Advertising explained in a simple diagram

I went round to see my friend Stephen Gash the other day (interest declared: he’s a friend. Also, he runs an excellent production company called QI Commercials that is related to the QI that seems always to be on Dave and Dave + 1) and he drew me this diagram:

On the x axis we have creativity, ranging from Turkey of the Year to Cannes Grand Prix (or whatever measure you want to use).

On the Y axis we have what is now described as effectiveness: how much product is the ad shifting (I know it’s not always about shifting products, but you know what I mean).

So point A is where we all want to be: massive success for both agency and client. I guess the stories often get muddied, but I would suggest ads like Swimblack, Cog and Gorilla belong up there.

Then there’s point B: the exact opposite. A shitty ad that gets no one buying anything. I’d cite examples, but the thing is, we probably have no idea of the real failures because they just pass us by without making any kind of an impact. The actively awful ones tend to get talked about, and that can then equate to big sales, bringing us to…

Point C: the shit ads that shift product. Cillit Bang, Esure, Go Compare etc.

And then there’s point D: the award winner that doesn’t work. Bill Bernbach said, ‘A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.’ So that happens at point D, as does the rarer phenomenon of highly awarded ads that leave the public cold.

Stephen went on to explain that at points B and D the agency, and possibly the client, will get fired. At point C the agency might resign the account or, more likely, try to pretend they didn’t do it whilst continuing to trouser the cash of a happy client. And at point A it’s all Champagne and crack binges a-go-go.

So really, the only thing that matters in keeping an account is a happy client, which is why so much agency effort these days goes into achieving that result.

After all, you can’t play football without a ball (or something).