The Seinfeld Method


Right back at the start of my career, I worked with some ultra-talented peers, Kenn MacRae, Dennis Koutoulogenis and Pat Richer. It’s absolutely no surprise to me that these dudes have all gone on to brilliant and diverse award-winning achievements around the world, in various areas of creativity. Back in the day, we were advertising freaks with little else in our lives beyond cracking the next brief.

Working long into the night on most evenings, we used a method inspired by Edward De Bono. It involved going through every style of ad, one at a time, and thinking of those kind of ads for the brief in hand. The media landscape was simpler in those days and often we’d just be coming up with a script or a press ad. We’d read up on the product and the audience, chat about the proposition, then get into each ad style. Demonstration ads. Comparison ads. Extreme exaggeration of the product benefit. Straight headline, funny visual. Funny headline, straight visual. ‘Swapsies’ (visual analogies). And so on. It was a great way to get lots of ideas down but looking back on it, it was pretty executional.

We did some good ads but it was rare that we’d crack something great. The closest was when we got to the last of our ad styles – observational insight-based ads. To come up with these, we used what we called ‘The Seinfeld Method’. Inspired by the stand-up sections at the start and end of ‘Seinfeld’, this involved shining an observational beam on the product and the audience. Looking at people’s behaviours around the category and how the product interacted with their lives. Although it was invariably more difficult and less fruitful in terms of quantity than the other styles of ads, this was always the richest area. In retrospect, The Seinfeld Method was really the only method. When I think about it, pretty much all of the other kinds of ads, from visual pun to long copy, leveraged an insight we came up with using this method. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel as though every great ad feels like a ‘Seinfeld Method’ ad. Some, like Guinness ‘Surfer’ or VW ‘Snowplough’, use an observation that comes directly out of the product; others, like the sweet and funny Flora ad above, leverage an observation about human behaviour tacked onto a product message. Both can be good, but if the observation resonates, the first kind of ad tends to be really powerful.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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