One message per ad, please.

Okay, you’re sitting down to write a creative brief, and you get to the main message part and you write something like the following:

Dr. Schplatz Cola is refreshing, highly caffeinated (to give you extra energy) and is sweetened with the 100% natural leaves of the borracco tree.

Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast.

This message is actually three messages. 1. Refreshing. 2. Highly caffeinated for extra energy. 3. Sweetened with 100% natural borracco leaves.

Now you may say, “So what? All three of those things are important to me. And more importantly, to my boss, Dr. Schplatz. Why can’t I say all of them?” You can. it just won’t be as effective as driving home a single idea.

Think of it this way. If I am in a meeting and have three tennis balls and my teammate, Brett is not looking, and I stand up and say, “Brett, catch!” and toss all three tennis balls at him, he’s going to turn, see three tennis balls coming at him and in an attempt to catch one or two, he’s going to drop all three, and look like a total spazz in the process. He’ll probably spill his Dr. Schplatz all over the conference room table, too.

But if I have one tennis ball, and I say, “Brett, catch!” he will turn, see the one ball, focus on it and grab it out of the air. Like a boss. Because that’s the way Brett is. Messages are the same way.

Think about this. No one is actively looking for your ad. They don’t know it’s coming. And they have a very short period of time to react and take it in before they turn the page, head to their 11AM meeting, go to the refrigerator or drive past your billboard. One message will ensure that they can focus and grab your ad out of the air.

(I’ve always wanted to bring four tennis balls to a meeting with a new client in case this subject comes up. But now Brett knows I’m going to do it, so he’ll probably bring a net or something and the point will be lost. Damn. The unintended consequences of publishing…)

Think “point of the spear.” Your message needs to be singular, strong and well honed to sink deep into your audience’s mind. And don’t give me some smart line like, “Yeah, but what if I want to use a trident?” What are you, Poseidon?


Grant Sanders is the Creative Director at Mintz + Hoke Advertsing in Avon, CT. His singluar focus is to do great work. And to keep the amazing members of his team happy and productive. And to get home to Nantucket every weekend to see his wife and dog. Proving that it’s far easier to focus within a creative brief than in real life.

[Borracco leaves and Dr. Schplatz Cola do not exist. I made them up. Do not waste your time Googling them. Brett, pictured above, is a real guy.]