Jack Neary

Senior Vice-President, Creative Director, Chiat/Day/Mojo, TorontoAtwo-year print and tv campaign for Nissan has tried to 'take the cars off the pedestal and put them back on the street,' says Jack Neary.'We wanted to inject a bit of humanity into what cars...

Senior Vice-President, Creative Director, Chiat/Day/Mojo, Toronto

Atwo-year print and tv campaign for Nissan has tried to ‘take the cars off the pedestal and put them back on the street,’ says Jack Neary.

‘We wanted to inject a bit of humanity into what cars were presumably all about,’ he says. ‘While they are objects of beauty, at the end of the day, they are meant to drive on the road and be part of people’s lives.’

‘The case we’re trying to make is that the last thing you should buy is the car. First, you should buy the thinking behind the car. That’s a relatively intellectual proposition.’

Neary says it is a proposition well-suited to newspaper.

‘I don’t think you’re sacrificing the humanity or emotion at all that you get in tv,’ he says of the agency’s ‘built for the human race’ campaign.

‘Some of the greatest men have been asked to march based on the written word exclusively.’

Q. Why did you choose newspapers for this campaign?

A. What’s great about newspapers, versus television, which I think is the preferred medium of choice when it comes to image building, is that they are ideal for presenting thoughtful, well-reasoned arguments.

There’s a lot more you can say in newspapers than you could ever say in television. And sometimes you have a lot to say.

The size of a newspaper gives you a lot of impact. It’s the only medium other than outdoor where you can really put something quite large in front of people, and that’s attractive from a creative standpoint.

Also, there’s an immediacy to newspapers that you’re not going to get from anything else. You can put relatively topical subjects in there, and if you want to create news, you should be in a newsy environment.

Finally, the newspaper is a reader’s environment. People who gravitate towards newspapers are readers and are, therefore, more likely to be affected by rational arguments.

Q. Are newspapers underused for image advertising?

A.There’s probably more image advertising than we notice, but because most of the work itself is pretty mediocre, it’s invisible.

I think it’s one of those media, where, unlike television, you can’t hide a weak idea behind music and pretty pictures. So I don’t know if image advertising is underused. The good stuff stands out and the garbage just disappears.

Q. Excluding your own work, what have been some of the best examples of image building in newspapers?

A. To be perfectly honest, I’ve not seen a ton of great newspaper in the last couple of years, but there have been some notable exceptions.

One thing I thought was tremendously smart was a piece Scali [McCabe Sloves] did for Apple.

They invited 10 leading writers to appear in an ad and they gave each of them an Apple Macintosh. It was sort of an implicit endorsement. And Apple was supporting writing.

Newspaper was the perfect environment for that message.

Another one is Harry Rosen. Although each individual ad isn’t the most brilliant, the totality of the campaign is very strong.

They are retail in nature, but there’s a nice thoughtful flavour. There’s a sense of humor, and they are very well-written.

One of my all-time favorite newspaper ads in Canada was a few years ago.

It was an ad for the Royal Bank that showed these cars side by side. One was new, the other was crushed and the caption read, ‘The car on the left is worth 30% more than the car on the right’.

It was really strong, and showed incredible use of spot color. It wasn’t trying to be overtly clever, it didn’t have a pun or some stupid word play in the headline. It was just thoughtful, intelligent.

Q. What qualities do successful newspaper image campaigns have in common?

A. I think on an executional level, the best work demonstrates a tremendous craft – the writing is great, the art direction is brilliant, the typography is exquisite.

From an attitudinal standpoint, it should demonstrate an understanding of people, a real consumer relevance.

The best work isn’t trying to be flashy, smart or cheeky for its own sake.

Q. What specific challenges does the medium present?

A. Sometimes the production values are inconsistent. Pressing techniques are getting better all the time, but you can open up one paper and see your ad looking great, with very crisp images, and you can open up another and it’s a sea of mud.

You have to tailor your message to the space you have. There are clients who want to see 25 things in one ad.

That’s not do-able from an art director’s standpoint, and it’s also something the consumer is not prepared to wade through. You have to keep it simple.

Q. Do you think technological innovations would convince more advertising agencies to use newspaper for image building?

A. To know that the quality would be there, that the ad doesn’t have to be a square shape, or that we can stick the ad in an unusual location, those things all make the medium much more attractive.

Q. Why is it that image advertising is more prevalent in Britain and the United States than in Canada?

A. I think there is more good image advertising being done in the u.k. and the u.s. than there is in Canada. I don’t know that it’s more prevalent, it’s just that the good stuff really stands out.

In England’s case, the quality of the editorial environment is much higher than in North American papers. They are better written, there is more in-depth reporting, they use more interesting graphics.

You just have to look at the quality Sunday dailies – The Times, The Independent, The Observer. Quality newspapers attract quality readers and I think quality advertisers follow.

I also think that, generally, the Brits are a more literate society than Canadians. The craft of copy writing, photography and all those things that make newspaper advertising great are working at a higher level there.

In the u.s., they also have more good dailies at the national level.

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post – they are all very good newspapers. I think that if the environment of the paper were at a higher level, you might see it attracting more good work.

I don’t want to blame the newspapers for the state of bad Canadian advertising, but the reverence for the written word is not as great as it is in England.

Q. People in the newspaper industry have said that one of the main reasons a lot of creative directors don’t use newspapers for image advertising is because it’s harder to be creative in newspapers. What do you say to that?

A. It’s true that some creative directors don’t use newspapers for that reason. But I think it’s nonsense that it’s harder to be creative in newspapers.

The beauty of the print ad is you’re out there alone and all you’ve got is the strength of your idea. In other media, you can use a lot of smoke and mirrors to hide your idea

So in one sense, it does make it harder. But it’s just a space, a piece of paper, and you have to fill it with something interesting and compelling.

Q. Looking to the future, what trends do you see in image advertising?

A. Nothing springs to mind. As long as there are intelligent people out there, there’s always room for great print advertising.