About paulfix1

I'm a copywriter who is teaching a class about the advertising creative process.

It’s A Marathon, Not A Sprint

I was reading Agency Spy the other day and saw some cynical bastard note in the comments: “Career in advertising? This is not a career.”

That person sounds like a hack to me, but, because Agency Spy’s comments are anonymous, we’ll never know. He could be amazing, and I’m the hack (probably).

Here’s the truth: advertising has been around for a long time. They’ve found ads on the walls in Pompeii. And who knows? Maybe those cave dwellers in Lascaux were just advertising buffalo meat. And advertising, in some way shape or form, is going to be around for a long time into the future. It might not look like a :30 TV spot. But as long as their are companies and ideas that need to get noticed, sway people’s opinion or inform the public, there will be advertising.

Norm Grey, who started the Creative Circus and has mentored some of the best people in the business used to say, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” What he meant was, maybe you don’t win a One Show Pencil or work at Wieden right out of the gate. Maybe you never do. But over many years, yes, you can build a great portfolio, do interesting stuff, learn a lot, meet fun folks, and who knows what else. And maybe that’s advertising on Facebook or Instagram today and advertising in some media that hasn’t even been invented yet tomorrow.

Campaign US has a great feature called “My Career in 5 Executions.” Here’s the amazing Joe Alexander, CCO of the Martin Agency, with great work and simple ideas that span close to 30 years. Note how his ideas work in everything from out of home to print to YouTube pre-roll.

See the article here.

And keep at it.




When An Ad is Not an Ad

A good idea is a good idea, and, in my opinion, good ideas tend to be based off of good insights. As I have discussed on this website, often this insight is tied to “the benefit of the benefit,” that insightful truth about not what the product does for you, but about what the product’s doing what it does ends up doing for you.

You can read that post, with good examples of ads, here.

Well, sometimes, great advertising ideas are not expressed in ads at all. This falls into a loose terminology that changes from agency to agency. The old term (late 90s, early aughties) was “guerilla,” and some places loosely conflate this (often wrongly) with “digital.” Other terms I have heard creative directors, planners and more use: “other shit,” “not ads,” or “I don’t know, like, something else…” Or just “ideas.”

The kings of this style, for a while, were the folks at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in the late 90s through the aughties. As an agency, they re-defined what the advertising award shows considered to be awardable for clients like Mini Cooper, VW, Burger King and many, many others.

My personal favorite of Crispin’s was a series of video game for Burger King, sold exclusively at Burger King around the holidays.

original Crispin had a terrific insight here: 1. Their customers were young dudes; 2. young dudes forget to go Christmas shopping; 3. young dudes don’t have money; and 4. when young dudes do have money, they are going to spend it at Burger King. So Crispin developed 3 videos games (one of which was supposed to be really fun) and sold them at Burger King. They cost $3.99 with a burger, but were later sold online for much more.

A pretty awesome way to bring “have it your way” (y’know, with a video game!) to life. But it certainly wasn’t their most famous.

The most glaring and memorable of all Crispin’s efforts was arguably Subservient Chicken for Burger King. This was both (truly) digital at a time when most agencies weren’t, as well as brilliant, groundbreaking and “not an ad.” It was so popular, ten years later, they brought it back.


The idea was a simple digital extension of the brand’s tagline, “Have it Your Way.” Essentially, a full-grown man, in a chicken suit, did whatever you told him to, from flapping to perversions. Fun, entertaining, shareable, memorable, and (arguably) on brand (though not very appetizing).

Seems crazy now, but when this came out a little over ten years ago, the ad industry didn’t know what to do with themselves. Which seems odd, as people had been doing it for more than a century before – a fact that even agency creative leader Andrew Keller pointed out.

In fact, this was such a part of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners’ (now KBSP) model, they wrote a book about it called Under the Radar. They even nodded to one of their famous “guerilla” (actually merits the term in this case) pieces on the cover.


