Drama drains. Drama sometimes hurts. And depending on the situation drama can cost us
in time, money and energy.
But drama and conflict also captivate and entertain. And in the world of advertising and marketing, adding a dramatic flair to our work can bring in revenue for both us and the companies we create for. That was the premise of Luke Sullivan’s new talk called “Leveraging Cultural Tensions to Improve Creativity,” in which he explores how to use tensions in our culture (cars-vs.-pollution, food-vs.-obesity, privacy-vs.-safety) and in general life (hot-cold, red-green) to create more ideas and better ideas. Sullivan spoke to a group of about ninety people at the July event hosted by TAG Marketing and the Atlanta Ad Club. “I don’t know why, but drama is captivating,” he says. “When a plane lands safely, you never see a segment about it on the nightly news.” The group he presented to seemed to to agree, but some did, however, seem reluctant to dive in head first into drama-land. “How do you know when you’ve gone too far?” “How do you sell your clients on the drama when they’d rather keep their creatives on the safe side?” In response to the first question, Sullivan says our clients will tell us when they believe we’ve gone too far. On the last question, Sullivan recommends presenting clients and employers with three options: what they ask for, what their competitors are doing and what you think they should do. For marketing professionals working inside a company, this might be an easy task. “The Marketing Department” is often known as the fun, happy-hour-friendly group that comes up with the crazy ideas. If this perception exists in your company, why not live up to it? The next time you’re tasked with creating a campaign for a new or old initiative, give them the unpredictable.
Sullivan says it is also important to ask clients to take off their CMO hat and put on their consumer hat when deciding which way to go with their marketing and advertising. The same things that resonate with us, and the same emotions we feel, are the same ones our consumers feel, too. We should make use of those emotions when developing content.
Sullivan is a star in the advertising world. He’s widely known for his 2003 book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, in which he looks at the history of advertising, from the good to the bad to the ugly. An updated 2012 version of the book includes direction for building a career in advertising and a real-world look at the day-to-day operations of today’s ad agencies.
The group left energized by Sullivan’s talk and ready to head to work to create the next great ad!
Here are a few nuggets gathered from Sullivan’s talk:
- As a writer, pay attention to the tension in your business.
- Tension can be our brand vs. their brand, man vs. machine, good vs. bad, etc.
- If tension isn’t naturally apparent in your category, make it up.
- You can find the tension by finding the emotion.
- It is human nature to gravitate toward the drama. Since that is the case, you should work to bring drama and tension into the work you create.
**The images used in this post were created by Lois Brand. The art above features a snapshot of a larger piece in which Brand zooms in on the phrase “Conflict is Riveting. Admit it.” The image below is the full piece, which embodies many of the tensions we find so riveting.