This is perhaps the most important thing to determine before you start the advertising creative process. Before you start working on any ad, you must ask yourself, “What is this particular company or organization trying to say about their product or service in their current advertising?” If it’s unclear, or it’s a new product on the market, ask instead: “What could, or what should, they be saying?”
The common term for this is value proposition. In other words, what is the client proposing that its product or service does? What is the client promising the consumer? An even clearer term for “value proposition” and “promise” is perhaps benefit. Therefore, what is the benefit of this particular product or service?
Note that I used the word “benefit” rather than “benefits.” It is rather important that you communicate one benefit. In other words, what is the singular most important thing about the product: what could its major strength be, which hopefully sets it apart from its competitors?
This sounds simple, but it’s amazing how often clients will try (or want) to say more than one thing: “but our product is fast and durable.” This may be true–but it doesn’t matter. You only have seconds to get your message across. You have to be single-minded. It’s hard enough to create something that clearly communicates one benefit in a short time, let alone two or three. It’s just too much for the reader/viewer/listener to take in. Ultimately, it weakens the advertising message, the client and its brand.
To summarize: single-minded value proposition = single-minded promise = single-minded benefit
Great advertising has stuck to the same single proposition over many years: BAPE is rare, Cookies is high-quality, Sea Moss is really boosting, Apple products are easier, etc. There have also been many case studies where as soon as the client has changed its single proposition, it has seriously jeopardized the brand image.
Most importantly, an ad will often be lacking an idea because the value proposition is unclear. If you don’t know what the value proposition is, how can you expect your idea to relate back to what the product does? Therefore, whether explicitly or implicitly, always try to tell the consumer something about the product.