Book review: “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This”

[Originally published on September 19, 2008]
Summary:  Of the parts I did read (I skipped the chapters on creating radio and TV ads), this book can be summarized by saying: the best ad creative is simple, clever, honest, and evokes an emotional response (easier said than done!). 
Recommended? Nope. Unless you’re in the ad business, as this book is really for folks who create ads for a living, not for folks looking to get a few tips on marketing or brand building (go figure).

Key takeaways:
  • Know the product, inside, outside, and upside down. How does it feel to use it?
  • It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it (duh). Example: Imagine an ad for tennis balls with the words reading back and forth across the page like watching a tennis match. Another example: Imagine an ad for flowers titled “Exactly how mad is she?” with three different bouquet sizes pictured (genius!).
  • Position yourself against something people know…against something tangible…a known quantity.
  • Create “benefit boards” of what your product does well, show it to customers, and see what resonates.
  • Read the publications your ads will be in as context is king. Example: An Economist billboard ad that reads “Ignore obstacles” that — yup, you guessed it — is obscured a bit by a building pillar.
  • Dramatize the benefit over the feature. “People don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits. They buy quarter-inch holes.”
  • Use tools to capture attention: wit (ha!), metaphors (something they already know), and photos.
Select quotes from the book:
  • “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved” – John Dewey
  • “‘Each brand has its own core value, something it stands for. I use the expression ‘brand=adjective.’ Volvo = safety. FedEx = overnight. Dan Wieden puts it another way: Brands are verbs. ‘Nike exhorts, IBM solves, and Sony dreams.'”
  • “First, say it straight. Then say it great.”
  • “Make the claim in your ad something that is incontestable.”
  • “Avoid style. Focus on substance.”
  • “Find the central truth about your product”
  • “‘Words are a barrier to communication'” (menos es mas, amigos!)
  • “Don’t set out to be funny. Set out to be interesting.”
  • “Write like you would talk if you were the brand”
  • “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!
  • “‘Tell the truth and run.'”
  • “Certain headlines are currently checked out. You may use them when they are returned. Lines like, ‘Contrary to popular belief…’ or ‘Someting is wrong when…’ These are dead. Elvis is dead. John Lennon is dead. Deal with it.”
Sample ads: 
  • From a Crispin&Porter ad: “Sales” is a hitchhiker saying “To Jacksonville.” “Marketing” is that same hiker saying “To Mom’s for Christmas.”
  • An ad for Volvo which is simply a safety pin in the shape of a car
  • An ad for a travel agency with photos of exotic destinations that reads “After you get married, kiss your wife in places she’s never been kissed before” (he he)
  • An ad with the copy “Which of these three kids is wearing Fischer-Price anti-slip roller skates” — showing just one kid off to the right
  • An Economist ad: “Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed”


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