Bonus! Free ideas from an ad vet

Hey kids! Free ideas! As a bonus perk for our faithful readers, we reward your loyalty from time to time with no charge bonus insights that most agencies would charge you hourly rates equal to those of a mediocre lawyer to dig out of the files and re-present to you!

Hey kids! Free ideas! As a bonus perk for our faithful readers, we reward your loyalty from time to time with no charge bonus insights that most agencies would charge you hourly rates equal to those of a mediocre lawyer to dig out of the files and re-present to you!

Where else are you going to get hypothetically valuable free advice from advertising experts? (Unless you ask 10 or 20 ad firms to make speculative presentations for your account, of course.) Try that with accounting firms, and don’t be surprised if you get the bum’s rush!

Special! For clients whose strat is to run anything that carefully selected demographic and psychographic TV target audiences will watch and remember no matter how irrelevant to the product, have you considered bulk buys of old Formula One Grand Prix Start footage?

In just 30 seconds, 22 psychopaths in 900 horsepower projectiles race from a standing start into a funnel, there’s a spectacular fireball and your male viewer numbers skyrocket! Stick your logo over the last five seconds, and you’ve got a barn burner of a spot for a briefcase of small Belgian banknotes, slam dunk!

Here’s a valuable typesetting hint, free! Read the headline on this Cisco Systems ad (below). No, you went cross-eyed. Start again. No, you already started again. Now really start again. No, you went cross-eyed again. Okay, give up? Never, never, never set type like this.

Try this skill-testing communications quiz! Q: Have you heard that radio spot for CGI? It’s the one about (a) how the guy at the burger drive-up window asks the attendant to check the pressure in his tires (b) asks his caddy to give him a piggyback to the clubhouse (c) is told the pilot won’t oblige him and land the flight on his street instead of at the airport. Okay. What is a CGI?

For clients who envied the success of that award-winning Mark’s Work Wearhouse TV spot (okay, we’re guessing, but betcha it wins an award somewhere) where the baby at the cocktail party pees all over the guests and the furniture: Wanna go one better? We got a lock on a two-year-old who will crap all over practically anything on demand! You’ll save big on casting bucks, and your ticket to the podium is included, no extra charge!

Have you had a tough time picking up a Coke can since you saw the spot where the guy wipes his armpit sweat all over the thing and then hands it to a friend? Like, you’re showing your age, pal! Sweatin’ is cool, just like peein’ on stuff. (See above.) Betcha you still tuck your shirt into your pants, eh?

By now you’re probably sick of your ad agency and want to switch to a brand engineering firm. Here’s how to avoid getting the wrong one!

(a) Make a list of hot-sounding firms with flip, self-deprecating names like Iridium or Drool. These are young, cool, democratic outfits with fresh ideas which have never been tried before in exactly this form.

Compose a questionnaire to winnow the list of contenders down to not more than 10 or 20. Thirty tops. You will never buy your own lunch in this town again!

Remember, design the questionnaire to be a minefield for your least favourite contenders, and hide trap doors leading to secret staircases for your buddies. You want to be able to say whoops, they have too much TV experience, or whoops, they already have too many accounts beginning with the letter’H’.

When the presentations come back, weigh them. Give serious attention to those over three kilograms. Any smart ass firms sending you their questionnaires get dropped pronto. Who do these people think they are?

Take a look at their creative, but don’t pay too much attention. Most firms show campaigns done by people who don’t work there anymore. Or people who’d rather eat worms than work on your account. Besides, all advertising works about the same, so what’s the big deal?

Cut to the chase. Ask for speculative pitches. Any top firm will enjoy the challenge of creating a free campaign for you! It’s like taking a cool car out for a long, fast run on a hot day. Based on simple street smarts and hints you probably dropped for them, they’ll be back at you with ‘some ideas’ (including comp package designs in English and French) in a matter of days. Look, they have whole teams that do nothing but spec. You’re doing them a favour, buddy!

Can’t decide which pitch to pick? Just put everything on ‘hold.’ Eventually, they’ll all stop phoning. Then, you’re free to cherry pick from the stuff they use in the States. Nobody ever got fired for pickin’ pick-up, dude!

Barry Base is president and creative director of Barry Base & Partners Limited, Toronto. We’re serious. He makes ad campaigns. This column is a loss leader, for Pete’s Sake. Barry clawed his way up through four major ad agencies and founded his own firm when still a small child. He hopscotches the highlights of his career to date on an egomaniacal Web site at www.barrybaseandpartners.com.