Disruptive Advertising: TRIZ And The Advertisement
Editor | On 21, Oct 2002
TRIZ And The Advertisement
Director, CREAX nv
Phone/Fax: +44 (1275) 342960
This article is about the possible application of some of the TRIZ tools to the problem of marketing, and specifically issues surrounding the systematic creation of disruptive advertisements. Disruptive advertisements according to one of the world’s leading advertising agencies are those that attract customers because they fundamentally challenge and disrupt conventional modes of thinking. In TRIZ terms, a disruptive advertisement is one that challenges a contradiction. The article uses a UK survey of the nation’s favourite television advertisements as its foundation and examines them for the presence of contradiction elimination and, where relevant, the strategies used to overcome those contradictions.
One of the world’s biggest advertising agencies has published two books in the past four years on some of the secrets of their success (Reference 1, 2). The underlying philosophical basis underlying a lot of what they have achieved involves the recognition and challenging of conventions. Jean-Marie Dru calls this ‘disruption’. Disruption is effectively about finding a new way of presenting things; it is about paradigm shifts; finding new s-curves (Reference 3, Chapter 7). What Dru and his team have found – without any apparent awareness of TRIZ – is that locating these shifts involves the identification and resolution of contradictions. In many senses, from their advertising context, they are looking for the same sort of disruptive shift in the thinking of the recipient that comes from humour. Humour, as discussed every month in the CREAX newsletter (Reference 4), is fundamentally about contradiction resolution. As illustrated in Figure 1, a joke involves sending the listener in one direction while the joke teller travels in another one. The ‘joke’ emerges when the listener learns that they have travelled in the wrong direction, and make the jump to the right direction – i.e. they solve a contradiction.
Figure 1: The Role of Contradictions in Humour.
Initial investigations at CREAX have revealed that the contradiction solving mechanisms underlying humour are bound by the same 40 inventive strategies that have been uncovered during TRIZ research (see also Technical, Business, Social, Architecture, Food Technology, Software Development, and Microelectronics examples of the 40 Principles at References 5-11 respectively).
Bearing in mind the apparent similarities between humour and disruptive advertising strategies, our working hypothesis at the start of this investigation has been that disruptive advertising strategies will also be strongly connected to the 40 Inventive Principles contained in TRIZ.
In order to test the hypothesis, the investigation has made use of the output of a national study conducted by a UK TV channel and newspaper (Reference 12), after their survey to find the ‘100 Greatest TV Ads’ in the UK as voted by viewers.
The basis for the investigation, then, has been to examine each of these 100 advertisements – starting from number 100 and working systematically to number 1 – for the presence of a contradiction resolution, and then, if one is present, an evaluation of the inventive strategy used to make the disruptive shift. In recognising that not everyone will be familiar with advertisements in the UK, the results have been presented in generic terms with, for each advertisement, an identification of the underlying convention before a particular ad appeared, the convention shift created by the ad, and then the strategy used to achieve that shift.
