Universal truths vs local heroes

One of the things I learned at Watford was that advertising ideas ought to contain a truth that people can relate to.

Of course, that is exactly what all good music, books and other arts are based on, so why not advertising?

But what is more powerful, a universal truth or a specific one?

Of course there are some things money can’t buy; for everything else there’s Mastercard, but how does that compare to St George and its English-will-love-it-but-others-will-be-non-plussed attitude?

In these days of pan-planetary globalisation, the universal truth is more likely to be the one trotted out (that’s if you get a truth at all), but I can’t help feeling that a shotgun might get more shots in the target, but it won’t have the deadly accuracy of a rifle.

The difference may come down to what you set out to do. Trying to please a million people may get you liked by those million, but trying to please 100,000 might get you loved by those 100,000, and the message might then be sharp enough to include those you hadn’t even thought of.

Take Skittles, Old Spice and Gorilla. All were enjoyed internationally, but that wasn’t their intention. They were made for a national target market that then expanded through the interwebz.

Last year’s TV winners at D&AD had no internationally-intended ads, instead awarding local gems like these:


In fact, you have to go back to 2006 to find the last internationally-targeted winner:

So there’s nothing wrong with a universal truth, but the smaller your target, the greater your shot of hitting them right between the eyes (does that make sense? Kind of. You know what I mean).

An old piece of copywriting advice suggests that you imagine you are talking to just one person as you write.

Could be worth a try.