How can you create ads as good as John Webster’s? Think of them as virals..

At BMP’s party to celebrate the work of John Webster (left) I noticed something he had once written, the gist of which was that in Rembrandt’s time very few people saw his work, whereas millions will see your ad, so “let’s make it good.”

If you – as a client or an agency – don’t have John’s instincts and reputation for good work, is there any criteria that can help? Here’s one thought. In this digital age, even if your ad isn’t intended as a ‘viral’, pretend that it is – whatever the medium. Then the key question is why would anyone talk about it, or pass it on? As a client or agency, what would you show as an example, and wish you had done? If everyone is talking about it, that’s fame. If the target audience is, that’s a step to success.

Looking at recent work, does anything pass this test? Not much. As nothing springs readily to mind of the ‘have you seen the new ad/viral for..?’ class, a few random selections, with target audiences in mind. They may not even be all that recent. Direct.tv from the US: I think what the American humourist Dave Barry would call ‘guys’ would talk about this campaign.

The breast-feeding ad for Luvs might get a few nods from moms. The new Cow & Gate ad (below) should also get some shared ‘ahhs’. (Beautifully done, the test will be in the next few ads. Is there a campaign? I think that’s where Cadbury’s struggled after ‘Gorilla’). As a print campaign, the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ work will have been talked about by those on, or off, it. Axe has perhaps struggled in the past few years, trying to extend the product range and the age group. But there’s some stuff going on after the excellent ‘Even Angels Will Fall’ that might still get boys excited.

And the spots for the Samsung GS3 should get Apple and non-Apple smart phone buyers tuning in. It’s basically a demo but hats off to the courage and the casting (16m YouTube hits).

If there’s nothing you feel compelled to share at the moment, you can always go back to ‘Charlie bit my finger!’ 490m YouTubes (but it is five years old)!

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About Giles Keeble

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Giles Keeble started as a rep (account man) at JWT before moving to BMP. There Stanley Pollitt told him that JWT’s Stephen King had wanted him to become a planner. John Webster encouraged him to become a writer but after a number of years Giles moved to French Gold Abbott and, for a while, did become a planner of sorts. Returning to writing he went to David Abbott’s new agency AMV followed by WCRS and was then ECD of Leo Burnett for six years. He then returned to AMV before moving to Publicis and then Lowe in Hong Kong at the inception of the ‘World’s Local Bank’ campaign for HSBC. He now works as a writer and strategist as well as running advertising courses for senior clients.