Who’s driving, the message or the idea?

Imagine you are a creative director – easy for some of you.

You’re sitting in your pitch area, listening to a few of your team run through their scripts for a client’s new product brief.

The first 2 have all the messaging right but you’re really struggling to stifle a yawn, maybe it’s just too warm in here?

The third one has come armed with a sound track and some key frames and you sit up straighter as they run through their idea. It’s captured your imagination and you’re thinking this could look bloody brilliant…

Then your CD hat falls over your eyes and you get that sinking feeling – it doesn’t really include the new product message its supposed to. What do you do, try to retrofit the brief? Wedge the message in? Do you pitch it as a brand ad?

We’ve all had occasions when the idea is brilliant, just not the best vehicle to carry the message that was briefed. Sometimes you can play with it until it works. Sometimes you take it to the table and your client catches your enthusiasm and agrees to bolt the message on the end.

Either way, the cracks show in the finished product.

Its not an easy call to decide who’s doing the driving, the idea or the message:  Cadbury’s Gorilla is classic of an idea without a message, Ronseal stands out as a message that’s not dressed with much idea.

They can both deliver, but for an ad to be really effective they need to integrate seamlessly so as viewers we see them as one.

Have a look at this ad for Mercedes called Welcome. It was done by Merkley & partners in the US this year.

Check out the stunning sound design and imagery in the first 80 seconds, then the shiny new message and joke reprise at the end.

What would you have done?


  1. I would go with the brilliant idea and see how I could get the clients message in there.or maybe look to see how the idea could work in another media. People don’ t look at boring advertising.creativity is watched , boring ads no, so even if the boring ad has the clients message it will not be looked at.

  2. In the case of the great peice of music, it must have inspired an emotional response, but the message wasn’t quite there, so I would probably figure out why/how that person might felt about the music – then ask how do we get that feeling into the message – I guess that is a bit of a shoehorn, but actually isn’t that what the client is asking from creative? – their message turned into an emotional reaction from the consumer. So with the three creative ideas on the table – I’d ask the creatives how it might be possible to get the feeling of the music across in the message the brand wants to deliver.

  3. I felt immensely let down by this ad. So much was promised, so little delivered. Will I remember the letdown more than the message? Yep.

    I would have pushed to do the 125 years line without “the new lineup” or the new cars coming out of the scifi garage.
    They look like two different ads bolted together – a bit like one of those cars you buy where the front is from 2001 and the back from 2005.

  4. Thanks for your comments. I felt exactly the same, sucked in by Janis Joplin and then bam, zippy new line up. It could have been great…

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