Howard Gossage famously (but not yet famously enough) said:
The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it's an ad.
This obvious, brilliant observation reminds us that advertising has to compete in the cultural big leagues whether we acknowledge it or not, right up there with Flaubert and Shakira.
He also identifies exactly what it takes to succeed at that level: you have to be interesting.
The idea that ads, and more importantly, brands, should be interesting is perhaps so obvious that it never even reaches our consciousness. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t get the attention and resources devoted to relatively paltry goals like recall and “message comprehension” (We’ve now shown you this ad that says ‘Krispy Kookoos drive me Krazy!’ three times. What would you say is the main message?)
Or maybe it’s thought to be the writer and art director’s job, which effectively seals it inside the black box of “creativity” and lets the rest of us off the hook. (In any case, I think it’s a mistake to champion “the value of creativity”. Creativity to what end?)
Whatever the reason for its current neglect, being interesting is quickly turning from marketing advantage to marketing necessity. Because as we all know, the so-called “audience” is rising up out of their seats and taking the stage. If they don’t find your brand worth, not just listening to, but doing something with, your budget won’t go very far. Even the biggest advertisers no longer have the wherewithal to unilaterally broadcast themselves to victory.
So I’m going to spend a little time poking around interestingness, what it is and how to work with it.
And as my main example, I’m going to use one of my all-time favorite campaigns: Gossage’s Pink Air ads for Fina gas stations.