Nobody slows down to look at the highway

Nobody slows down to look at the highway

A couple of members of our creative team and I had the privilege of spending a day with Luke Sullivan last week.  Luke is a revered copywriter and creative director in the ad agency world, having written and directed some of America’s best campaigns while at Martin, Fallon McElligot and GSD&M.  He’s also the author of the quintessential book on how to create great advertising, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!”

Luke actually said the phrase I’ve co-opted for the headline of this post, and I think I’ve used it every day since. Not only is this the most important thing to remember for any ad campaign to be successful, it’s critically important when advertising an energy efficient or sustainable product. Why?  Because for most Americans sustainability and energy efficiency are low on the priority list.  And, as you’ve probably heard me say a time or two, they’re often an excellent tie breaker…after several other drivers have been satisfied.

So If you want your green value proposition to actually buy you a market advantage (which is what we specialize in here at Shelton Group), you must create a campaign that stops people in their tracks.  You cannot put a “safe” campaign out into the world and think that the purity/do-goodness of the product or service will somehow carry the day.  It won’t.  You could have the coolest green product in the world, or the best energy efficiency value proposition in America, and if you don’t have a compelling, interesting campaign to match it, nobody will pay attention to it.


A few good tests for whether or not your campaign falls into the Compelling and Interesting category are these:

  • Toss a magazine that your campaign might appear in up in the air and look at the ad that shows up when the publication lands on the floor.  Does your ad look a lot like it? Then start over.  This is particularly a good test in the B-to-B world — most ads in trade publications look bori-fyingly the same.
  • Get the logos for your top three competitors and mock up your ad three more times, one each with a competitor logo.  Could the ad make sense for any of them?  If so, start over.
  • Tape your ad up on a wall and take 10 steps back.  Can you still read it and get the concept?  If not, start over.

As we wrap up 2011 and begin making grand plans for 2012, make this your mantra:  “I will launch programs and campaigns that stop people in their tracks!”  Your business/brand will be better for it.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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