirely different in appearance and structure. She couldn’t manage her two products through a single online portal. She had to log in separately to two different dashboards. She received no cross-sell benefits or discounts. In short, as far as the company was concerned she was essentially two different people.

From a company perspective, this can make perfect sense. Often the structure comes about through mergers and acquisitions. A company buys another company’s insurance ‘book’ or sells off its pension business. The new bit is just bolted on to the old bit and remains a separate entity in everything but name. Why change anything other than the product’s name and logo?

Because it’s unbelievably frustrating and confusing for the customer, that’s why. And that’s bad for business.

You arrive at the website expecting a clear UX journey. You want to feel like you’re a loved and appreciated customer of The Brand. You don’t give a monkey’s that the company behind the website is operating out of two separate offices in different parts of the company and that the management of one bit rarely talks to the management of the other bit.

What you care about is being able to look after your finances simply and confidently. You don’t want to have two different logins and two completely different website journeys. You couldn’t care less that each brand has a slightly different version of the logo and a different ad campaign.

In your mind, the brand is a single entity and you want it to help you manage your financial affairs as best it can. If it’s not delivering this, you think bad things about the brand. Perhaps you think about moving to competitors who get it right?

My point is this: we must always remember that The Brand is the impression of your company/product/service that exists in YOUR CUSTOMERS’ MINDS. It’s not a logo, it’s not a TOV, it’s not your values or mission statement.

If your customers think your website is clunky and confusing, your service is sloppy, your communications unnecessarily complex and wasteful, it doesn’t matter that your advertising is sensational, your logo is beautiful and your TOV is warm and witty. Your brand is what your customers feel about you, not what you tell them they ought to feel.

Nobody’s saying it’s easy to change a company’s structure to reflect what your customer needs, it isn’t. It’s complex and expensive. It puts massive numbers of noses out of joint and, of course, can even result in redundancies. So it’s entirely understandable when the main board refuses to even consider it.

But if you genuinely believe all those customer-centric promises in your latest brand values document, you need to do it.




Why the new VW Arteon commercial is TV advertising at its very best

The new VW Arteon tv ad is brilliant.

Why is it brilliant? Because the creative team involved have clearly been given an incredibly boring brief (by the client/planners/suits) that said “Sell this car on how beautiful it is”. But have shown us all that, if you know what you’re doing, even the blandest of briefs can generate great work.

Most creative teams would have written an ad that showed the car in a variety of cool locations with people drooling over it as it whizzes by. It would be driven by smug man with beard, or cool girl with attitude. (There are no other people in the world according to most agency folk these days. Apart , perhaps, from the idiotic but loveable football supporter who appears in every beer/betting or pizza ad.)

The ad would feature trendy music, trendy editing, and probably some ridiculously contrived storyline crammed into 30 seconds. Ideally with a lame ‘joke’ after the logo and endline supers.

But the VW team did it properly.

They took the brief and said “How can we make this incredibly boring proposition come to life? How can we really dramatise the fact that we think it’s a good-looking vehicle? How can we make this duller than dull proposition be exciting and different? How can we make an ad that stands out and is genuinely memorable?”

What they did is show the car. In a regular, dark, car studio. Not even moving. No cool locations.

And then they have a blind man tell us why it’s beautiful.

Pete Eckert is, we’re told, a blind photographer. (Which is interesting in itself, in any context.)

Think about how off the wall that is.

It’s an ad about the visual appeal of a product. With its story told by a blind person.

Totally intriguing, totally different, totally brilliant.

What a shame that the car has such a terrible, terrible name: Arteon? Hardly Golf or Polo or Fox or Up is it?

Remember: nobody wants to read your shit.

Just read this book and it’s a timely reminder about one of the basic facts in the marketing and advertising business: nobody wants to read your ad. Nobody wants to read your website. Nobody wants to read your email.

And yet the industry seems to have forgotten this fact. We see so much work that is, patently, very pleased with itself and has clearly been produced in the reality-free zone that is the hallmark of contemporary promotion.

Work is produced for other agency people to admire. For the client to show his boss. For the boss to show his wife.

We see endless numbers of me-too TV ads with smug 30-somethings with beards being oh-so-ironic.

And offering no reason a) to watch b) to buy.

These ads feature smug 30-somethings with beards because they’re produced by smug 30-somethings with beards.

