Stuttgart, 26. Oktober 2012

Standard and Manipulation. Why advertising must find itself again.

Hippies wanted change standards in the sixties. Not only societally. They broke predominant standards in all political and cultural areas. Until today, a major part of cultural operation are based on the formula “deviate from standard”. 

The joy for standard fracture in the thirties up to the sixties was preceded by the fascistic lust to dictate standards. One generation was persuaded with the possibility to enforce standards with mass media and forced into the 2. world war. After the 2nd world war intellectuals felt the duty to rouse the people. They wanted society to demonstrate its vulnerability to manipulation. The peril of manipulation by mass media was sensed as omnipresent. Everything which isn’t thought through by mind but intuitively absorbed, was noted as suspicious. With it advertisement was among to the realm of evil. Creatives were ashamed in every intellectual round not to be theater makers, Set designer or journalists.

To avoid the public disregard intellectual copywriters and graphic designers developed commercials further into informative “entertainment”. Standard fracture was basis therefore. Consumers shouldn’t no longer attract for a product with persuasive pictures but surprising twists, no longer with dumb penetration but intellectual debate. The Standard fracture was the instrument for. The educational concept debate-with-information was set against the principle people-seducing-underhandedly-for-purchase-of-useless-products. Advertising obtained not only status by this general concept but cult at times. Consumers were delighted. Marketing manager enjoyed the applause. That success remained not without consequences.

People love to emulate successful people. Also if surprising or humorous advertising was hard to convey in its early days it’s generally required today. Most of the people think it must be so in the meantime. What happens if all advertising maker overtrump each other with standard fracture? If constantly everything is disassembled and newly rearranged, newly interpreted or questioned? More and more fragments of one single general concept are produced and with the growing number of variations conformity established. But the method standard fracture needs standards for function. The more fans the principle divergence-from-standard gets the more difficult it becomes to protrude from the mass. The method Standard fracture suffocates on its own success. Standard fracture itself becomes advertising standard.

The clearest it becomes if one come to pass into the central institution of advertising creatives - the Art Directors Club. This club award the best commercially ideas every year. A book with the awarded work is published each year. If one flicks through the edition of 1971 extraordinary and famous campaigns are catching the eye. If one flicks through the edition of 2011 one sees much which seem familiar also if it never was perceived in publicity. Everything seems familiar and already seen. I myself am a passionate creative and designer for advertising; Art Director Club member. I´m convinced to be creative means establishing standards today. Further I´m convinced advertising has to learn to manipulate people again.

What’s manipulation really? We are connecting the term with betrayal, ambush and lie. A brand which lies or tries with other matters to pull a fast one on customers does not last. No, it’s not about taking consumers for a ride. It’s about catching them by their desires. Along these lines manipulation means to give consumers assistance, to do what they secretly want to do. Desires of people aren’t always reasonable: to smoke, to drive to fast, to have too early sex, to play first-person-shooter while to eat crisps, to feed oneself by sweets, to eat burger with chips, to watch TV until dawn, etc.

In a world in which many people see themselves as pedagogue everything should be omitted what people seduce to unreasonable deeds. To deal with secret desires is along these lines reactionary. The pedagogues between the advertisers shouldn’t fail to see one could also nurture with the same mechanisms the desire for more knowledge, to be more sporty, to be more social etc. Advertising is catalyzing only wishes - may be these “good” or “bad”.

With the confession pave the way for low material wishes only the first step is done - although the most important. Why is it beyond that necessary to set up a standard? Or in other words: Wy is it vital for brands to appear uniformly? In information cacophony, which is not only a result of the rising flood of information but a result of the variation of the theme “deviate from standard”, only that is imprinted which is steady repeated.

If everyone tells jokes and twisty stories at a party, one will recognize one who every time recites poems. And because at the party are ten thousand guests he has not to worry to recite always the same. With it probability increases that the poem is heard by a guest more than once. Maybe a guest is able to remember one or the other interesting story. But our poet becomes himself a story. He never will be forgotten.

Exactly that happens with brands like Axe, Dove, Coke, etc. Each of this brands established their own standard. Whatever we think about these examples - they are the well known guests in the party of information. And each of these advertising icons addresses desires. Whether it’s for attractivity, emancipation ideals of beauty or happiness. This type of advertising manipulates us consumer by the promise of our dreams to fulfill. Only through connection of manipulative text, picture and sound choice as well as a uniform - standardized - appearance it becomes possible to establish The defining image! of a brand in the consumer’s mind.

A new chance for advertising - it’s time to manipulate consumers with standards.

Stuttgart, 1. November 2011

How to create a good image? The film.

Stuttgart, 31. Oktober 2011


If we talk about image, we talk about intentions. It´s always someone ´s wish to been seen in a specific way behind a campaign. This “someone” is always a character, sometimes a movie star, sometimes a bad guy, or a seductive woman, often a product and surprisingly, it can be a God too. The Christian God created different images of himself in his career. 

He started as the “Creative and Unpredictable God”, then he changed his image into the “Righteous God” and after that he started the latest and best stage of his campaign: The relaunch as “Loving God”. 

2100 years ago God saw the need to reinvent his general concept for new target groups. The campaign was supposed to introduce a new eon without losing the strings to the heritage of his undertaking. 

