“Chance Favors the Prepared Mind”

Among my ad mentors is Luke Sullivan’s book, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, a rite of passage for anyone entering the ad field. I keep a copy at my desk and often find myself paging through, pulling out seemingly new tidbits of wisdom each time, and today I’m sharing some with you.

Background research: it’s just as important as the work you produce. Why, you ask? Because you can’t produce top-shelf work if you don’t know what it is that you’re advertising. So, no matter your position, here are some Hey, Whipple tips you can utilize to gain more insight before your next campaign.

 “Get to know your client’s business as well as you can.” How is it made? Where does it come from? Are there past brochures or other materials you can skim through or download? Can you tour the factory or facility? You just never know what product information will jump out and be helpful and relevant to your campaign, until you take the time to go through it all. “There are no shortcuts. Know the client. Know their product. Know their market. It will pay off… Chance favors the prepared mind.”

“On the other hand, there’s value in staying stupid.” Keeping some distance can sometimes make for fresher thinking. In other words, if you and the client are always thinking on the same plane and always seeing things from the same POV, “fresh” can be hard to come by.

“Get to know the client’s customers as well as you can.” Who are you talking to? How will it make them feel? Will it make them feel? That is, after all, the goal. Read up, even interview, and become as well-versed from the customer side as possible.

“Make sure what you have to say matters.” Somehow, to someone, somewhere, the message has to matter. It has to be relevant enough to stick in someone’s brain, or what good is all the work you’re putting in?

“Read the publications your ads will be in.” Not everything you work on will be in the publications you follow or on the websites you frequent. Thus, grab a copy of whatever it is, and see what kind of articles are in there, find out who the audience is and what they think/feel. Then figure out how your client will fit and what you can do to help make it happen.

“Read the awards books.” When I was a kid, I loved paging through my dad’s awards books…bright and shiny pages with bright and shiny ideas. I could always find inspiration in one of those things, even before I really knew what I was looking at. So even if you can’t attend every awards show, try to get your hands on a couple of the books. You’ll get a taste for what others are doing out there, and you’ll probably find some inspiration too.

“Look at the competitors’ advertising.” Like the last point, it’s important to keep an eye on your competition for so many reasons. Sullivan says it best, “Learn the visual clichés. Visit their websites. Watch their commercials. Creep through the woods, part the branches, and study the ground your competitors occupy. What is their strategy? What is their look? Those schmucks. They don’t know what’s coming.”


I didn’t include every point covered in the chapter, because there are a lot. However, they’re all good, so I suggest grabbing a copy of this book, or at least revisiting these pointers the next time you’re embarking on a fresh campaign.



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