And, as a result, they become simply TV wallpaper. Blandness taken to the next level of virtual invisibility. A colourless mush of vapid, lifestyle-based nonsense.

So often now, clients want work that looks like somebody else’s work. Not work that stands out, that demands your attention. That would be brave and adventurous.

They want work that is cosy, familiar, well-worn and unthreatening. As challenging as your favourite old pair of slippers. Work That Looks Like Advertising.

Not work that is effective advertising.

Of course, the good news is this: do something half decent and it leaps out at you like somebody poking you up the nostril with a red-hot poker.

So next time you’re some creative work, ask yourself “What can I do that will make this a must-read for my audience?”

Chances are you’ll come up with a proposition for your brief which is more focused than “Product X will make you happy”.

Chances are you might think “Hmmm, do I really need to show my target audience here? Actually, these people aren’t my real target audience anyway.”

Chances are you’ll write a headline message that offers a real benefit to your punters. And if you haven’t got one then you’re going to need an execution that captures your punters’ attention by its creative brilliance.

As someone once said: “If you’ve got nothing to say, sing it”.



How to write the perfect creative brief

Writing a bad creative brief is really easy. Writing a good one is really hard.

Why does it matter? Because the better the brief, the better the work you’ll get back.

If the brief is vague and woolly the work will be even vaguer and woolier.

Here’s a few tips on how to write a good one that will have copywriters and designers slapping you on the back and taking you for a beer. (Yes, great briefs are quite rare I’m afraid.)

Precisely define your target audience

It’s important to carefully and accurately describe the person we’re talking to.

Digital agencies tend to talk about “personas”, ad agencies tend to talk about the target audience still. But it’s the same thing. The more I can picture the person I’m writing for, the better I can empathise with his or her needs/problems.

Paint me a picture of who I should see in my mind’s eye when I begin work. Can I visualise someone I know?

What jargon do they use (if any), what understanding or knowledge do they have about the product or service we’re selling? What is their current mindset about the product or sector, and so on.

(Many clients like to subdivide the audience into small segments based on age, sex etc but I’ve found that behaviour is generally a much more effective way to divide an audience. Have they bought it before, do they respond to edm, etc?)

Describe and explain the product or service

The brief should clearly tell us what the product or service does. How it works. What’s different or unique about it. Why does the target need it? How does it help them? What problem does it solve for them? Or what emotional need does it fulfil?

Spell it out so anyone can understand it using simple everyday words. If you don’t fully understand it yourself, your creative team won’t have a clue. This is really, really important.

Often the nugget of a great creative idea is hidden in the detail about a product or service. If you’re an agency person, try and know more about the client’s product and market than she does. What’s its market share? What’s the awareness level in the marketplace?

Describing the product or service is the bit on the brief where, as a copywriter, I don’t mind if you write lots of stuff. Or link to a brochure or website that gives lots of detail.

On the other hand, the bit where you must NEVER write lots of stuff is what this post is really about…

Write a killer Main Proposition 

It’s the shortest bit of the brief but should take you the longest time to write. Because it’s far and away the most important bit. It dictates everything about the creative work you want produced, by tightly defining the core thing we want to say.

Writing a good proposition is what really separates the amateur from the pro when it comes to writing a brief for creative people.

It has lots of different names: the promise, the main message, the singleminded proposition. Or it may simply be a slot on the brief that says “What is the one thing that will make the target audience do what we want?” or variations on that theme.

The point is, it’s the single piece of communication that, if all else fails, we want to hit the target reader/viewer/listener with.

And it’s really, really hard to get it right.

So if you only have time to write one thing on a brief, this is the one to focus on. And this is how to do it…

Short and sharp: it should contain ONE message. A single, short sentence.

Benefit-led: It should convey a single promise or benefit to the audience:  how will the reader’s problem be solved? What offer are we making to her? In other words…

What’s the single, main reason they should buy this product?

It could be as simple as a price deal: “Get 25% off this Thursday”

It could be telling them that’s something will make their life easier: “Cook your dinner five times faster” “Reduce your lead time to customers by 30%” “Feel instantly refreshed” “Grow stronger rapeseed plants”.

These all are BENEFITS. You must be super-clear about the difference between a benefit and a feature.

