62. Eric Auvinet on Visual vs Text-based Ads, The ‘Perfect’ Woman & Consumer Testing

Copywriter for JWT, Eric Auvinet has +15 years experience mastermining the ideas and copy behind advertising campaigns.

What’s your creative process for coming up with an idea from the brief? The first thing I do is to find a nice quiet place to compare ideas. Many agencies have a ‘creative room’ specifically reserved for idea generation. When Julien Chesné and I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi they had a glass room on the top floor of their building that overlooked all of Paris. It’s really a beautiful view and a great place to come up with ideas.

A good starting point for me is to begin by recounting memories, stories and associations – related or unrelated – from my past that pop into my mind as I’m thinking about the product.  And then brick by brick my art director and I construct a framework on potential campaign ideas. During this brainstorming time expect to jump quickly from idea to idea, so it’s imperative you jot down notes so you can remember your ideas. Doing so allows you to:

– Reconstruct your idea’s logic in case the client or your creative director asks you where you got the idea from
– Helps you keep track of your good ideas so they aren’t forgotten during the brainstorming.
– Allows you to step away from them and then look at them again in the future with fresh eyes and new information and experiences.

How much time do you have to come up with ideas for the client? When I first began in advertising we would have upwards of a week. Nowadays clients typically give us 2-3 days.

Why do you think that is? Many factors, I believe… because of the process, time, increasing competition, technological developments, and profitability of the agency… At any given time art directors and copywriters may be working at various stages on multiple creative briefs.

What are some campaigns you have worked on? Toyota, Reporters Without Borders, Universal, Bouygues, Yoplait, Opel,  BMW, Nestlé

Ads are either prominently visual or prominently text, how you decide which should take the lead? You shouldn’t necessarily go into the idea creation campaign having already made this decision. Doing so would only limit the amount of ideas you come up with. That being said, experience has shown me that visual advertisements are more effective than text-based ads.  Simply put, visuals evoke stronger emotional reactions more quickly and register are remain longer in the consumer’s brain than printed text.

So being a copywriter in a prominently visual media, what is a copywriter’s responsibility? To clarify, the term ’copywriter’ in and of itself is officially defined as “a writer of copy,especially for advertisements or publicity releases.” But in the art director/copywriter team role, a ‘copywriter’ is much broader than that: in this sense a better definition would be “concepteur/redacteur” (loosely translated from French as: Designer/Editor). In this team setting, the principle is: Idea first, then format.

That being said, I work with my art director to find the right campaign idea be it a scenario, picture, sentence or copy (text), and secondly we come up with the best way to combine those ideas. You cannot have a visual without text to add sense to the photo and relate it to the brand or product being advertised.

What are some misconceptions brands commonly have about advertising? Some brands can believe that the agency doesn’t care about the brand and are only doing what the agency wants to do or to win awards. So agencies must be comprehensive and thorough in their creative process so the brand understands the reasoning behind the advertising. I would not show the brand the notes I took during the initial brainstorming process, but explaining to them how we came up with the idea lets the brand know that we in fact do care.

A second misconception could be for brands to find a balance between ideal and real. Society places greater value on the ‘perfect’ male or female form. This is why there are modeling agencies that create a collection of the ‘model’ human for consumers to compare themselves to and to aspire to. It is for this reason that brands prominently use models in their advertisements, that the sun is always shining in their advertisements, and that even the most beautiful landscapes are further photo shopped to look unbelievable.

Fashion brands use models because they want to inspire their consumers to be better, and more down-to-earth brands such as Dove use everyday people to accentuate the message that it’s okay to be who you are.  There really can be a great branding advantage to using ‘real’ people in your advertising. This decision, I think, comes down to your branding strategy.

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What trends have you noticed in advertising? Advertising budgets are getting smaller, more and more brands are depending on consumer testing before an advertisement is officially launched ‘just in case’ the advertisement isn’t well received. This is due in part because on the company side each person has their own responsibility, they want to be safe and prefer not to sign off on anything until they are absolutely sure that it will be successful.

The brand has undoubtedly put a lot of time and money into this one campaign, and understandably wants to be sure they are going to minimize risk and guarantee success, but this kind of thinking actually kills creativity.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Refer to Peter Spear’s informative interview on the benefits and consequences of consumer testing.]

What are a few of your favorite advertising campaigns?

I have a small advertising budget, any advice? First invest your time and money into building a product with at least one strong quality that you are proud of and are willing to stand behind. If you don’t believe in your product, how can you expect anybody else to? Once you have that, advertisers can do the job of creating the idea or key insight around your product’s strong quality that you can market to your consumers.

Also, once you have that product, be patient and cautious of the advertiser(s) you choose. Nobody is perfect and art directors might lead you down a wrong direction. Nobody is perfect.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Refer to Akim Zeraouli, Art Director for Y&R’s interview for excellent advice on how to tell good creatives from the bad.]

Secondly, know who you are. How can you tell others who you are and why they should buy your brand if you don’t know who you are?

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