I have had the great luxury in my career to have several times faced down completely wide open briefs on major brands that advertised a hell of a lot and had a history of great advertising.
In other words I had complete creative freedom to do whatever the hell I liked.
If you’ve never been in that situation you might reasonably imagine that it would be incredibly liberating.
Knowing that the whole universe is potentially fodder for your ideas is quite initimidating.
I encountered this early on in my career.
I was working on Bud Light in the mid 90s. They had a Stone Aged strategy: ‘what great length would you go to for a Bud Light?”
But they had big TV budgets and huge media spend and they would buy anything.
And I was young and hungry and really wanted to prove myself.
So just being funny wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a hit.
So I started thinking about ways in which “MY” Bud Light spot would stand out among all the others.
And while I worked on the brand there was a virally successful Bud Light ad called “I LOVE YOU MAN!”. It is arguably the best ad ever done for the brand.
So I was competing with that.
My timing was lousy.
There were a couple of unwritten rules when you worked on Bud Light.
Your ad had to feature contemporary young guys drinking the beer.
(And given the strategy, the ads usually showed a young adult male doing something childish to get the beer. and hi-jinks would ensue.)
And no drinking alone.
Or with guns.
And the reality was that the beer had growing at double digit rates for more than a decade.
So there really was no real problem.
So I invented one.
I noticed that a hell of a lot of young American women drank Bud Light. Watching their figures etc.
But the ads ignored them. Girls in Bud Light ads were purely decorative or just shrieked in terror. I thought that was wrong.
So I came up with this spot.
If you pay close attention you’ll notice that it breaks every single “rule” of Bud light advertising.
1. it’s set in the past.
2. The hero is a girl
3. She’s drinking alone. The train hasn’t even pulled out of the station and already she’s necking a beer! What kind of lush is this gal?
4. Nobody “goes to a great length” to get a Bud Light.
And because it violated all the rules it stood out. It was voted Advertising Age beer spot of the year the year it aired.
In my opinion defining the problem to yourself is the most important step of all in creating ads.