Better Question Better Ad

I received this lesson early in my advertising career. I was working on the first tennis shoe commercial to air on television. It was a product owned by Colgate-Palmolive, called the Fred Perry tennis shoe. And I remember when research told us . . . drumroll . . . "comfort" was the major benefit of this shoe. "Okay," the other creative team members and I said with a deflated sigh. "Okay. Comfort. Big deal." But then the entire team, account people and creatives, started asking better ques-

Arkwear is one of the top tourist apparel outlets in the busy seaside city of Newport, Rhode Island. On a sunny summer afternoon we are constantly restocking our most popular designs to keep pace with our customers.

In 1997, in an effort to make our T-shirts, hats and other souvenir apparel stand out from the cluttered local tourist offerings, we decided to use 180° Thinking. Figuring that virtually all of the other local souvenir garment designers were featuring beautiful sailboats in the surf and other classic, nautical Newport icons on their clothing, why not go in the opposite direction and show the barnacle-crusted fishing heritage of the real Newport? The Bite Me Live Bait brand was born and became an immediate success with our customers. It has since achieved a sort of pop-culture notoriety as its own brand, in many ways eclipsing our highly successful, more established Arkwear brand. The Bite Me Live Bait brand has continued to grow and prosper in recent years to the point where it now has its own website,, featuring Bite Me Live Bait sweatshirts, baseball caps and coffee mugs, beyond the original tourist apparel scope, bringing in business from around the world.

Jeff Marlowe President, Arkwear Lobotomized 1995

For more on 1800 Thinking, go to Chapter 8.

tions. Why do you need to be comfortable? Because you run all over the tennis court. Forward. Backward. Side to side. Lateral. Linear. Jumping. Turning.

How much of that do you do? Good question. "How far do you think you run?" asked Bruce Leonard, a great marketing mind with whom I later went into business. That was a better question.

That question put us in a place where we didn't know the answer, where we had no choice but to wonder. And then we found the answer. Are you ready for this? In a long match, a single tennis player can run as much as five miles. Now that's a surprising premise. That puts comfort in a very important position. The creative execution we chose —to paint the soles of a guy's tennis shoes and have him run around the tennis court leaving five miles of footprints—was a very interesting TV spot. And it worked! Colgate ran the ad for nine years. Veterans of the ad biz may remember AdAge's top 100 TV spots. This commercial made that coveted list in the 1970s.

Someone asked a better question. It led to a better answer. We all do this on our best days. Do we do it consciously? Do we do it intentionally? Do we do it consistently? Now that you are more aware that this is a fundamental of creative thinking, maybe you can use this technique to lobotomize the part of your brain that comes up with the same old answers. By pushing yourself beyond the known, you might just get a better idea.

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