|Rank||Subject||Year||Prevailing Convention Prior to Ad||Disruption Inserted By Ad||Inventive Principles Employed|
|100||Stork SB (margarine)||1962||Advertisements are made by actors||First UK ‘vox-pop’ – everyday consumers featured||35|
|99||Pedigree Chum (dog food)||1969||All dog foods are similar||Champion dogs ALWAYS eat Pedigree Chum||20|
|98||Meccano (children’s toy)||1967||–||No disruption||–|
|97||Clark’s Shoes||1976||Shoe advertisements feature shoes||Shoe ad features foot (function of shoe featured)||13|
|96||Sainsbury’s (supermarket)||1991-5||Supermarkets sell a wide range of products||Those products are part of a recipe (function of food featured)||13|
|95||Charlie (perfume)||1975||Perfumes make women more attractive to men||Perfumes empower women (‘with one squirt, you can wear the trousers)||13 4|
|94||Parker Pens||1975||–||No disruption||(famous actress)|
|93||Timex (wrist-watches)||1964||Advertisements use anonymous ‘ad’ music||First UK adapted use of hit song by popular group||5|
|92||Gibbs SR (toothpaste)||1955||No TV Advertisements||First UK TV Advertisement||35|
|91||Benson & Hedges (cigars)||1974||Advertisements sell a product||Advertisements tell a dramatic story; product apparently incidental||5|
|90||Barclaycard||1984-8||Credit cards are ‘exclusive’||Everyone can have a card and use it anywhere||13|
|89||Chunky (dog-food)||1967||–||No disruption||(distinctive dog)|
|88||Double-Diamond (beer)||1968||Difficult to advertise alcohol when you are not allowed to say that it ‘enhances your mood’||Drink alcohol and ‘something miraculous happens – darts always hit bulls-eye, etc||35 38|
|87||Strand (cigarettes)||1960||Sell the brand||Sell a ‘mood’||28 35|
|86||Nimble (low calorie bread)||1968||Bread is food – advertised very literally||Woman in hot air balloon used to emphasise ‘lightness’||35|
|85||Courage Best (beer)||1979||Beer is a forward looking drink||Spoof an old black and white film to emphasise ‘traditional’ nature of Courage||13 5|
|84||Brut (men’s after-shave)||1976||–||No disruption||(popular sportsmen)|
|83||Cointreau (liqueur)||1972||Show the same ad through the duration of a campaign||First UK ‘soap opera’ ad – story progresses with time||15 20|
|82||Shell (fuel)||1962||Oil companies sell fuel||Sell ‘freedom’ (i.e. the function of the fuel)||35|
|81||Fruit Gums (candy)||1956||Advertisements are directed at the purchaser||First UK ‘pester-power’ ad – ‘don’t forget the fruit gums, mum’||24|
|80||Bird’s-Eye Beefburgers||1974-6||Advertisements always feature actors||Ad contains only non-actors||13|
|79||Remington (shaver)||1979||CEOs don’t appear in advertisements||‘Personality’ CEO Victor Kiam, ‘I liked it so much, I bought the company’||13|
|78||Olympus Cameras||1977||Use a famous person to advertise the product||Advertisements built on scenario where no-one recognises the famous photographer||13|
|77||Eggs||1958||Advertisements communicate their message through a script||Ad features only ‘go to work on an egg’ – which becomes a sound-bite adopted by the nation||2|
|76||British Rail||1989||–||No disruption||–|
|75||Mars (confectionery)||1958||Confectionery is not advertised on TV||‘Mars helps you work, rest & play’ – 1st UK chocolate advertisement||35|
|74||Lego (children’s toy)||1980||Advertisements for toys advertise the toy||Advertising ‘imagination’||35|
|73||Murray Mints (candy)||1955||Advertisements have a voice-over||First UK ad to feature a sing-along jingle (”too good to hurry mints’)||28 5|
|72||Fairy Liquid (detergent)||1961||Detergent is not a ‘generational’ thing||Detergent can be a generational thing (mother-daughter conversations)||20 24 5|
|71||The Guardian (newspaper)||1986||Newspapers advertised on the basis of price, promotional offers, special articles||Ad shows aggressive youth running towards shocked-looking man in suit – audience assumes youth is going to attack man; then camera zooms out to reveal youth is pushing man out of way of falling objects (message – Guardian gives you the ‘big picture’)||17|
|70||Cresta (soda)||1972||Advertisements feature visuals, voice and music||Slogan ‘it’s frothy man’ also featured a distinct facial contortion for kids to copy||28 (another sense)|
