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Let’s be honest. No one likes being told their ideas aren’t good enough. No one likes being sent back to their desk to try again.

But think about your own experience. Hasn’t the opportunity to revise your work made it better?

Maybe not 100% of the time. But at least 90% of it?

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work for some well-known creative directors. They weren’t just famous for the work they did, but the work they inspired. So I didn’t mind when they sent me back for a rewrite. They knew what they were talking about. My second, or third, or in one case, sixteenth effort, was always better than my first.

Of course, in advertising, editors aren’t just creative directors. They’re also account people, focus groups and clients.

Like anything else in life, there are good editors and bad ones.

The best editors keep us on point. They remove our stale thoughts. They cut extraneous words. They help us reach for more depth, more emotion and more eloquence.

When you’re creating a TV spot or print ad, there’s time to craft your thoughts. So if at first we don’t succeed, we can spend days (or even weeks) trying again.

But what if the assignment doesn’t call for traditional media? What if it calls for social media? Where does that fit into the do-it-over-until-it’s-great mentality?

Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere are obviously based on a new set of rules. Speed takes precedence over insight.

So we’ve become a culture of people who think out loud. And while the honesty is commendable, the byproduct of the unedited thought isn’t. Blogs go on longer than a Unabomber soliloquy. And, as much as I like Twitter, a tweet doesn’t allow us to put our thoughts in context.

At minimum, we risk losing our audience by boring them. At maximum, we risk losing our jobs by offending them (just ask Gilbert Gottfried).

Our mothers taught us to think before we speak. But they neglected to mention that we should also think before we tweet, blog or post.

Which brings me back to the importance of finding an editor you can trust. Bounce your ideas off them. And if they send you back for a rewrite, take their advice and rewrite it.

You don’t just owe it to your audience. You owe it to yourself.


Once upon a time, the advertising stars had to align to produce a Super Bowl commercial. Now everyone’s doing it. And by everyone, I don’t mean every person at an ad agency. I mean every American who can fill out an entry form and upload a YouTube video.

You see, the latest trend in Super Bowl advertising is the consumer-generated TV spot (just ask Doritos or Chevy). So, as a public service, I’d like to share some tried-and-true techniques of past Super Bowl advertising with this new generation of ad makers.

Let’s start with the obvious: Kicks in the groin are always funny. Especially if they’re delivered by a senior citizen or, better yet, a baby.

Speaking of babies, it’s always good to have your babies speak. Such past examples are the talking baby for Freeinternet.com, the talking baby for Quiznos and, in its latest incarnation, the talking baby for E*TRADE.

Don’t like babies? Not to worry. How about babes? Because if you can base your commercial around a pretty woman in a bra and panties, even if you’re not selling bras and panties, you’re a shoo-in for a top 20 placement on the USA Today popularity list.

Celebrities are another shortcut to popularity. But as an advertising outsider, you probably can’t afford a Kardashian, a Baldwin brother or even a Betty White. So you might want to try the borrowed interest’s second cousin, twice removed—generally referred to as the movie parody. The Social Network, Bridesmaids and Twilight are all ripe for your product placement. (You should probably avoid Star Wars, as Volkswagen seems to own that cultural icon at the moment.)

For those with more ambitious storytelling desires, I’d also recommend the “great adventure in search of the product” technique. The math is simple: Ordinary guy performs an extraordinary act of bravery to get A) a soft drink, B) a potato chip, or C) a date with a pretty girl… who just happens to be waiting for him in a bra and panties.

Follow my advice and your commercial will practically write itself. Probably because it’s already been written and you’re only retracing someone else’s steps.

The truth is, all the techniques I’ve mentioned are sacred cows. You’re better off avoiding them and doing something that hasn’t been done before.

Yup, that’s hard. Even if you write commercials for a living. So if that fails, then by all means have one character kick another in the groin. It may be an old joke. But according to focus groups, it’s always funny.

by David Bernstein