The piece they are referring to that I am now referring to was an ad for a New York lingerie store. Having no money to spend on media, the story goes that Richard and Jon created a staple and spray painted a message on New York City sidewalks. The message was, “From down here, it looks like you could use some new underwear.”

A brilliant way to address women – by upskirting them with a message. They got in trouble, but the store got tons of PR and so did Richard and Jon.

Kirshenbaum also advertised Snapple on fruit in grocery stores when the brand was a fledgling start-up.

But it goes way, way back. Two of my favorite examples are over a century old, but really demonstrate an insightful discovery of the “benefit of the benefit” of products.

The first is Guinness, the Irish Stout. Guinness figured, we’re a brand that people come together to celebrate and share over. So when Guinness heard that men frequently got in bar fights over sports legend facts and records, they decided to do something about it.

They put out a book to stop bar arguments and fights. A definitive end to trivial squabbling that could lead to fisticuffs (and fewer patrons drinking stout.) Here’s the book:


The Guinness Book of Records went on to become the Guinness Book of World Records, spawned it’s own museums and culture and more. And it’s all based on a perfectly valid brand insight: men argue over trivial crap while drinking. So, if Guinness stops bar fights, they keep drinking Guinness.

My other old favorite is from the French tire company, Michelin. In 1900, Michelin came to a fairly obvious epiphany: if French people drove more, they’d buy more tires. (In my class I always say, “advertising – it ain’t brain surgery.”) The trouble was, you had an agrarian and metropolitan economy that didn’t have a reason to travel. So Michelin distributed a travel tool:

110722-Kuperman-Michelin The first Michelin Guide ensured French people that they could travel – it gave them maps and locations of fuel stations and hotels.

But the real genius was added in 1926, when they added the Michelin Restaurant Star system. Here is the actual copy, explaining the significance each of the three stars:

1 Michelin star: Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie (A very good restaurant in its category

2 Michelin stars: Table excellente, mérite un détour (Excellent cooking, worth a detour)

3 Michelin stars: Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey)

What does Michelin need people to do? Drive. What do French people love to do? Eat. Therefore, the benefit of tires is you get to drive. The benefit of the benefit is you get to eat very, very well.

The Michelin Star System, like the Guinness World Records, has transcended the brand. It is the premiere rating system for restaurants in much of the 1st world. And it started as an ad. An ad that was, well, not an ad.

Nobody’s Going to Care About Your Cause if You Don’t

I found a great blog post through LinkedIn. He talks about two things I like very much: advertising and albums.

There is a lot of creative thinking out in the world today. No doubt about it. But the pitfall with having so many outlets in which to be creative – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc – is that we live in a “pump and dump,” make-it-and-move-on, keep moving forward, new, new, new content creation culture. I have run into the line of thinking that this is the way to build brands on both the agency and the client side, and I believe it is dangerous and wrong.

In the linked article, Damon talks about the value of an album, of honing an idea and perfecting it and owning it. And loving the idea and the vision. And, through your own passion, getting other people to love it too.

He also talks about restaurants. Bear with him, it’s worth it.

His last line sums up perfectly what a good ad creative should try to do:

Remembering “how it made us feel.”

Thanks, Damon. Article here.

Have you ever wondered, “What would people on Reddit say?”

I love to debate the philosophy and ethics of advertising. I firmly believe in “truth in advertising,” and I think when truth is executed and stated in a clever, interesting, funny or thought-provoking and honest way, the ads win.

And yet, sometimes, crazy, terrible and seemingly dishonest work still gets through. There’s a lot of reasons why.

Here’s a thread on Reddit that starts with a discussion of “manipulation” in advertising, and devolves (or evolves, perhaps) into a pretty honest discussion of good and bad in the ad business. I found it particularly interesting, because unlike the ad blogs, it’s not filled with self-hating ad people, and unlike the non-ad blogs, it’s not filled with conspiracy theorists and tin-foil hat wearers who are convinced we’re necromancers and such.