A feature simply describes what the product or service IS. It’s a global supply chain, it’s a sausage made of best pork, it’s an online investment service.

But a BENEFIT tells you why you need to buy it. How it will help you or your business.

It’s the difference between ‘these boots are made of high quality leather’ and “these boots will last you a lifetime”. Clients often focus on the feature and find it hard to think it terms of benefit.

The best way to write a strong benefit-led proposition is to use my YOU CAN technique. Try writing You Can in front of your proposition. This makes sure your proposition is talking direct to the punter, and helps you make sure it’s framed as a benefit to them.

You can reduce your delivery lead time

You can feed your hungry kids quicker

You can grow more crops per acre

You can have a more fulfilling career 

Some writers and designers/art directors will even ask you to condense the thought down to a single word if you can (or will do it themselves using the brief) so they have a laser-like focus on the core message. Try it.

Emotional or rational?

Some people will say “You need  an emotional sell, not a logical one, these days.” Be careful, though, this often stems from misunderstanding how propositions and the resultant headlines are created and work.

Sure, you should write your promise or proposition in a way that empathises with the audience if you can, but a purely emotion-focused proposition like “XYZ Product will make you happy” won’t get you good work.

There’s a trend amongst account people and planners at the moment to use something like this as the proposition for every brief, because ultimately that’s what all products or services are designed to do, yes?.

No. A bland and boring proposition will get you bland and boring work.

It’s the creative team’s job to take your focused, benefit-led proposition and dramatise it in a way that stands out and that resonates with the audience in an emotional way. We present your rational proposition in an emotionally charged way so it works harder.

If you want to write your proposition as a quasi-headline, great. A good copywriter will run with it if it’s a good one. Good ideas can come from anyone in the team.

Try it as a newspaper headline?

If you’re struggling to write your proposition, try writing the benefit statement as it might appear in a newspaper or website news headline. This is a really good way of establishing whether it’s credible or just hot air and/or waffle.

Company claims new pesticide kills 5% more insects in your roof

Company claims new pesticide will make householders happy

Which one is more powerful, or more likely to get the punter to read on, do you think?

The proposition dictates the headline and the imagery

The headline that your writer or team comes back with should, in conjunction with the main image, instantly reflect your proposition. Anyone seeing the work should know at one what we’re offering the punter. If they don’t, the work has failed to capture the proposition and, arguably, should be revisited.

In my days working on huge FMCG clients like Lever Brothers or Procter & Gamble, the clients would sometimes evaluated the work entirely on a tick box basis. Does it clearly communicate the benefit in the proposition? Tick. Does it show who it’s for? Tick. And so on.

They would take the (sensible) view that the agency was the expert in writing ads and, therefore,  as long as their marketing messages were clearly communicated they’d trust us to do work that was exciting, impactful and memorable.

Which is a timely reminder that creative work isn’t generally there to make the client feel all warm and gooey. It’s to get his customers reaching for their wallet. Sometimes it’s very easy to forget this.

But what if there’s isn’t a strong and specific reason for them to buy?

If you’re selling milk or beer or clothes or even a car, there may not be anything specific or unique you can say to your audience to make them consider your product. In this case you may have to fall back on a proposition that is more about the target audience’s aspirations and lifestyle.

The creative work will most likely rely simply on imagery, humour or music that reflect what the brand wants to say about itself.

In a B2B environment, however, if you can’t see a specific reason/benefit you can use for your proposition, you’re stuffed. Chances are you just need to ask the client more questions. Or failing that, ask his customers why they bought.

(Can you imagine a hard-nosed B2B salesman telling a corporate procurement director that he should spend £2m on his machines because it will make him happy?)

Sure, you can treat a B2B brief like an FMCG brief for beer or perfume but the creative work you get back will be tosh and disappear into the ether, ignored and unread.

Why should they believe us?

The next section on the brief, immediately following the proposition, should be something called “support” or “proof points” or “why should the audience believe our promise?” or similar. This is where you can list all the product features and facts that make the proposition credible.

This section should really only contain the stuff that directly underpins the proposition. If there’s other stuff you’d like to say to the punter, put this in a separate section on the brief.

Finally, don’t forget the last two must-haves, both of which massively impact the creative people’s thinking. (I generally read these first so I can frame the rest of the brief in the knowledge of where it’s ultimately got to lead.)

