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The ad puzzle

July 13, 2020
Advertising & media

When it comes to advertising campaigns, it usually isn’t hard to uncover the objective. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle after it’s all put together: The big picture is clear.

But what do we know about puzzles? Well, when you open the box, you have a mixed-up set of maybe 1,000 pieces, and the promise that they will somehow magically fit together to form that picture you see on the cover of the box. That’s the “ad puzzle.” It’s never as easy as it looks.

Matter of fact, the true sculpting and art of any ad campaign happens before anyone opens the box. It’s all about things like figuring out how many pieces are in that puzzle, what shapes and sizes they’ll be, and most importantly, in the end will they fit together to form that picture. Take one piece out, maybe because the assets weren’t right, and the puzzle doesn’t complete the picture. Shrink a piece because the price was too high and the pieces that surround it won’t fit. Change some of the corners of the piece – like mixing up the campaign elements with a vendor – and the puzzle doesn’t work.

In other words, moving or changing one little thing changes everything.

My role in the Office of Strategic Marketing and Branding is to help units by uncovering what you hope that final picture – the objective – will be, and then carefully crafting and planning all of the intricate pieces that will get you there, to that finished product. If this is something you’d like to explore more, send me an email at mwszolek@illinois so we can schedule time to talk.