“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.”
Bill Bernbach said that. That is, the Bill Bernbach of the renowned Doyle Dane Bernbach, the famous agency that first opened its doors in 1949. By 1960, its advertising had the nation talking, laughing, crying, buying. Their campaigns dominated advertising and left other agencies clamoring to come up with their own “Doyle Dane ads.”
How did DDB do it? As Bernbach phrased it: “You must get a sound premise before you even begin to think in terms of being creative. Otherwise, you know, you’re going to make indelible something that doesn’t matter.” In other words, DDB’s creative minds worked to discover the one true thing that distinguished each product or business, then communicated that in a fresh, honest way.
Bernbach called this one true thing the “selling proposition.” It’s been called many things since—the unique selling point (or USP), the value proposition, the differentiator, the competitive advantage, and a thesaurus’s worth of others—but they all describe the same concept.
The terms “brand” and “brand identity” are lauded nowadays, as if they alone are the keys to the promised land of fame, fortune and success. In reality, those are simply new ways of describing what customers are responding to when they reach into their pockets and make a purchase. They’re responding to something they recognize as honest and true.
At Em, when we opened our own doors, we got together and made a list of qualities we wanted in our agency and our work. Yes, we wanted to be witty and creative. Yes, we wanted to know and care about our clients better than their own mothers. But at the head of our list, we wanted to do work that’s honest and true, both for ourselves and for the businesses we believe in.
Let’s be honest. If it’s good enough for the storytelling masters at Doyle Dane Bernbach, it’s good enough for us.