Good creative is hard to approve

Often when I play a piece of creative for a client, there is an uncomfortable silence choking the air out of the room when the audio finishes. I relish this moment. It’s in this moment that I realize I've achieved what I wanted. “I don’t know what I think of this... I don’t think I like it” is a common response.

You might think I’m nuts, but the root of my clients response is a great sign. It isn't too often that the initial aversion to the creative is actually seeded in true contempt. The more common trigger that leads to their distaste is almost always fear.

I love fear. If you’re afraid to air something on the radio, it means you’re frightened that it will be noticed. It's almost like they're afraid it will work. Isn't that the goal of a advertising though?

Good creative is hard to approve.

It’s hard to approve because it isn't safe. It’s hard to approve because you’ll have to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone will always tell you to approve safe copy. Safe copy is dangerous. Unfortunately safe copy is the easiest thing in the world to approve. It sounds like commercials you've heard before. That means it’s good right? Nope. That means it’s easy to ignore. Safe copy does not make it through the listeners mental firewall.

Commercials that grab your attention seem risky because they'll stand out. But, that’s what we’re here to do. We need to make people listen to your commercial. Only then can we tell them why they should remember your business. So, offer them a reason to snap into consciousness. If you don’t achieve this first, nobody will hear your message. It'll float by them in the background.

When a client is afraid of the copy I've brought them it’s usually because it will work. I love that moment of fear because it’s so easy to explain to them why they’re feeling standoffish. Once I explain the relation of that feeling to the strength of the creative they change their tune. It’s rare that anyone explains the moving parts of the commercial when presenting it. Usually they'll just say "so what do you think?" I don't particularly care what the client thinks. I care what your potential customers think. That's why you must explain how the commercial will work. If your message design has real purpose and strategy within it, it will prove itself to the client.

The truth is, if the person selling you creative can’t explain why your commercials are written the way they are, you shouldn't buy it from them.

Bad commercials are easy to sell. Great commercials are difficult. Believe me when I say the finest messages a radio writer creates are usually never aired.

So when you’re presented with a commercial that scares you, ask yourself if you truly dislike it, or if you’re afraid it will be noticed. You might be missing out on a huge opportunity.