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For creative disruption, try climbing the ladder

For creative disruption, try climbing the ladder
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First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2008. 11 04 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Feb 26 2008. 11 04 PM IST
Jean-Marie Dru introduced the concept of creative disruption in 1996 in his book, Disruption: Overturning Conventions and Shaking Up the Marketplace. In his third and latest book, the chairman of TBWA Worldwide details the role disruption has played in the making of the advertising agency.
Disruption is basically about breaking the rules and challenging conventions to come up with something entirely new—a concept not limited to advertising.
In 2002, Dru’s second book, Beyond Disruption: Changing the Rules in the Marketplace, demonstrated how these same principles and methodology could be applied to bigger business challenges. The latest book How Disruption Brought Order: The Story of a Winning Strategy in the World of Advertising, analyses the impact of disruption on some of the world’s most recognized brands. Mint presents edited excerpts from the section “The Product—The Ladder”.
No one communication model is preeminent today. We use every mode of expression imaginable from one brand to another. However, most creative people tend to retreat systematically to a style with which they are familiar and comfortable. For some, this will be playlets, with witty dialogue. For others, something entirely more majestic, brand manifestos of a sort. For others, trendy or far-out films cloaked in corrosive humour… Personally, I think it is a mistake for creative people to specialize in a particular style, just as it would be for agencies. You need to be eclectic.
Over 10 years, I developed a tool intended to move us toward eclecticism, a tool that allows us to look at different ways of expressing ourselves, whether they are closer to that of Procter and Gamble or Bill Bernbach. Called the “ladder”, it is made up of six boxes: top of mind, attribute, benefit, territory, value and role.
Today, before we start work on a campaign, we ask ourselves: “Where do I want the campaign to express itself, at which level of the ladder?” There is a choice to be made. Do we want to strengthen the top of mind awareness (as in the case of Budweiser with “Bud.. Budweis… Budweiser”) or to highlight an attribute (like Avis being No. 2), to outline a benefit (like Tide’s demonstrations on cleanliness), or promote a territory (like Levi’s selling a bit of America to Europeans)? Do we want to embody a value (such as Nike glorifying beating your personal limits) or give the brand a role (the Macintosh 1984 film about liberating man from machine)?
The ladder does not attempt to cover each and every strategic route, even if it does come close. It is meant as a way of organizing our thoughts, of better understanding when it is time to make a creative leap. The leap from one mode to another is always a crucial moment, representing a Disruption in a brand’s life. By asking the public to see the brand in a new light, we can refresh, transform and reinvent it.
This way of differentiating allows an agency to select one approach that is relevant for Apple and another that is right for Head & Shoulders. It is up to the brand to find its style rather than for the agency to impose its own.
The choice of mode is driven by the strategy, not the execution. Choosing to preempt a territory, to represent a value, or look for a selling idea, is a strategic pre-planned decision. And so the role of strategy in advertising takes on a new dimension.
Over time, the ladder has become the main tool of our methodology; it is at the heart of Disruption. It authorizes, even promotes, each and every form of expression. The proof is that one of our Parisian agencies recently chose to use a supposedly obsolete model, the product demonstration, in one of its campaigns.
A man takes a condom from its packet and rolls it on to his finger. He places his finger on an inkpad to take a fingerprint and presses firmly his finger on to a blank sheet of paper. His fingerprint is clearly displayed on the paper, proving how fine the product is. This agency was founded seven years ago. Yet this is probably the best film it has produced so far, and it is just a product demonstration. Things have come full circle.
Excerpted with permission from How Disruption Brought Order: The Story of a Winning Strategy in the World of Advertising by Jean-Marie Dru, published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Out of the box
Real, virtual… Tangible, intangible… These notions, referring to seemingly opposite worlds that in fact are not separate at all, have always intrigued me. More than 10 years ago now, I wrote about “tangibles’’ in advertising.
…Chevys is a chain of Mexican restaurants that aired advertising spots the same day they were filmed. These films were only shown one evening. In the first frame of every film, the words Fresh TV appeared in bold letters. It is hard to imagine a more tangible idea than throwing away films only a few hours after they have been produced.
…These tangible ideas give more substance to the intangible, in other words to advertising.
…We cannot imagine that a company throwing away its advertising film every night, as it is no longer fresh, will propose anything less than the freshest of foods.
(Excerpted from the chapter “The Media—Tangible and Intangible”.)
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First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2008. 11 04 PM IST