|69||Dunlop (car tyres)||1993||Advertisements emphasise traditional safety element of tyres||Character throws very unexpected hazards in the way of the driver – focus on the character not the tyre||13|
|68||British Gas||1986||Advertisements work by repeating their message||Get the customer to repeat the message for you (‘if you see Sid, tell him’)||25|
|67||Sony (televisions)||1995||–||No disruption||(spectacular stunt)|
|66||Toshiba (televisions)||1984||Television manufacturers make televisions||A television manufacturer with a personality/ Identity||35|
|65||Birds-Eye Fish Fingers||1968||Fish fingers are nutritious food||Fish fingers are an adventure||35|
|64||Schweppes (mixer drink)||1963||Advertisements sell mixer drinks||Ad contains a mini-drama – in which product is apparently incidental||7|
|63||Yorkie (chocolate bar)||1976||Chocolate is for females||Chocolate is for males||13 4|
|62||British Airways||1989||Advertisements are small||Epic proportion advertisement||35|
|61||Maxell (cassette tape)||1990||Advertisements are serious and are based on the technical performance of tape||Ad taps into natural tendency for people to mis-hear pop music lyrics and makes a joke about it||13|
|60||Rice Krispies (breakfast cereal)||1955||Breakfast cereal is nutritious||Ad is about the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ feature of the cereal||28|
|59||Audi (automobiles)||1984||Advertise in a language your audience understands||‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ (thus emphasising the ‘German’ness of the car)||13 35 5|
|58||Hofmeister (beer)||1983||Men drink beer||A friendly beer character drinks beer||35|
|57||After Eights (chocolate)||1963||Chocolate is for children||Chocolate is eaten ‘after eight’ when the kids are in bed – selling a sophisticated eating experience||13|
|56||Fiat (automobiles)||1979||The best cars are made by ‘craftsmen’||‘Hand-built by robots’||35 13|
|55||Whiskas (cat-food)||1976||Advertisements are targeted at cat-owners||Ad aimed at the cat (flashing light, canaries, fast moving objects, etc) – things cat owners know their cats like||24|
|54||Holsten Pils (beer)||1983||Advertisements are filmed especially for the campaign||Ad built on existing (classic) films with beer feature electronically inserted||5|
|53||Sugar Puffs (breakfast cereal)||1976||Celebrities from TV shows sometimes make advertisements||First UK celebrity man-in-costume (Cookie Monster from Andy Williams show) makes ad||35|
|52||Homepride (flour)||1965||Flour is an ingredient, advertised by chefs||Cartoon character emphasising ‘Britishness’; also subsequently generated a number of spin-off products||35 17 5|
|51||Dulux (paint)||1968||–||No disruption||(cute dog)|
|50||Stella Artois (beer)||1991||Beer price is not an advertising issue||‘Re-assuringly expensive’||13|
|49||Heinz Beans||1967||Advertisements spell words correctly||Beanz Meanz Heinz (initially received complaints from the nation’s schoolteachers)||15|
|48||Milk Tray (chocolates)||1968||Boxes of chocolates are given as gifts or as ‘thankyous’||Series of advertisements in which James Bond-type character undergoes all sorts of trials to mysteriously deliver chocolates to woman (all because she ‘loves Milk Tray’)||35|
|47||Mates Condoms||1988||Condoms are taboo, and therefore embarrassing to buy||The taboo is ridiculous||13|
|46||Milk||1975||Milk is good for you||(kids) ‘Watch out, there’s a Humphrey About’ – mysterious creature comes and steals your milk if you don’t drink it||35|
|45||One2One (mobile phone)||1996||Mobile phone services advertise on price||Who would you talk to if you had the chance (celebrities chose – MLK, Yuri Gagarin, Elvis Presley, etc)||35|
|44||Esso (fuel)||1964||Oil companies sell fuel||‘Put a tiger in your tank’ – shift analogy to powerful sounding animal||35|
|43||Old Spice (after-shave)||1977||–||No disruption||(‘the mark of a man’)|
|42||VW Golf (automobile)||1988||Cars are advertised for men||Women buy cars too||13 4 1|
