Advertising Truths That Will Never Change

Red Cross Preparedness Presentation

I recently attended a popular B2B marketing luncheon. The speaker was a senior executive for a global brand. The subject was social media. I thought she was making a good case… at first. Then she showed a photo, supposedly tweeted by a “fan.” It was a picture of a truck carrying one of their products.

Only problem was, the only way to get that shot would be with a wide-angle lens. Somebody just happening by would never get it with a cell phone or digital camera. My business partner leaned over and said, “ It’s a fake tweet.” In other words, it was an inside job. We all know the term “fan” can have a certain fudge factor these days, but the result was a sense of disappointment with the brand, like they wasted my time.

The event recalled a career lesson from my early days in marketing.

I was working as a group creative director at a big advertising agency; one with a client base of top CPG brands. They brought in a guru to help us finesse our presentation skills. His "take no prisoners" approach to landing accounts made him a legend back in the day. In an industry full of great storytellers, he was unequaled. He was a former executive creative director and had some of the ad industry’s most memorable campaigns to his credit.

Here's how the tryouts went. 

First up was the girl with the shakes. She explained that she was diabetic and that her body craved glucose. Soon she would convulse without her insulin shot, which she then calmly administered. Whew. Crisis averted. She kept and held our attention. Next came Craig. He was a new hire; an account guy in his 20’s—long on looks; long on bravado. We expected him to do well “I will demonstrate the backflip,” he said. He lined up a chair at the opposite end of the room. Everyone looked from the chair to the ceiling…calculating the height. “Oh my god,” I thought, “he’ll never make it; he’s going to hit the ceiling and kill himself.” We were mesmerized. Craig went to great lengths to explain to the group how to execute the backflip. “You take four running steps to the chair,” he said, “spring off it, tuck and rotate, then land on your feet.” Ta da! So do it, we’re thinking. But he didn’t. He simply sat down. The coach didn’t waste any time in reducing Craig to tears. “Never set up a promise and then fail to deliver,” his voice boomed, “even it kills you!”

There are some truths in marketing that never change. Tell the truth, Be authentic. Deliver!

Brooke Lighton is a principal at Connascent Inc. a Chicago-based agency focused on spanning the divide between marketing and sales. She is a copywriter who has worked at O&M, FCB and owned her own shop since 2004.

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