The deliverables: do you want a web page, a brochure, an email, a brochure, a press ad, a banner or skyscraper, a logo, a doordrop? Or perhaps a campaign idea that will work across all of the above? Be clear and specific.

The call to action: what is it you want the punter to do? (It may be nothing but remember the product if it’s a pure brand awareness brief.) Do you want her to call you, visit a website, buy something Right Now? Be clear about what you want them to do and how you want them to do it.

Ageism in advertising is out of control

In most industries you care to think of, experience is considered a jolly good thing.

He’s a highly experienced surgeon, yoiu’re in safe hands with him. She’s a hugely experienced lawyer, she’s the best person to have in your corner. He’s a massively experienced electrician, there’s not a problem he doesn’t know how to fix. And so on.

But in advertising the reverse is true. Ageism isn’t just rampant it’s virtually compulsory.

You can have won a million top awards, you can have solved major marketing issues for some of the biggest, most famous brand in the world. You might have turned  companies around with your input, saving hundreds of jobs along the way.

But if you’re over 50, maybe even 45 — and in the digital arena, over 13 – you’re considered waaaaaay past your sell-by date.

The thinking goes that you can’t possibly have any great ideas if you’re ‘old’. You suddenly forget how to write fantastically persuasive copy or art direct a stunningly innovative and memorable tv campaign.

I wish I could rationalise this bizarre situation on the basis of money. Along the lines of: “Clearly, more experienced people should be paid more. They work faster and produce better results. They’re better with clients and have a much better insight into planning and business generally. So they deserve the big bucks but we can’t afford them so we’re going to have to compromise on quality and pay less.”

At least this has a sort of logic to it. But, actually it isn’t this.

There’s simply an unwritten law in advertising and marketing, now, that anyone over a certain age is Too Old. They won’t have good ideas. Their ideas will be somehow old-fashioned. They don’t understand digital communications. They’re not edgy enough. I’ve heard all these and more.

The ultimate irony is that the people who spend the most money, who buy the most stuff, are not 22 year olds that work in advertising.

They’re middle-aged people. Cars, tellies, Sky subscriptions, food, drink, financial services — the majority of sales in these marketplaces are down to people in their forties, fifties and above. The people with the dosh.

So ask yourself, who is more in touch with the mindset, the motivations, the day-to-day family issues this group faces? The 22 year old or the 52 year old?

And before someone pipes up with “Ah yes, but if you get people onboard with your brand when they’re young, they’ll stay with you for life”, this is utter tosh and has been disproven over and over again. Brand loyalty barely exists in any meaningful way and an empty shelf, a higher price or a disappointing experience will have us switching to another brand in a heartbeat.

The issue is even more profound with B2B marketing. (I’d never give my junior teams any B2B or internal comms work if I could avoid it.)

Kids, on the whole, just don’t understand business and management in any meaningful way. Ask them to explain the difference between revenue and profit and their eyes glaze over.

Trust them with your cornflakes campaign, by all means, but leave the serious stuff to the grown-ups.

Why your new brand may be doomed to failure

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And this is especially true in the ludicrous mixed-up world of marketing.

A few years ago, everyone who knows only a little about marketing became convinced that The Brand is everything. You had to build a brand to sell your product.

Everyone who knows a lot about marketing knows the opposite is in fact the case. You have to sell your product in order to build a brand.

And to sell your product you have to tell people why they should try it, or buy it.

Because it cleans whiter. Because it’s the sweet you can eat between meals. Because it’s the safest car out there.

In short, you have to give people a clear, focused and specific reason to buy your service or product. This is called selling. Which is now virtually a dirty word in marketing and advertising circles.

The absolute foolishness of trying to create a brand to sell your products is tragically demonstrated by the closure of a private school near me. This school has been going for over 300 years.

But last year they suddenly changed its name from The Friends School to Walden School. And a new logo popped up to support this. Hmmm, I thought, That’s odd, why on earth would you ditch a very distinctive brand name with three centuries of heritage and, one imagines, close to 100% recognition in the local area? And replace it with a name that creates instant confusion with the local Saffron Walden County High School? Which even has a similar logo.

I’m guessing the answer is a simple one.

The school was losing pupils. Revenue was drying up. Something had to be done.