|41||Campari (alcoholic drink)||1977||Campari is for sophisticated drinkers||Campari is apparently for sophisticated drinkers, but the punch line reveals it is not (Campari was being re-positioned at the time) Ad; sophisticated man in sunny foreign villa ‘were you truly wafted here from paradise?’ Model; ‘nah, Luton Airport’||13|
|40||Tetley Tea||1973||–||No disruption||(cute cartoon characters)|
|39||Foster’s (beer)||1981||Beer is a men’s drink, but no need to emphasise the fact||(humorously) sexist ad exaggerating ‘maleness’ through (already perceived to be highly sexist) Australian culture||35|
|38||Apple (computers)||1984||1) Directors progress from advertisements to films 2) Computers are very Orwellian||1) Ridley Scott makes ad 2) Apple represents individualism and democracy||13|
|37||Fry’s Turkish Delight (confectionery)||1957||Chocolate is chocolate||Chocolate is ‘exotic’||35|
|36||Fruit & Nut (chocolate)||1977||People should be sensible; eccentric people are a bit embarrassing||‘Everyone is a fruit and nut case’||13|
|35||Martini (alcoholic drink)||1970||Alcohol advertisements are targeted at ‘adults’||First UK ad recognising emergence of 30something adults as a market sector with specific needs||1|
|34||Pepsi (soda)||1973||Soda drinks give you sex appeal||Ad in which boy fails to get girl; provoking sympathy. (Also, ‘lipsmackin-thirstquenching-acetasting- slogan became popular and was spoofed a lot by comedians, etc||13|
|33||John Smith’s Bitter (beer)||1981||–||No disruption||(cute dog does tricks)|
|32||Duracell (batteries)||1975||–||No disruption (Ad picked up by Energiser after Duracell dropped the idea, and has since spawned several sequel advertisements)||(cute bunny with drum)|
|31||Gold Blend (instant coffee)||1987||The same advertisement is used through a campaign||Romantic soap opera – makes the news||15 20 5|
|30||Kit-Kat (confectionery)||1989||Time passes||‘Have a Break’ – slow time down – a series of advertisements where this happens||19|
|29||Heineken (beer)||1974||Same as 88||Same as 88 – drink alcohol and something miraculous happens (‘refreshes the parts other beers can’t reach’)||38 35|
|28||Hovis (bread)||1974||The world changes; change is a good thing. Also, advertising is a medium.||‘As good as its always been’ – selling nostalgia. Advertising as art form.||13 20|
|27||Milky Bar (chocolate)||1961||–||No disruption||(cute child)|
|26||Flake (chocolate)||1959||Chocolate is chocolate||Chocolate is a sexual symbol||35|
|25||Castlemaine (beer)||1986||(following Foster’s ad – see No.39) – sexism is an acceptable beer advertising form||Disrupt the disruption by exaggerating the form even further||35 20|
|24||PG Tips (tea)||1956||Advertisements feature humans||Chimps act the role of humans||35|
|23||Cornetto (ice-cream)||1980||Ice-cream tastes nice. Sell sophistication.||Deliberately naff Venetian gondolier cheekily steals someone’s ice-cream cornetto||13|
|22||Oxo (gravy)||1958||Advertisements aren’t like ‘real life’||‘The Oxo Family’ is just like yours; soap opera – there has been an Oxo family almost continuously since 1958||33 20|
|21||Ferrero Rocher (confectionery)||1995||Advertisements have to possess a certain degree of quality to be successful||Post-modern advertisement ‘so bad it is good’||13|
|20||Real Fires (coal)||1988||–||No disruption||(cute animals in front of fire)|
|19||Andrex (toilet tissue)||1972||–||No disruption||(cute dog)|
|18||Shake’n’Vac (carpet freshener)||1979||Advertisements should be high quality||An ad so laughably bad it becomes a classic||13|
|17||Carling Black Label (beer)||1989||Same as 88||Same as 88 – drink alcohol and something miraculous happens – revisit the idea 20 years later for a new generation||19|
|16||Coke (soda)||1971||Advertisements feature people that the customer can relate to||Advertisements feature every kind of person and they all drink the product (‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’)||33|
|15||Nike (football equipment)||1997||Wearing a particular brand of sports equipment will help you to play just like a (sponsored celebrity – Michael Jordan, etc) professional||No disruption||–|
|14||British Telecom||1988||Telephone advertising emphasises cost competition||Telephones are about communication||35|
