A great ad idea is nothing more than a cliche if it doesn't achieve a specific outcome. And it doesn't hurt to tap into the mood of a nation or hold a mirror up to people's weird and wonderful behaviour if you want your ad to work.
Those are some of the messages from Clemenger Sydney creative director Rebecca Carrasco, visiting for last night's News Works Newspaper Advertising Awards.
The bad news, she says, is ads have lost their novelty and are in a fierce battle for attention with content across all media. But the good news is it's not impossible to break through the clutter if you pursue original ideas.
"A lot of what we would ordinarily try, which is talking to people in a straight way or even yelling at people, we know that doesn't work. Being different for the sake of being different is like being creative for the sake of being creative.
"A good gauge for getting a great idea is it's designed to achieve a cetain outcome or elicit a certain response. A lot of great ideas can be funny or clever but they do it in a very pointed way."
Competition for mindshare is growing at a time when ads are everywhere from pub toilets to shopping centre parking bays, she says. And that means putting aside assumptions that consumers will hear advertising messages.
"Some people view having more places to put the message as the future, but I don't think for the greater good that is the way forward. The more we piss people off and try to force the message on them, the less effective we become.
"You hear from friends and family outside advertising that people just don't like ads. Once upon a time ads were interesting, now they're not interesting. But people will spend a vast amout of disposable time looking for engaging content."
Responding to wider public sentiment is one effective way to engage an audience, Carrasco says. She cites the example of Hyundai Motor America's 2010 response to the post-GFC economy with an Assurance Program that let customers return cars up to a year later if they couldn't continue paying.
The campaign resulted in higher sales and better brand perception, she says.
Showing people their own strange or funny behaviour is also a good way to put ad dollars to use, she says - once again, as long as it's got a point.
DDB Sydney's ads last year for VW's Park Assist technology exemplified this, she says, helping avoid the nightmare scenario of parallel parking and hitting something like a police car or a portable loo.
"If you can show people their own behaviour, it's usually a fairly safe way of capturing an audience. That's usually when the risk of wasting money goes down.
"[The Park Assist ads] didn't overexplain. It was an insight we can all relate to and there was a very specific outcome to that piece of communication which is you'll be much safer parking your car with Park Assist. It wasn't funny for the sake of being funny. With a good idea, nothing about the elements are self-serving or gratuitous. They should always be serving the outcome."