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How do adverts get made?

Updated Saturday, 7th July 2007

Getting a dog to sell insurance isn't easy. So how do adverts get made?

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A man reads a magazine on television

Creative advertising

Armed with little more than an inquisitive mind and a mountain of product research, how do the agencies come up with a plan that the client will be happy to back?

The creative process was described as early as 1926 by Graham Wallis, an English sociologist, and can be applied to creative work in advertising.

He broke the process down into four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

Each stage must be completed before the advert can be ready for launch.

The creative process


The creative team needs to absorb the brief given to them by their client. They will research and investigate the product, its marketplace, and their client’s intended audience in order to become fully familiar with the issues involved. The team will then accumulate a multitude of rough ideas through brainstorming sessions and free association thinking.


Once the preparation has been done and initial ideas generated, it is not unusual to reach a blocking point. At this stage it is often found best to switch off from the problem, and let the conscious mind give way to the subconscious.


Often the flash of inspiration will come when creatives are away from the office environment. Suddenly the jigsaw comes together, the pieces fall into place and an innovative idea has emerged.


After the initial excitement of having an amazing idea, creatives need to be objective about their thoughts and check if the brainwave fits the brief. This verification process is one that will be ongoing, gradually whittling the wide variety of ideas down into a smaller and smaller group until a manageable number emerge as the strongest to take forward to the client.

Getting the message across

There are a wide variety of ways to advertise and while creative agencies will often try to invent (or re-invent) new ways all the time, the majority of advertising uses established techniques. The choice of which technique to use is an important one. Get it right, and the message will get through to the target audience, get it wrong and it could miss the audience altogether.


Informational – focusing on the facts
Emotional – plays on our emotions to develop an interest in the product
Image – tries to link the product to desirable qualities such as a certain lifestyle


Hard Sell – tackles the sales issue head on and attempts to persuade the audience that this product is the one for them Soft Sell – a very much more subtle approach avoiding the sales issue and presenting an aspirational image


Factual – puts forward the information in a simple and straightforward way e.g. business to business advertising Demonstration – an advert that focuses on showing how the product works
Comparisons – the advertised product is compared favourably against the competition.
Direct Approach – the actor speaks directly into camera
Indirect Approach – the advertiser infers a view about the product but without directly speaking to the audience. Drama is often used
Comedy – an attempt to give an audience a positive emotional response to the product by linking it with laughter
Problem Solving – the product answers a problem, for example, how to remove a stain on the carpet
Endorsement – a well known figure directly endorses a product or does so indirectly by appearing within the advert


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