By - CTL
July 3, 2017

By Bob Smith.

If you Google ‘how do great advertising campaigns get made’, you’ll be told these are some of the key ingredients:

Relatable situations
A defined value proposition
Attention grabbing visuals
…Etc, etc.

If you Google, ‘how do great advertising campaigns get approved’, you’ll find an article with the headline – ‘How on earth does an ad like Pepsi’s get approved?’ It is referring of course to the recent television commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. Whoever knows the answer is preferring not to reveal it.

Interestingly I couldn’t find any mention of attributes such as trust, self belief, luck or talent.

William Goldman was the screenwriter responsible for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, A Few Good Men, Misery, A Bridge Too Far and many others.

Despite his successes he said: “Nobody knows anything…Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

Advertising is a bit like the movies. Scripts that were declared brilliant in the boardroom fail to soar on set.

Even ideas that have been researched within an inch of their life often fail to meet expectations.

Still, a great many commercials grace our screens that win awards, are loved by viewers and sell copious amounts of product. How do they get made?




A UK agency was preparing new work for one of its most prestigious clients. On the day they began their presentation with beautifully written scripts. The client applauded their originality but wasn’t sold on the concept.

The agency then revealed a series of magnificently rendered storyboards. Again the client was impressed but not committed.

An animatic, so well crafted it could almost pass for the finished product was played. Again the client was complimentary but their chequebook remained unopened.

“Well what about this,” said the Creative Director, and played the finished commercial.

“Oh I like that,” said the client.

The agency believed not only in their creative prowess but also in their ability to know what was best for their client and how to create the theatre to get their vision approved. The campaign made the agency and the client even more famous and rich.


A client who was powerful enough to make big decisions and the advertising executive in charge of his account were sitting together in the first class section of an aeroplane. The advertising executive thought it an appropriate to time to sell his client the agency’s latest campaign. He asked his client if he would like to see it. “Is it any good?” asked the client. “Very,” replied the advertising executive a little taken aback. “Then make it.” Replied the client. I imagine they both then ordered champagne and enjoyed an excellent meal.

This however, wasn’t blind faith. The trust they enjoyed in each other’s ability to deliver had been built over time and the production of any number of highly successful campaigns. But still it’s amazing that in this day and age trust between agencies and clients is not often in evidence.


A very big company with a very large advertising budget called a pitch for its account. Four very big agencies were invited to strut their stuff. Quite quickly, (for reason known only to a few) one agency became the dead set front-runner. Unfortunately the agency, lets call them X, Y & Z, had a competitive account but their advertising budget was not nearly as big as the very big company’s. The very big company told X, Y & Z they had to resign the account or they couldn’t pitch. The existing account told X, Y, & Z that if they pitched they would be fired.

The agency, being very clever decided this: they would tell the very big company they had fired their existing client and they would tell their existing client that they weren’t pitching. Genius.

Of course the whole industry knew what was going on.

X, Y & Z were fired by their existing client and they didn’t win the pitch. The agency that did win went on to make some great campaigns.

More luck

An Australian advertising agency had a Japanese car account. One morning the CEO of the advertising agency received a frantic call from the car company’s marketing director. It seems the company had accidentally ordered (their words) a ship full of new cars and it was halfway between Japan & Australia before they realised their error. All pleas to head office that they turn back the boat had fallen on deaf ears so could they have a new television commercial in the next few days…Please? The agency leaped into action and had a presented & produced commercial ready within the week. The dealers, who hadn’t been consulted due to the lack of time, hated it but it ran anyway. The market loved it and after a few weeks a particularly large dealer told the agency CEO that he still hated the ad but to keep running it as he had sold 56 cars above target.

Even more luck

The managing director of another Japanese car company was instructed to move his advertising account to the internationally aligned local agency. He jumped up and down to no avail. His first brief to the agency was for a television commercial. The agency was amazed at how easily the recommended script sailed through the approval process, got made and went to air. A few weeks later the agency team trouped out to the client’s office for a post mortem. The client informed the agency that he only approved the script because he thought is was the worst work he had ever seen. He let it run, he said, so everyone, including his bosses back home in Tokyo would realise how bad the aligned agency was and he would be able to give his account back to his mates. As it turned out he continued, it was the most successful ad he had ever run and even his neighbour had told him how much he liked it. “The best $100 I ever spent,” quipped the Creative Director. No-one laughed.


William Goldman also said of his craft, “Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite the same way before.”

No matter what platform your ad appears on, before it does, someone has to write it down. If you find someone who can do that and consistently come up with masterpieces that sell, hang on to them at all cost.


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