|13||Yellow Pages||1983||Yellow pages is ubiquitous, you use it for emergencies||Yellow pages is for the good things too||13|
|12||Renault Clio (automobile)||1991||Car advertisements should target a specific customer sector||Car ad features father and daughter – both want the car||6 13|
|11||Cinzano Bianco (alcoholic drink)||1978||Drink advertisements feature people drinking||The drink is spilled (in many different ways – the series of advertisements proved durable by finding ever more inventive ways for Joan Collins to spill the drink over herself)||13 20|
|10||Impulse (perfume)||1998||People in advertisements are heterosexual||Not everyone is heterosexual||1|
|9||Walker’s Crisps (confectionery)||1993||Celebrities endorse product||(Nice guy) celebrity steals crisps from small children (US owners of Walkers crisps claim to still fail to understand the psychological reason why this works as a product promotion strategy)||13|
|8||Hamlet (cigars)||1964||Cigar are sophisticated||Amusing ad series built on premise that the cigar will help get you through life’s little traumas||35|
|7||R White’s Lemonade||1973||Lemonade is for children||A ‘secret lemonade drinker’ adult sneaks down the stairs at night to raid the fridge||35|
|6||Levi’s 501s (jeans)||1985||Music is an incidental part of an advertisement||Tie ad to classic record (I Heard It Through The Grapevine in the first of the series) ripe for re-release, re-release the record; it becomes a hit again, re-enforcing the product being advertised||5|
|5||Boddingtons (beer)||1996||Beer advertisements feature men||Post-modern ad featuring woman||13 4|
|4||Electricity Association||1990||Advertisements are ‘things that happen between programmes’||Advertisements are better than the programmes (this series of advertisements featured Aardman Animations – winners of three Oscars for animated films – the series of advertisements produced for this campaign are even available for purchase on video. On the downside, many people fail to connect the advertisements to the product.||35|
|3||Tango (soda)||1992||Advertisements feature sound and pictures||Ad also features an action – slap in the face (‘you know when you’ve been tango’ed’)||28 (another sense)|
|2||Smash (instant mashed-potato)||1973||(Instant) potatoes are nutritious||Aliens joke about how earthlings make mashed potatoes the traditional way – when Smash is so much more convenient. The massive success of the ad is probably more to do with the scene of laughing aliens||35|
|1||Guinness (stout)||1999||Drink beer and something miraculous happens||‘Good things come to those who wait’ – selling to a ‘spiritual’/higher emotional level||35 17|
How Typical is this Level of ‘Disruption’?
The analysis of the ‘100 Greatest Ads’ revealed an apparently very high proportion (85%) of advertisements featuring a disruptive content. In order to check whether this ‘high’ figure was in fact typical, the author spent several days monitoring advertisements on the three terrestrial national UK TV channels. In all around 100 advertisements were observed. The number of advertisements featuring a disruption was found to be four;
- Pot Noodle – a snack product with a reputation as being low quality is presented as a product that emphasises and exaggerates this feature (‘only dirty people eat Pot Noodle’)
- Toyota Corolla – more a disruption in the story than the means of advertising – monkeys in game parks have a reputation for damaging the cars that drive through; here the monkeys get out cleaning equipment and begin polishing the car.
- Lillets – a tampon advertisement with a man in it.
- Fosters – latest in the series of ‘drink alcohol and something miraculous happens’ series – a man returns home to find his new domestic robot in bed with the microwave oven.
Ideally this type of experiment would last for longer to ensure the day monitored was a ‘typical’ one, but nevertheless the difference between 85% and 4% is felt to be significant enough to justify a comment that there is a definite and strong link between the presence of a disruption and a resultant positive effect on the viewer.
