The Great End-line Debate

I’ve had many conversations over time with clients and creatives about end lines, more often than not ending up in arguments!

Ahead of the pitch for the European launch of PlayStation we had an agreed strategy and creative route which was centred on the attribute of ‘power’. Days before the pitch we were reviewing the work for the last time and I felt we were missing an end line. My reasoning was that we had a very strong product strategy that was implicit but not explicit; for a new brand entering a highly competitive market this seemed to me to be missing a trick. My suggestion was ‘the power of PlayStation’ which was met with scorn by my creative colleagues.

The next morning I found a sheet of A4 on my desk with the line “Do not underestimate the power of PlayStation” followed by “will that do?”. Paul Hodgkinson, joint creative director at the time, had gone off to the pub with a few teams, moaned about me I suspect, and after a few pints wrote the pitch winning line.

The line ran for years in Europe and was adopted in the US.

For me it achieved a number of things. First it linked together all communication and could with ease move from one execution to another; second it informed everyone on how to approach content – to support the claim – and thirdly it positioned the brand in the minds of the public and importantly the retail trade. It was an intelligent and valuable property. PlayStation went on to become the #1 games console across Europe with six months of launch.

Over the weekend I spotted three ads for DIY stores in my newspaper – Wickes, Homebase and B&Q. Each had an end line, ‘Make a house a home’, ‘It’s got our name on it’ and ‘Making it easier’. Now match each line to each brand. Hmmm. Whereas the PlayStation line was both branded and contained a proposition each of the DIY examples are bolt-on generic thoughts with little or no relevance to the content of the ads.

I must confess to being a fan of good end lines because I believe much of what we produce is basically propaganda, it is helpful to give the public at large a ‘portable handle’ for a brand. ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ for BMW from WCRS has been a favourite for many years. Very few car marques have an enduring thought that survives over decades. GGT in the ’80’s produced a whole bunch of famous work such as ‘Hello Tosh Gotta Toshiba’, ‘Ariston on and on and on’, ‘More reasons to shop at Morrisons’, ‘Designed well, built well, Honeywell’ amongst others.

It is amazing the number of people who can rattle off great lines years later after the work has stopped running.

One of the trends in advertising has been to move more towards ‘lifestyle’, ‘context’, which I understand as we all know people identify with brands as a reflection of themselves. However it doesn’t mean that the shorthand reason to consider Brand A over Brand B isn’t appropriate. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple the boys at Chiat Day in LA went to see him and argued the brand had lost its way under the leadership of the Pepsi guy. They had developed a campaign which Steve Jobs bought there and then – it was the terrific ‘Think Different’ campaign. I had the pleasure of helping getting this implemented across Europe.

This was a rallying call internally, to the public at large and opinion formers. Since that moment Apple has gone from strength to strength, not because of an ad campaign but because they put their flag in the ground and said this is what we stand for.

(If advertising history is of any interest try and get hold of the presentation Chiat Day gave to Steve Jobs; it is a lesson in brevity and clarity – on two boards, typeset with a cogent argument leading to the proposed solution. Just brilliant.)

The end line debate will continue. I see less and less strong ideas that have killer end lines that define a brand.

It would be interesting to have a top 20 of all time great end lines……….

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