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Ryan/Sawyer Marketing in Grand Junction, CO

That Crazy Creative

In the movie “Crazy People” the late, great Dudley Moore played burnt out advertising executive Emory Leeson. Leeson has a mental breakdown and in his delirium designs a series of blunt, “truthful” advertisements (Buy Volvos- they’re boxy but they’re good!) that land him in a psychiatric hospital. By mistake, his ads get printed and are an instant success. Predictably, Leeson and his fellow mental patients are hired to create more ads, transforming the sanitarium into an advertising agency. They proceed to roll out wildly successful campaigns, like this one for a Greek travel agency:

Forget Paris. The French can be annoying. Come to Greece. We’re Nicer.

This ad for a new horror film:

It won’t just scare you, it will  f*** you up for life!

And who could ever forget:

Jaguar. For guys who like to get hand jobs from beautiful women they don’t know.


As a farcical look at the advertising industry, “Crazy People” played well. As commentary on how advertising is created and why, the film offers an interesting point of discussion.

So what if the creative platform for all advertising became the blunt and bawdy truth? What if we who create the creative stopped trying to be creative and just laid it out there? Well, on the local scene it would look something like this:

Community Hospital.  Because we’re not St. Mary’s.

Alpine Bank. Actually, we’re here to make money. Bring us some of yours.

Redrock Laser Spa. Because the real you isn’t good enough. Really.

All irreverance aside, truth in advertising is a subjective and slippery slope. My truth is not necessarily the same as yours, and our individual experiences with a given product or service can vary widely. Take this headline. Please:

The best burritos in town!

There’s danger here, as everybody’s taste in burritos is different. If my taste buds don’t agree that your burritos are the best, my experience hasn’t lived up to your promise and I won’t be back. On the other hand, here’s a promise that can be delivered to everyone, every time, regardless of the subjective variety of palates being served:

The cheapest burritos in town!

This headline sets the expectation for an objective experience. If I respond to this ad I expect to pay less, not taste more. It may not be a life-changing culinary experience, but it can be the experience I was promised.

The point here is the care with which advertisers should take with the veracity of their creative. The modern consumer is more connected, more informed and more discerning than ever before and their expectations of marketers is high, as is their ability to do damage if those expectations aren’t met.  In today’s world of interactive media, word of mouth has become word of Facebook, Twitter and endless blogs, and one person’s perception of being misled can instantly become the reality of hundreds more.

The bluntness of Leeson’s nuthouse creative is entertaining parody that takes truth in advertising to an amusing extreme. But its imagined success also points to a real-life truth:  that in an over-saturated world of pitches, come-ons and false promises, straight talk in advertising can go a long way. Truthful creative, predicated on the simple and understandable offer of a deliverable solution, can cut through the clutter in a refreshing way.  And that’s not just crazy talk.

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