Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

What Makes Good Advertising? 12 Timeless Principles Based on the Advice of Famous Advertising Gurus

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

What Makes Good Advertising? 12 Timeless Principles Based on the Advice of Famous Advertising Gurus

Article excerpt


"- Do you know what advertising is?

- I haven't tasted it yet.

- It is not for eating. I'll explain to you what advertising is. People like to be happy. I'm a painter.

- I see. That's advertising.

- No. Advertising is when people are talked into believing that they will be happy about something. I paint a picture of the island, newspapers write about the island, and entrepreneurs fall for it. It is called a resort. The wild tribe of white tourists worships a god called Baedeker and visits this place. It is called prosperity. Little Lagonda is going to be an island resort."

Jeno Rejto: Quarantine in the Grand Hotel

Daniel Starch, one of the forefathers of the science of advertising, explained in 1923 that (quoted by Dusenberry, 2005, p. 59):

"An advertisement, to be successful

- must be seen

- must be read

- must be believed

- must be remembered

- and must be acted upon."

According to Leo Burnett, the founder of the ad agency of the same name, the way to create good advertising is to "Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read."

István Sas, the doyen of Hungarian advertising defines three "commandments" (Sas 2007, p. 33):

- drawing attention,

- distinction, and

- translating into a catchy genre.

However, some people say that a good advertisement even goes beyond the requirements mentioned above. Raymond Rubicam, one of the fathers of the Young&Rubicam agency, says "The best identification of a great advertisement is that its public is not only strongly sold by it, but that both the public and the advertising world remember it for a long time as an admirable piece of work." (quoted by Ogilvy 2001, p. 196).

Péter Geszti, a writer of several excellent lyrics and remarkable advertising copies, has a similar view. He thinks that good advertising "does not only convey the message and achieve commercial success, but also becomes part of the public discussion." (quoted by Sas 2005, p. 343).

As the answer is obviously not "42", it may be useful to expand on the approaches mentioned above, in order to see what makes good advertising.

1. Good advertising sells

After all, advertisements are all about selling. It does not matter how many people read them or talk about them, or how many awards they get at various advertising festivals; they are all about selling the product or brand.

As Walter Weir pointed out in the middle of the 20th century, "the best copy testing machine is still a cash register... It is always better to have a few people read your advertisement and buy your product than to have a lot of them read it and do nothing about it." (quoted by Schwab 2002, pp. 109., 220.)

David Ogily, possibly the world's most famous advertising professional, claimed (2001, p. 7.): "When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it ?creative.' I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product."

Victor O. Schwab, who was selected the best direct mail copywriter of the 20th century, states that "advertising is nothing but an expense (not an investment) unless it gets the kind of action desired by the advertiser." (Schwab, 2002, p. 14.)

Mark Silveira, the author of Ordinary Advertising - And How to Avoid It Like Plague says that good advertising results in good return on investment (2003, p. 15.)

Rosser Reeves, the TV advertising professional who developed the term Unique Selling Proposition (USP), uses even more straightforward words: "Let us say that ... you had started a company ... what do you want out of me? Fine writing? Do you want masterpieces? Do you want glowing things that can be framed by copywriters? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up. What do you want?" (Higgins, 2003). The Benton&Bowles ad agency went as far as to make "it's not creative unless it sells" their slogan. …

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