The Creative Spark! – All Work and No Pun

Do you like puns? Maybe you busk in the summer and call your act “Busking in the Sun.” Or maybe you plan to start the next GroupOn for soup-spoons called Group De Jour.

If you’ve groaned at least once, then you see why advertisers avoid puns. But one type of pun works well in ads, namely puns with double meanings.

Let me illustrate:

Just over a week ago, I had an interview at an electric company. The interviewer told me he aimed to “tell stories” through ads. He promised to short list four of us interviewees. Each short listed candidate would create an ad based on one of his story ideas. The job would go to the candidate with the best ad.

I decided to act early as I felt equipped, given I had read the first chapters of Pete Barry’s The Advertising Concept Book. I chose to play off the double meaning of the word “power” in creating a two-ad campaign.

My first ad included the following text: “You have the power to do good ? the power to protect ? the power to build communities. It’s all in our power.” This ad took popular slogans on power and twisted them with a double meaning: moral power and electric power?a pun.

The second ad campaign included a video of a bustling night scene of a lit petroleum camp. The text read “power on.” The next image showed pure blackness with the text “power off. It’s all in our power.” Puns with double meanings work well in ad campaigns.

So, why learn ad tricks? Once you know the blueprint for making ads, you’ve got the skills for creating catchy titles and essay openers.

With that in mind, Pete Barry disclosed (in bold below) a couple of advertiser tricks found in his tome titled The Advertising Concept Book. I follow with tips for scholars.

don’t replace words with rhyming or sound alike words (puns). Double meaning puns (with same spelling) work well, even when one of the meanings is negative.
A double-meaning ad for full-figure bras could include the tag line, “All the perks.”

So, what does this have to do with your essay? Well, avoid puns where you substitute similar sounding or rhyming words. don’t title your essay on toxic fumes “For whom the smell tolls.” Puns stink.

Instead, use one word with two meanings?for instance, “Take the bait” for an essay on government welfare for Newfoundland fishermen. The word “bait” has double-meaning?and double-meaning puns make great titles.

Fred Manley of BBDO indicated that “the more you put in an ad, the worse it gets” (as cited in Barry, p. 77). Minimalize the ad.
When planning a title for your essay reduce the text just enough to make the viewers think. For instance, on an essay on nepotism in corporate culture, title it, “Ties.” don’t add a visual of twins in suits. don’t add a subtitle (especially if you don’t plan to publish). Do open your essay with the topic statement (i.e, “Nepotism in corporate culture reduces ? “). And do add flare: place the word “Ties” in the center of the title page in small font.

In short, bare down your titles without losing the gist.

Tag lines are mini arguments for why people must buy your product.
Similarly, in your papers, you can use a tag line as subtitles.

You can include the subtitle “Nepotism in Corporate Culture” from your title “Ties.” But if you do include it, make it surreal?like an award-winning ad. In other words, put the subtitle in small font at the bottom right of your title page?like an advertisement tag line.

So, make your title page bare. Minimalize the title text, add the subtitle as a tag line tucked in the corner, and sprinkle in some double meaning. The least says the most. A paradox? I call it a Creative Spark!