Firstly, he did a perfect brand analysis. He identified the Ten Commandments as the vital brand-values. If he changed the “eternal” and recently introduced rules, it would damage his credibility. Without changing the rules he needed a new interpretation of them, to match his new image. He had to change the original concept “Obey God” into an intrinsic concept “For the love of God”. For that reason, he created, with “Sacrificing the Son” an incredible and tempting story. 

God was a marketing genius long before men invented marketing. 

He used an effective seeding concept with the twelve disciples. They were deliberately sent by him into the world with a clear message: Tell everyone what you have seen! It was literally the invention of the word-of-mouth campaign.

But an excellent viral strategy is not enough. He combined from the very beginning media-ideas with ideas to penetrate the one image: Jesus sitting at a table breaking the bread. 

The picture of Jesus breaking the bread wasn´t taken by random. This scene is a turning point in the storyline. God implemented the table scene with a well-considered order: Do this in memory! He did nothing but to place a reminder at lunchtime, the ancient primetime. Before every meal someone replayed the scene in which Jesus announced his sacrifice in the name of His Father. It was like watching the same commercial 365 days in the year. Surely, the most original and successful ad-placement ever. 

Not only did he create the communication and media strategy he also developed a remarkable corporate design. When he was planning the logo one thing was certain: It would go hand in hand with the copy strategy. His first sketch showed a fish, based on the feeding scene by the Sea of Galilee. But this logo lacked impact and was not so easy to handle. More importantly it didn´t match his positioning as “The Loving God”. He wanted to depict everything more heart bracingly. 

God, never afraid employing unconventional methods, focused now on a more crucial point in the story. Instead of using a lovely icon, he designed a martial logo: The cross. The instrument of Jesus´ torture and ultimate death. This choice is admirable in three ways: Firstly, the design is reduced to the pure and simple. Secondly, it’s a reminder of a dramatic, heartbreaking scene. Thirdly and most importantly, the cross is a symbol for the benefit of the belief in God. By sacrificing his son, God has taken all sins of his and his sons fellows away.

God offers a really convenient service. Give him your soul in exchange for eternal life. The burden of suffering for your sins, has already been taken for you. The cross says: I did it for you because I love you. 

God made only one concession with respect to technology. He didn´t use the sound of trombones to create a sound-logo. Trombones are the music instruments of the angels. Well, he chose bells because there is no need for musicians. Everyone can play bells. 

The success: God is loved by 2.26 billion followers in 2011.

Gods campaign at one glance

The target: More followers.

The product-benefit: Eternal life (after this life)

The strategy: The Loving God. 

The story concept: God gave his son´s life for our sins.

The key visual concept: Jesus breaking the bread at dinner.

The seeding strategy: The twelve disciples.

The penetrating concept: Replaying the scene “Jesus breaking the bread” at any meal.

The logo: The cross (on which God has given his son for our sins).

The sound-logo: Bells.

Stuttgart, 22. September 2011

Stuttgart, 19. September 2011


There is nothing more valuable as heritage for creating a distinguished and impressive image. Blessed are those who have one! For all others: begin to be original. And when you have found your originality stick on the concept. To have an origin means to get an heritage over time. 

Time is the main anime of longterm communication of course. The glory of original things gets boring. The call for new and fresh communication gets louder. And finally a new and fresh start is wanted. If things are new they are interesting. If things are really old they are interesting too. But in the meantime? Well, thats the difficulty: to stick to something to which people get used. How is it possible to conserve the value of something familiar and to make the same thing nevertheless as interesting as something new?

Before I answer the question I´d like to talk about what´s a good basis for our approach. There is a lot of talk in creative circles about ideas, but seldom about long term platforms. The difference between an idea and a platform is a little bit like the difference between a blossom and a complete plant. The plant is able to grow and to get branches. Blossoms are at their final stage. There is no further future for them.

Normally a solid and long term brand message isn´t fascinating at the beginning. Compared to an idea it isn´t exciting. But amusement is not the measure. A platform for a whole communication world has to be formed out of the brand´s core. A valuable brand core is always connected with a psychological aspect in consumer lifes. The revelation of this connection is what makes a communication platform great. But again. How is it possible to refresh a communication platform on and on? Three short suggestions:

Firstly: Stick to the core value of your story or picture. Never change what is the most distinct part of your communication. 

Secondly: Describe the core values of your brand in three to five meaningful and precise words. That will give you a path.

Thirdly: Don´t think about your brand in terms of a system. Think about it in terms of poetry and art! It´s possible to tell one single plot in many ways. The story woman-meets-man-and-after-misunderstandings-they-come-together is been told thousand times. And it is still possible to tell the story again differently. Same with images: The picture woman-lying-on-a-couch is painted in all styles.

For some of you it will look like an easy exercise but in fact, there are only a handful of companies which are capable to make it.  The solution cannot be built like a house - that´s the challenge. There is no magic but a good portion of experience and feeling for communication is needed. It´s like playing a music instrument. For some it´s work and others are able to feel the beat.

And then, finally after years of patience and continuity every communication platform gets the odor of heritage. It´s a long way to create an original brand, so be careful if you start to renew an old brand.

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