Don’t Let the Strategy Become the Creative

What? Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? No. Here’s what I mean:

The Dr. Pepper 10 campaign that’s running right now. 10 calories per can. “The manliest diet soda ever.”

I get the strategy: women drink diet soft drinks. Even though men are also concerned about the sugar and calorie content of regular soft drinks. That’s why Coke introduced Coke Zero and began positioning Diet Coke towards women. Dr. Pepper has Diet Dr. Pepper – zero calories but also that aspartame taste typified by Diet Coke and others. By adding 10 calories, Dr. Pepper can make a “diet” Dr. Pepper that tastes like the real thing. And voila, a “diet” product marketable to men.

So, the Creative Brief talks about diet soft drinks being unappealing to men because it makes them feel emasculated – “real” men don’t drink diet sodas. And that the creative needs to have the male audience feel that they’ll be considered “manly” when they drink Dr. Pepper 10.

That’s the strategic idea. I get it. I may or may not agree with its validity. But I get it – Man up the low calorie Dr. Pepper

I hope to God that the creative team tried hard to communicate this idea without taking the words right off the Creative Brief and turning them into ads. Terrible ads, by the way (it’s possible the creative team has done them as a joke and is laughing hysterically that the client is actually running them). Ads that would cause me to be embarrassed to be seen drinking Dr. Pepper 10. The manliest soda ever. It’s like saying the “funniest comedian ever.” You know it’s not true.

The Creative Brief is a guide. It’s to provide direction for different creative paths that address the wants and needs of a defined target. It’s to help the creative team understand what to think about to make great creative (great being defined as effective). When the Creative Brief becomes really obvious, like with Dr. Pepper 10, what happens is work that the audience laughs at the creative idea, not with it.

Look at the work for Coke Zero. Then look at Dr. Pepper 10. Both are working from the same strategic premise. I think one succeeds. I think the other goes down as some of the dopiest work done in a long while.

So, use the Creative Brief. Just don’t translate it literally into creative.