Creativity in ads is great — and usually incredibly necessary as well.

But there’s a distinct difference between creativity that helps to emotionally communicate the advertising message and creativity for the sake of creativity. And the difference isn’t always so black and white. Take, for example, these two ads:

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The ads DO make a point and they ARE creative. But to what extent is the creativity helping to sharpen the point of the message, and to what degree is the creativity getting in the way?

First, I’ll say that the CLR ad is the best use of potty-mouth in an ad that I’ve seen in a long time. Much better than K-mart’s “Ship Your Pants” or “Big Gas Savings.”


Because CLR used the swearing to communicate the authenticity of customer’s surprise at just how well CLR cleans — a strategy based in some sound neuroscience. The Kmart ads, on the other hand, just used the potty mouth gag as, well, just that: a gag that was totally gratuitous and unconnected with the messaging itself.

So the swearing was relevant to the messaging, and the messaging was based on a true reality about the product itself. Nice.

But while watching that CLR ad, I couldn’t help think that a little OxyClean and Billy Mays-style demo would have dramatically boosted the credibility and effectiveness of the ad. Would Billy Mays have pitched you the cleaning powers of OxyClean without SHOWING you just how amazing it was? Heck, no! He insisted on demonstrability for his products and actual demonstrations in his ads.

And contrary to popular belief, the two approaches of clever creative and straight-up demo can easily co-exist. It wouldn’t have taken more than 3 or 4 seconds at the end of the CLR ad to SHOW the product in action, instantly removing lime/soap scum, stainless steel stove stains, etc.

All of which brings us to the second ad for the Samsung vacuum cleaner, because the problem with that ad, as I see it, boils down to not enough demo. Yes the baby chase concept was cute and creative, but how much time did it waste in NOT showing the unique feature of the product that the ad was presumably showcasing?

If that ad had cut about 50% of the cute-baby-imitating-cop crap and substituted in more demonstration of product it would have ended up a much stronger ad.

As the saying goes: “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” If your product can be demonstrated to amazing effect, why in the world wouldn’t you want to demo it in your ads? Case in point, this ad for the Dyson ball:

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Or take a gander at this very creative but almost purely demo spot for Samsonite’s Spinner luggage:

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As I said, creative is great — and necessary, as an ad absolutely needs to capture and hold people’s attention. But, really, there is just as much advertising craft and creativity in the last two demo-heavy spots as there is in the CLR and Samsung spots, and the demo-heavy spots managed to get the sales message across far more clearly.

Bottom Line: If you can make a TV ad into a demo, you probably ought to give serious thought into doing so, regardless of whether or not it “feels” creative.



  1. Chuck McKay on 08.29.2013

    Rosser Reeves called any creative which didn’t impart his sales message ‘Vampire Video” because it sucked the life out of the ad.

    Reeves, then the CEO of Ted Bates Worldwide tested his television ads in movie theaters prior to the showing of the feature.

    He’d show the ad, then poll the audience, asking “What was this ad about?” If the answers came back with anything other than his sales message, he scrapped the ad and started over.
    Chuck McKay´s last blog post ..Chuck McKay in Billings on 12/02/13

  2. John Groom on 08.30.2013

    Design the ad for the customer, right? In a couple of your examples, the customer was the “company” so the ad is clever and cute and fun to watch in the boardroom. The smart companies and the smart ad designers understand what you are saying about sharpening the message to the real-life customer. Great post.

  3. Damien on 11.05.2013

    I hadn’t seen any of these ads before. Loved the CLR one. Thanks for highlighting these and for the excellent analysis.
    Damien´s last blog post ..4 Pitfalls To Avoid When Writing Content For The Web

  4. Michell Urena on 11.16.2013

    Great overview. I have to say you are right about how creativity is used in ads, but at the end they seem to be working for them.