A similar experiment was commenced observing ads in the US, but time problems have thus far prevented acquisition of statistically significant findings. No ads featuring disruptions, however, were observed during the period of the experiment. Perhaps someone in the US may care to explore the subject further at some time in the future.
- Based on this assessment of 100 TV advertisements, there is a very strong correlation between convention disruption and popularity of an ad – with 85 of the 100 most popular advertisements in the UK featuring a contradiction-breaking disruptive shift of some kind. This finding is highly consistent with the theme and recommendations of the Dru book (Reference 2) that prompted the investigation.
- All 85 of the disruptive advertisements observed employed one or more of the known Inventive Principles contained within TRIZ – i.e. none of the disruptive advertisements featured a strategy that was derived from outside the known 40 Principles.
- As is the case with humour (Reference 3), a very large proportion of the disruptive advertisements are built on Principles The Other Way Around (30 examples) and Parameter Changes (31 examples). In all 17 of the 40 Principles were used in the 100 advertisements featured. In descending order of frequency these were:-
|Principle||Number of Occurrences|
|35, Parameter Changes||31|
|13, Other Way Around||30|
|20, Continuity of Action||8|
|28, ‘Another Sense’||5|
|17, Another Dimension||3|
|19, Periodic Action||2|
|38, ‘Enriched Atmosphere’||2|
|2, Taking Out||1|
|7, Nested Doll||1|
In very general terms, it seems very apparent from the extensive use of Principles 13 and 35, and the preceding descriptions of the convention disruptions achieved by the 100 advertisements analysed was that the perhaps paradoxical fact that ‘successful’ advertisements tended to appear to be selling something other than the featured product
- There was no significant correlation between the age of an advertisement and the likelihood of it being disruptive. Similarly, there was no significant pattern between the age of an ad and the Inventive Principle used to create the disruption.
- One of the key features involved in creating disruptive advertisements appears to be the successful identification of prevailing conventions. While it has been relatively easy to reconstruct these conventions for this article, it seems clear that this is a task much more easily done in hindsight than looking forward. This ‘convention-finding’ (read; problem definition) task may turn out to be the most significant factor determining the success or otherwise of this type of advertising campaign.
- In hopefully not a true reflection of the British psyche, alcohol and confectionery collectively accounted for over a third of the most popular advertisements. Animals were the subject or played a dominant role in 20% of the featured advertisements. A successful advertisement that did not feature a disruption, was highly likely to feature a cute animal.
We believe that there is significant untapped opportunity to use TRIZ to create stronger disruptive marketing opportunities – as the analysis here shows, less than half of the available 40 strategies currently appear to be being used. Our next job will involve looking at marketing strategy from a broader perspective in order to create a ’40 Inventive (Market Strategy) Principles’ article to complement existing field-specific data. We would welcome examples from anyone either working in the field, or who simply happens across an example of contradiction challenging advertisements/marketing ideas that they would like to share. Our target is to publish an article in January 2003.
- Dru, J.M., ‘Disruption; Overturning Conventions and Shaking Up the Marketplace’, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1996.
- Dru, J.M., ‘Beyond Disruption: Changing the Rules in the Marketplace’, John Wiley & Sons, New York, ‘Adweek’ Series, 2002.
- Mann, D.L., ‘Hands-On Systematic Innovation’, CREAX Press, 2002.
- CREAX monthly newsletter, ‘Humour’ page, www.creax.com.
- Technical Examples: The TRIZ Journal, July, 1997, http://www.triz-journal.com
- Business Examples: The TRIZ Journal, September 1999
- Social Examples: The TRIZ Journal, June 2001
- Architecture Examples: The TRIZ Journal, July 2001
- Food Technology Examples: The TRIZ Journal, October 2001
- Software Development Examples: The TRIZ Journal, Sept and November, 2001
- Microelectronics Examples: The TRIZ Journal, August 2002
- Robinson, M., ‘100 Greatest TV Ads‘, Channel 4, The Sunday Times, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 2000.