Cannonball Read IV: Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! by Luke Sullivan
Advertising has a bad reputation: dishonest, manipulative, and invasive- a fact that Luke Sullivan freely acknowledges in his classic book about creating great ads, “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This”: A Guide to Creating Great Ads. But advertising, as he puts it, “doesn’t have to suck,” salesmen “don’t have to wear plaid jackets.”
Introductions do not come much more compelling than when three well-known product mascots fall victim to a sniper on the very first page. Luke Sullivan opens Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! with both a literal and figurative character assassination of brand mascots from familiar advertising campaigns- Mr. Whipple, Snuggle, and Ty-D Bowl Man. Irritating and lazy, ads featuring these characters have caused huge increases in sales, but that is not the only measure of an ad.
Hey Whipple is packed with tips and instructions for creating print, radio, television, interactive, online ads and integrated campaigns. As someone not more interested in avoiding advertising than creating it, I was reluctant to read this book- but it was accessible, irreverent, and just plain funny.
My favorite parts of Hey Whipple dealt with the question of how to reach an audience that hates you. Ads are distractions, to be clicked past or fast-forwarded through. In the world of TiVo and Hulu and online piracy, advertising content must be “useful, entertaining, or beautiful” if it hopes to get any attention. As Sullivan puts it, the “Desert Storm” method of advertising (targeting consumers with a message, “carpet bomb [them] with massive buys of TV […], hit ‘em with radio [… and] print”) does not work anymore. As he jokes, the only captive audience remaining “is a bunch of convicts in the prison’s TV lounge.” Consequently,
“We can’t buy people’s attention anymore. We can’t keep interrupting all the stuff people are interested in; we have to become the stuff they’re interested in. We have to become so stinkin’ interesting that people put down what they’re doing to come over, lean in, and see what we’re all about.”
Initially, this sounds ridiculous- how could advertising ever be “the stuff people are interested in?” But it works. Advertising has to occur in new and creative ways, such as when Red Bull sponsored Felix Baumgartner’s sky dive from the edge of space, or when IKEA placed a full-furnished living room in downtown Toronto. Notes on the furniture said “Steal Me,” and copy asked, “What better way to make a friend that to say, ‘Excuse me, want to help me steal this sofa?’ The two of you will then be able to look back at this day and say, ‘Hey, remember that time we stole that sofa?’ And you’ll laugh. Of course, you and your new friend could always just go to IKEA and buy a Klippan sofa, seeing as they are only $250.” Just one of many examples in the book, I thought this was incredibly clever. It cost nearly nothing, and it certainly would have gotten my attention
I would highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about advertising as a possible career, but I would even recommend it to anyone who is not. I think it is an eye-opening read for any consumer.
(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)
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