But instead of concentrating on creating a great product (a brilliant school with stonking academic results well worth your £7000 a term fees) and then telling people about it as loudly and convincingly as possible, offering special discounts and making themselves generally unmissable to their target parents, they obviously picked the route that so many businesses do today…

They decided they needed a new brand.

“Yes! If we change the name and the logo the customers will come flocking to our door and our woes will be over for ever! Hoorah for marketing!”

Except it didn’t work.

Because it never does. Yet, more and more companies do it. It’s a lot easier than selling. It makes you feel cool and trendy talking about ‘brand’ rather than grubby ol’ sales.

You get to meet designers and strategists and planners who make you feel very important and write all sorts of portentous documents about your brand and the psychological power of Pantone 345.

They make you a new logo. And choose a fashionable typeface. Maybe they even write a slogan.

But do they make people buy your stuff? Nope.



Is your website broken before you even launch it?

Remarkably, I still see people launching brand-new websites that aren’t optimised for viewing and reading on mobile phones. Depending on which survey you look at, around 60% of all website visits are now done via mobiles. And this percentage is set to increase as sales of traditional PCs, even laptops, continue to fall in relation to smartphones and tablets.

Only today I was asked for some feedback on a new website, launching a new B2B product. Clearly it would have looked dazzling and beautiful on the designer/developer/UX people’s big flashy desktop. But on a regular smartphone it was illegible.

It also had a homepage explainer video packed with cartoons, captions and animated diagrams that were quite literally illegible and incomprehensible on the smartphone screen. Again, I’m sure this looked magnificent when the video team showed it on their giant hi-res Mac display, with pats on the back all round, but in the real world it was an utter waste of money.

Get this stuff wrong and it hurts your business.

Not only that, last year Google launched its ‘mobile first’ algorithm. Which means , if your site isn’t fully optimised for mobile, not only can your customers not read it, you get penalised in the search results too!

Putting ‘mobile first’ into action doesn’t just mean making sure your site works on the smaller devices by being ‘responsive’ — some people call this a ‘mobile friendly’ approach.

It means you should be thinking about the smaller devices FIRST. Write and design for the small devices then upscale, not the other way around,

And, of course, it’s the same story for any digital comms. If you’re sending out some sales emails to drive your customers to your lovely new site, you need to optimise them for mobile FIRST.

Even better, think about actually writing and designing them ON your phone. You’ll soon see whether they’ve got too much copy or an overly complicated design. Try it; it can be both shocking and liberating at the same time!

Sometimes a whisper is louder than a scream

It seems that, in order to be heard above the mindless racket that passes for TV adverting these days, advertisers are becoming more and more hysterical in their approach.

The grotesque “You’re so Money Supermarket” dancers and the once slightly wittier but now just brash and crass “Go Compare” executions are just two examples of what their creators would no-doubt declare as ‘ironic’ advertising. Actually, it’s just boorish shouting.

What is actually ironic, is that often you get more attention on the telly when you whisper instead of scream.

There was a striking black and white ad for Adele’s latest outing just before christmas, for example. In virtual silence, it focused on her eyes, which then opened to striking and memorable effect. It stood out like a sore thumb amongst the stampede of not-funny, screeching nonsense that surrounded it.

And now there’s another example of a TV ad that stops you in your tracks, grabs your attention and keeps it for the duration of its sell. (You know, the stuff ads are supposed to do.)

It’s basically just a still screen showing text messages popping up on a mobile. The only sound is the gentle beep as the latest message arrives. You have to read each one. No voice over to help you.

It’s utterly captivating and, like the Adele ad, is an oasis of communicative calm in the maelstrom of nonsense we’re so used to being assaulted by.

So, well done

The same principle applies in press and online too. Shout loudly “I AM AN AD PLEASE READ ME”, and you’re actually saying “I AM AN AD. YOU SHOULD IGNORE ME IMMEDIATELY”.

Make your ad look like editorial, however, and you’ll get that extra nano-second of attention that allows your message (if it’s clear enough, and offers a benefit) to be more clocked by your target. Suddenly your ad starts to do its job.

There’s a reason that so many online advertisers use those tacky click-bait executions (universally sneered at by hipster, bearded advertising types) rather than ‘creative’ banners. They test one against the other.

And the editorial-style click-bait ones work better. Simple.