Method Advertising or: How I Learned to Stop Thinking and Be the Ball.
July 1, 2014
There’s no arguing that Chevy Chase is a grace to humanity. But of all his contributions to mankind, there is one quote that remains one of the most poignant, deep and inspiring phrases ever uttered. If you have not had the opportunity to see Caddyshack, you have made very poor life choices allow me to reiterate it for you.
“I like you, Benny.”
“It’s Danny, sir.”
“…Danny. I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. All you have to do is get in touch with it. Stop thinking. Let things happen. Be the ball.”
Aside from the fact that this quote became the quintessential dad phrase of the 80’s (and well into the 90’s… alright, let’s be honest, my dad still says this) it’s important for many reasons. Though it has never improved my golf skills, it does help to describe a crucial aspect of successful marketing: Method Advertising.
If you’re wondering why you don’t know what Method Advertising means, it’s because I just made it up. According to the very quick Google search I performed, I’m confident in saying it has never been called such prior to this point. Congratulations, you are now on the cutting edge of marketing innovation.
Admittedly, while the name is new, the concept itself is not. Marketers have been getting inside the heads of their brands for as long as consumerism has existed. Just as a method actor portrays truth by an unending commitment to their part, so too do we find truth in our brands with method advertising: the act of integrating ourselves in every aspect of our brands in order to more fully understand their unique opportunities in the marketplace.
Put simply: Be the ball.
I have long believed that traditional research only gets you so far. It allows you to hear and read insights developed by outside sources – clients and consumers. While this research is important to understand how your target market operates, it is all second-hand information derived from others’ experiences and worldview. It is only a portion of what makes a successful campaign. You can understand where the target market lives, what their habits are, what their feelings are, but that doesn’t say anything about your brand’s unique identity.
As advertisers, we bring to clients the ability to view the big picture; to approach a problem without bias and contribute insightful solutions. By putting ourselves in the shoes of our brands, we provide a new lens through which ordinary details become unending possibilities. We work drive-thru windows, learn how to brew beer, play pick-up games of baseball, all with the goal of discovering something no one else has the ability to see. Our ability to find the truth in a brand, to tell a story of that truth well and with integrity, is what makes us an asset to our clients.
I’m not recommending that you pull a Joaquin Phoenix à la“I’m Still Here” and do something crazy like start a low profile, back alley lottery ring to learn what drives people to buy scratchers from those grocery store vending machine things. However, I am saying that reading a few Wikipedia articles and running a focus group is not enough to find the heart of your brand. To connect with consumers in a human way, you have to do better than that.
In the last few years, the R/West San Francisco office has won several wine clients, which is probably where my passion for method advertising took root. Aside from honing our wine tasting skills with dinner, on the weekends, during happy hour, at the company Christmas party, and maybe even at a brunch or two (we take our professional research very seriously), we have continuously tried to discover new ways to increase our wine knowledge.
Recently, we have started spending our Friday afternoons in wine school. I think I speak for all of us here when I say we’ve never been more committed to our homework. During our wine classes we learn everything from the proper way to open champagne (Step 1: Cradle bottle, Step 2: Apply pressure to cork, Step 3: Twist the bottle slowly), to how terroir leaves a signature on Pinot Noir. While I will never be a sommelier, acting the part has given me the opportunity to understand the unique aspects of each of our wine brands. Also, I’ve learned that if you’re ever at a wine tasting, adding in some extra adjectives does wonders to make you sound brilliant. It totally works, trust me, I’m in advertising.
(For example: “Ah, yes, I’m definitely getting hints of unripe, Anjou pear”.)
Whatever your solution, whether it be spending the day making pizzas, tasting your way through Napa (see Figure 1A), test driving a new car, or being dropped off in the wilderness to test out how effective those emergency rations really are, at the end of the day, the idea is simple:
Think outside the box. Go the extra mile. Find your brand truth.
Be the ball, Danny.
Written by: Kathleen Quinn