Spinach Branding’s five key rules for brand advertising

Campari 2020 advertising by Spinach Branding

David Ogilvy, the pioneer of modern advertising, famously said, when realising a big idea, first ask yourself these key questions:

  • Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
  • Do I wish I had thought of this myself?
  • Is it unique?
  • Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
  • Could it be used for 30 years?


It’s worth remembering this timeless piece of advice when embarking on your own creative journey. The tools may have changed since the publication of his seminal book “Ogilvy on Advertising” in the 80s, yet despite the dominance of social media, influencer marketing and an altogether more complex web of communications, the fundamentals remain the same.

We often refer to Ogilvy’s words of wisdom when tasked to develop a new advertising campaign for a client, one that is effective now, and will withstand the test of time.

To understand the process, we asked Spinach branding director, Leigh Banks, to share his top five rules for creating an enduring campaign.

1. Knowledge is always key

Do your homework, become intimate with the brand and the industry in which it operates. There are no shortcuts. The more knowledge you have, the better chance of creating an effective and enduring campaign.

At our agency, we begin all our projects by getting to know the industry intimately. Be it architecture and the built environment, food, drink and hospitality, or finance and technology, our team will thoroughly research the area. We will then run extensive workshops with our client to see how they operate within this context.

The more you know about the industry, its strength and its weaknesses (and from a global perspective), the better chance you have of creating something unique and powerful. As Ogilvy would say, never underestimate the power of knowledge.

2. Position the brand effectively

Brand positioning is one of the most important aspects of advertising. It isn’t always obvious either – sometimes a brand may be targeted at a certain audience, but to get their attention it needs to be positioned at a different level.  This increasingly extends to the choice of influencers or bloggers brought on-board to promote the brand.

A relatively new concept in brand positioning, we often see companies work with influencers who clearly don’t share the same brand values. The game may have altered, but Ogilvy’s classic rules still apply. Work only with those who share your values. Don’t get greedy.

3. Reflect the brand identity

An ad is essentially selling the image of a brand, so how it looks, talks, feels must reflect the overall brand positioning. And since it’s a public-facing image, everything has to work in harmony from the typeface, to images, illustration, and the model or celebrity involved. Every little detail counts. To add to the complexity, today’s message must be understood globally, not be culturally exclusive or offensive.

At Spinach we work with companies from around the world and it’s therefore instrumental to use words and image that resonate on an international level.

4. Always message wisely

Messaging is an extremely subtle art form. It involves short sharp text, or long factual copy, depending on where the ad sits and its target audience. For example, our campaign for the Knight Frank saw the brand messaging take pole position. We wanted the customer to be placed at the centre of the ad, so our “Move/Found” campaign introduced the human factor to an otherwise cold industry. We followed the main poster ads with text-heavy campaigns placed in key positions on the London Underground.

We took a very different approach when working with Campari on its on-going brand ad campaigns “Ready For Bitter?” and “Invigorate Your G&T”. The Italian drinks giant wanted to raise brand awareness in the UK, so we created a series of highly visual and memorable ads with an intriguing message. The campaigns successfully define Campari as an embodiment of aperitivo culture, a symbol of Milan and of la dolce vita.

5. Big ideas sell

The world may have evolved greatly since Ogilvy’s heyday, but one essence remains the same: “a big idea” almost always works. This is the hardest part of brand advertising as there are no strict rules to adhere to. Instead it is down to the creative capabilities of the agency.

Anyone can design a simple ad, yet coming up with one that will stand the test of time, one that becomes an icon in itself, is an entirely different proposition. Composing a big idea is an artistic process anchored in deep knowledge, background information and a touch of courage. It really is down to the skills and creative powers of the ad agency.

Images: Spinach Branding’s ad campaigns for Campari and Barking Riverside London © Spinach Branding.

Spinach Branding is a specialist independent branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

Barking Riverside branding by © Spinach Branding
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