Apr 16, 2008

What Makes the Good Stuff Good

Here's an essay I wrote for ad school on "what makes good advertising." I haven't written an essay for school in like 5 years. And isn't this what copywriters are for? But since I went through the trouble of writing it, I thought I would also blog it:

April 15, 2008
School of Visual Concepts
Intermediate Advertising
“What Makes the Good Stuff Good”

What makes the good stuff good in an advertisement is made up of so many things, including good design, a clear message, a well thought out strategy, and lots of other nuances that I hope to pick up once I'm a real life art director. But mostly what I think it comes down to is identifying the core feeling or insight into what drives a person to choose a brand or product, and the ability to say something novel.

Novelty is a good way to describe it because what works or interests people is constantly changing, and what is novel to one person may be passé to another. Therefore one's taste in advertising can evolve with exposure as much as one's taste in fine wine or old school reggae or highly-paid exotic dancers. It also works to explain how advertising as any other art form can have periods where certain styles are in vogue, but that what qualifies as good advertising stays the same. But mostly I choose novelty because the newness and freshness of an idea is what makes it elegant and meaningful, and what pays back the audience for spending time with the brand.

Unfortunately for my essay, the idea of novelty as being the measure of a good idea is itself not at all novel. Humor theory is based on the premise that amusement occurs when “an alternative or surprising shift in perception or answer is given, that still shows relevance and can explain a situation.” (From Wikipedia. I don't know how to do footnotes anymore and I've misplaced my MLA handbook.) So what makes a good ad is the same as what makes a good joke. Furthermore, smiling and laughter evolved as the mind's way of adjusting to surprising events in the environment and as a way to cope with expanding realities, so really, good advertising is as beneficial to the brain as fish oil or Mozart.

Novelty does not just refer to the newness of the actual words or visual, although it can and often does. A lasting ability to impress and amuse comes from the rareness of the connection being drawn, the sense that of the multitude of ways to relay a message the one laid out on the page before you is truly innovative and unusual. That a hundred monkeys with typewriters might not have stumbled upon it, and yet here it is, simple and tidy. So simple and tidy in fact that you could have come upon it yourself. But you didn't. Damn it.

Of course good advertising has to make sense, and be accessible to the target, and hopefully be well art directed and written. And it has to sell something by delivering a message using the various mediums and tools and techniques available. But the best stuff will always be the stuff that is the most novel to you, however you define that. It will always feel unconventional and surprising, and it will always make you smile.

Apr 9, 2008

BSG Catch-Up

Recently Beth and I started to watch Battlestar Galactica on DVD. It's catch up for me since I haven't seen them before, but for Beth it's just out of love. And let me tell you, she really digs the BSG too. I can see why she likes it though. The basic story line is quite simple and intriguing; Humans invent robots (cylons), robots rebel and try to wipe out humans, the last fifty thousand humans band together against robots and search for Earth. 

The cinematography is also done really well with an interesting use of handheld camera action during complete CG shots by using sporadic zooms and pans. It's really pretty smart to make those shots seems realistic and a bit more engaging. I also really like how they cut the sound when the camera is outside the ship since there's very little sound in space. The other cool thing is the way the fighter ships fly just like in Asteroids. This may sound like a joke, but it seems very realistic.

Screen shot of a Viper Mark VII Fighter doing some Cylon hunting.

BSG is a good show. People should watch it, especially since the new season four episodes are airing right now. Friday's 10/9C on the SciFi Channel.