Rather, it’s some ad folks who defend the biz, some who hate, and some non-ad folk who are curious and some who hate.

WARNING: This is Reddit. I cannot control what happens on here. There are some call-outs to racist (accidentally? intentionally?) stuff in the ad world. I am just reposting, so like comments on a DVD, the opinions expressed herein are those of the posters, and not that of Intro to the Creative Process with Paul.

Just trying to keep our minds open to different points of view.

Read the Reddit Thread here.

On “Field notes. Field notes.”

About a month and a half ago, this remarkable video made the rounds on a lot of popular media sites. There’s a good reason: it’s just an amazingly inspiring and re-invigorating piece to watch for anyone in the creative field.

This designer, Aaron Draplin, of Portland, Oregon takes on a logo design for a fictional company. His process is just spectacular, and he actual walks you through the creative process better than most commercial artists ever could.

At AdHouse, we tend to be a tad light on designers and art directors and a tad heavy on copywriters. But my class focuses on the fundamentals, and there is a lot to be learned from this video, even for writers. Among my favorites, that we stress in class: look around the world for inspiration, as you never know where you might find it. This means comics, museums, books, posters, old movies, new movies, foreign movies, whatever you are into. Start on paper, not on a computer (ok, as a writer, I often start on a computer, but on the writer’s blank page: a Microsoft Word Doc). Really think through the product. Get down to the essence of the company or service or product: what are they all about?

There’s all this and more in the video, so please watch! It’s a very enjoyable 16 minutes. And thank you, Aaron Draplin, for your time.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/113751583″>Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/lyndavimeo”>lynda.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The Benefit of the Benefit, and Why It’s So Dang Beneficial

We started speaking about what is “the benefit of the benefit.” I want to speak about it a little more here, and tell you why I think it’s so important to creating ads that connect parity products (those that, outside of brand, have little difference in selling points) with consumers in a deep and meaningful way.

I want to warn you ahead of time: if you’re having a “I’m negative on advertising day” (I have them all the time), some of this may come off as psychological manipulation or trickery. Or as cynical. It’s really not. It’s about the way we all communicate with each other. And it’s done in more places than just advertising (like personal relationships, love songs, business deals, etc).

“The Benefit of the Benefit.” It’s about going beyond what the product does. Instead, it gets to what the product will do for you once the product has done what it does.

A bad example is any of the old 50s ads where a woman says that the Garden Club was so impressed with her because housekeeping abilities because her house smelled good – and they didn’t know it was because she used Lysol (with a big wink at the camera).


But it starts to get to what the benefit of the benefit is – this woman is looked at as a competent homemaker because her house smells good. Therefore, the benefit is a good smelling house. The benefit of the benefit is that the Garden Club is impressed.

Terrible. And cynical. And if it’s true, which it’s not necessarily, it’s not a really deep emotional truth. In fact, it feels made up and false, as it plays on our desire to be accepted by others in a manipulative way.

But, if we think creatively about products and really think about how the thing they do could make people be who they want to be, we can find really creative, fun and cool executions. And when you do things that feel honest – even if they are over the top or employ hyperbole, you can connect on an emotional level.

Here are 5 examples that I think are great from years past. I’m going to identify what I believe is the benefit of the benefit in each.

Let’s start off with some of my favorite ads ever, from Arnold in Boston. These were to re-launch the VW Beetle in the late 90s and early Aughties. The Beetle is a beloved icon because it looks different. It’s not really a very powerful car, and frankly, VW car quality has been declining over the last 30 years. But these ads are brilliant because they really identified with a deep-seeded, often unspoken (actually, probably outwardly rejected) consumer mindset. And that’s that people who seek out what’s “different” are often those who want (and strive) to be noticed.

Arnold could have easily said, “Doesn’t look like every other car on the road.” (That’s the benefit.)

Instead, they focused on the benefit of the benefit, which is that a car that doesn’t look like every other car on the road will make you the focus of attention.

