On 40 – part 1: Why advertising is like planning a party.


The invitation – typed on my mom’s old college typewriter with it’s italic font. No Bruce, it’s not just an app!

I’ve been thinking about messaging a lot lately, partly because I’m helping several clients craft brand messages and adverts at the moment, but also because I’m planning a party. Bear with me, it’s not quite as random as it sounds!

I have one of those big round birthdays coming up, you see, and being a fairly robust introvert with a general aversion to both being in the spotlight and doing the party-thing, the decision to actually throw a party required much contemplation, several serious discussions with the barefoot husband, and a fair amount of good red wine.

Since it is now joining a list that consists of only 1 x wedding, and 2 x previous significant birthdays, I spent rather a lot of time thinking about why I did and didn’t want to have a party inbetween carrying on with life and work in general, and therefore it occurred to me that creating good messaging for a brand is not so very different from this whole party malarky.


The type-writer still has material ink-reels, and can do black and red type.


1. Firstly, you have to be really, really sure you want to do it. It takes effort, and time, and a fair amount of money. And might require you to stand up and be heard. And might involve putting yourself out there more than you prefer to. So be sure, and then if you do it, do it wholeheartedly and try and enjoy the ride!

2. Once you’re committed, you need to be really clear on why you’re doing it, and what you want people to take away from the whole thing. What is it exactly that you want it to be remembered for? Before you start the planning and doing, you need to do the thinking, and that is often where things go wrong. If you haven’t thought it through, then I think you better think it out again, as they say (with apologies to Fagan and Oliver).

3. It needs to be “on equity”, to borrow a P&G ad evaluation phrase! You don’t necessarily have to cry just because it’s your party, but if you are really going to have a party you need to make sure it’s what you love, and what you want to share with people and something that you would love to attend. It’s your party, after all, so it doesn’t really work if you’re having a party that doesn’t suit you or make you smile. What’s the point then?

4. And if it’s not going to reconnect you with everyone who encounters it, then don’t do it. It needs to be special, it needs to be real and clear and engaging. It needs to make people feel something, and come away from it slightly different to what they were before – whether they are more thoughtful, more curious, more entertained or even just a little happier. Make sure you make it worth their while, they are trading their time for it, after all.

5. And then, after all that, comes the actual doing and what that requires most of all is attention to detail. Every last detail needs to be seen to, and needs to be working towards the vision you’ve crafted in your head. That doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself (I’m a huge believer in outsourcing to experts!), or that you have to have a nervous breakdown in the process, but it does mean that you have to remember that in the end, it’s up to you to bring it all together and make sure the limo’s arrive, and the champagne is cold and the band starts playing on time. And then you have to let it all go and allow everyone to take it on and make it their own, as they see fit.



Because otherwise it may have been better for everyone involved to stay home and have a nice quiet night in, with no regrets the morning after!

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