Got Legs? Creating an Ad Campaign with Staying Power

06 Mar 2009


Quiz time: What’s the key to crafting an advertising concept that works?

A.) Finding a hot celebrity to endorse your product or service
B.) Changing your tagline and logo every six months so consumers won’t get bored
C.) Coming up with a basic concept and tagline that’s flexible, memorable, and can be used for the long haul

OK, class. Time’s up. Put down your pencils.

The correct answer is “C”.

Today’s lesson is about creating an advertising campaign that has “legs” – meaning, a concept that’s flexible enough to grow and change while maintaining your company’s branding and identity. A campaign like that is worth way more than getting a hot celebrity spokesperson, and it’s a lot easier than trying to reinvent yourself twice a year (and confusing/alienating customers in the process).

Not sure if your campaign has legs? Ask yourself a couple of questions as you go:

Does this campaign lend itself well to several types of ads? For instance, if you have a very elaborate concept that only works, say, on television, you may be thinking too narrow. Most (but not all) good campaigns with legs are flexible enough to work in print, on the radio, and on TV.

Is my tagline too specific? A solid tagline is critical to a campaign that can change with the times – and with the company. For example, let’s say you have a smallish auto repair client that specializes in brake jobs, but they hope to expand in the next year or so and add things like transmission repair, body work, etc. A tagline like “It’s Brake Time” (yes, that’s corny, I know – just an example, OK?) might work for a while. But, when it comes time for expansion, you’ve got two choices:

1. Reworking the company’s identity altogether (meaning, a new advertising concept).

2. Cramming new concepts into the old concept. As in, “It’s Brake/Transmission/Body Work Time.” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

Is my campaign too trendy? If you’re looking for real staying power, I’d caution against getting too dependent on popular culture for your next ad concept. Hanging your whole campaign on a popular song/reality-TV star/catchphrase might seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s an easy way to look dated fast.

An ad campaign with legs always looks fresh. Need a few sources of inspiration? Check out these great campaigns with “legs.”

“For everything else, there’s Mastercard”: A great, flexible tagline that lent itself to an almost unlimited range of situations and storylines.

The Geico Caveman: Okay, so maybe the TV show wasn’t such a good idea. But, as an ad concept, it worked to help Geico carve out an identity.

The Absolut Vodka Ads: I haven’t seen these in a while, but they were everywhere in the 90s. Personally, this campaign is one of my all-time favorites – these ads were so simple in concept, but you just had to notice them.

Have a favorite “campaign with legs”? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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