Text: "Hey, there's a silver one."


Text: Hey, there's a green one.

Text: Hey, there's one of those new yellow ones.

Brilliant. And to top it off, they did it while complimenting the intelligence of their audience. The ads are like little Where’s Waldo games, where the reader goes looking for the product.

Axe Body Spray is all about the benefit of the benefit. Pretty simple. Guys don’t care how they smell. Girls do care how guys smell. The benefit of Axe: you smell good (we can argue this point). The benefit of the benefit? You get more action. From Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York (BBH).

Those are whipped cream bottles, if you can't tell.

Sex is a huge motivator. But beyond that is some semblance of gratitude from those you love. JWT did a great headline campaign for DeBeers diamonds. They realized that the benefit of giving a diamond is that you give a wonderful gift. But the benefit of the benefit is that it’s a gift you give yourself – that your wife or girlfriend will be so grateful, you’ll get to do the things you want to do.

They really could have talked about a diamond being forever or how she’ll cherish it all her life. And that matters. But what really strikes men is what it will mean for them.

This next stuff is for freeagent.com, a website that may or may not out of business. Doesn’t matter, still good ads – done by Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners (now KBSP).

Free Agent was a site for freelancers. As a freelancer, you get to make your own rules, your own hours, your own vacation. They could have talked about any of these things. Rather, they focused on an emotional truth that freelancers believe: freelance means being able to escape the death of being tied to your job. The benefit of Free Agent is other jobs always waiting elsewhere. The benefit of the benefit is that you can always escape where you are. Perfect insight for their audience that is true. Here it is in hyperbolic fun.

Lastly, I want to talk about these ads from TDA, Boulder for Sir Richard’s condoms that flip the benefit of the benefit on it’s head, by showing the negative result of the negative result.

Unprotected sex means a risk of pregnancy. Everyone knows that. And the problem with everyone knowing that is we’re callous to the reality. Or, in this case, the reality of that reality.

So what does raising a child actually entail? How do you phrase it in terms that a young man or woman can actually understand? Let’s say, particularly, like a young professional in their 20s, just out of college, making $31,000 in New York?

How about this?

So, the benefit is preventing pregnancy. The benefit of the benefit is preventing you from having to pay more than your salary in school tuition.

When I say there’s truth in advertising, I look at ads like this condom ad and the others above – hyperbole and exaggeration aside. Just smart and true to what their target feels in their hearts. And work like this endears consumers to these brands.

I hope you found this post, ahem, beneficial.

New Class, Spring 2012


Alright! Here we go again. I am really terrible with names, but for some reason, this system works for me. Please let me know if you have a stalker and don’t like your photo online. I’ll take it down. And Jim, Josh and Lauren: I apologize for the less than stellar photos.

For all of you in class, get to know each other! You can look to each other for support when I am awful to you. Here’s who you are again, starting from the top left, then moving in a snaking, backwards “s” motion (or a digital clock “2”): Lauren, Ben, Stephanie, Jordan, Tom, Jim, Nick, Ryan, Hallie, Tali, Josh, Allison, Mary and Jack.

Here is the link to the resources post. Please add things to it in the comments section – it will be helpful to your fellow classmates, future students and, frankly, your teacher. I really suggest reading Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. We’ll talk about other great ad books like Where the Suckers Moon and The Book of Gossage, and, if you’re a reader, I’d say get to those as well.

On another note: we spoke in class last night about the Jameson campaign. One of the Google Image photos linked to a Creative Director/Copywriter who was a part of creating that work, a guy by the name of Aaron Stern. His pedigree is terrific, having worked at some of the best agencies in San Francisco (and, in my opinion, the world) and great shops in New York as well. If you have time, check out his innovative print for Specialized bikes – very smart and cool.

His site is here: Aaron Stern

Lastly, please scroll down and read my re-post of the David Droga article from the Wall Street Journal. Very good.

Looking forward to this class. We’re all going to learn something.