Advertising is hard: Jonathan Cude tells it like it is at VCU’s Friday Forum
Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Cude brought equal parts inspiration and reality check to the VCU Brandcenter’s Friday Forum on March 6. Just before the students began filling up their gas tanks and downloading mobile boarding passes for spring break, they met at what the advertising school calls a time of “weekly inspiration from creative minds.”
The first slide of Jonathan’s presentation, titled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Life and Advertising (Depending on What You Want to Know),” showed just one word: Disappointment. “How you deal with disappointment will determine how successful you’ll be in this industry,” he said. He spoke from 20 years of experience in the industry — first as a copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy and now as partner and chief creative officer at McKinney.
After telling a story about a campaign he worked on tirelessly for months that was killed just after the final client presentation, he explained, “Disappointment is the result of unmet expectations, so expect advertising to be hard. It’ll be OK — you’re resilient.” The room was very quiet.
Why is it so hard? Because, as DDB founder Bill Bernbach said, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.” And to persuade or, as we aim to do at McKinney, to influence, you must connect with people where it matters most: their emotions. “Brands connect best with people on the top of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, not with what people need but with what people want,” said Jonathan. “And this isn’t complicated. It’s just hard.”
This was Jonathan’s mantra throughout the 90-minute presentation, which concluded with some of the agency’s latest work for Sherwin-Williams, Samsung and Sennheiser. After showing each piece, Jonathan explained how it — and how every piece of effective advertising — is ultimately about understanding the people the campaign is trying to reach enough to meet an emotional need they have, and then using creativity to do that.
This, you guessed it, is hard.
But it’s OK. We’re resilient.