JUST (don’t) DO IT

A few weeks back, as a way of celebrating the launch of the new Writing projects on crowdSPRING, we invited the entire community to submit their best work to be published as a guest post on the cS blog. We received over 70 entries, including tons of really great submissions, and ideas on some really fantastic topics. We’re very proud to present the winning entry in it’s entirety here. Enjoy this post by Josh Tavlin…


The world of advertising is full of taglines that stink to high heaven. I should know. As a Creative Director at a Global Advertising Agency, I’ve had to bear witness to some of the emptiest, word-playiest pieces of jetsam the industry has to offer.

And even then, there are levels of bad. There are the taglines that are so misguided they make you run from the brand screaming. There are the taglines that are so boring you barely even notice them. And there are the taglines that are so grating you wish someone would gouge your eyes out so you didn’t have to see them ever again. How do you avoid producing one of these rotting corpses? Check the checklist below for some answers…

1) How long is it? That’s too long. Keep it short. As information gets processed faster, attention spans are getting shorter. “Just do it.” Three words. “Got Milk.” Two words. “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.” Four words and half of it is the friggin company name! Say it fast and get the hell out.

2) Does it sound like a cliché? The world doesn’t need more, “Designed for You” or “Simply The Best” taglines. They’re boring, say absolutely nothing — basically a complete waste of ink.

3) Does the tagline capture an emotion? I’ve always loved “We’ll Leave The Light On For Ya” for Motel 6. It’s like a warm embrace, and it says volumes about the company behind it. A tagline should capture a feeling or emotion; if it doesn’t, it’ll only graze your audiences’ skull, not penetrate it.

4) Does it embrace a “truth?” “Get Met. It Pays,” set MetLife apart from other insurance companies by getting to the heart of what customers want. Sure, it’s nice if insurance companies come across as a warm bosom in your time of need, but when your house has burned to the ground, you need fast money, not a fast bosom. MetLife knew this and owned it.

5) Will it resonate with your audience? I’m not sure what the U.S. Army was thinking when they ran, “Some of Our Best Men are Women,” but it clearly forgot how to talk to its largely uber macho audience. Then again, I’m sure the transsexual community was thrilled with it.

6) Is the only reason you like the tagline because it rhymes? If the answer is yup, rip it right up. If it’s actually saying something, like “Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking,” for Timex, that’s different.  The Timex rhyme takes a great idea and makes it more fun and memorable.

7) Is what you’re saying credible? Does it ring true coming from you? Volvo had “A Car You Can Believe In” years ago when the company was all about safety. It was totally credible coming from a car company that made tank-like sedans. And then the ad agency faked a safety-themed commercial and poof, tagline go bye-bye. Same with AIG and their tagline, “We Know Money.” One minute it’s credible. The next minute, “We Know Handcuffs” would be more appropriate.

8 ) Is the wordplay the best part? Please say no. If I see one more “We make taxes less taxing” tagline for a CPA I may lose it.

9) Can it be defined by the changing tastes of your customer? Great taglines are malleable enough to change with the zeitgeist. The more dynamic it is, the better. “This Bud’s For You,” can be applied to something a person might’ve done in the 1970’s or today. It’s a toast to anyone for anything. (And again, how beautiful is four words, including the name of the product?!)

10) Is it corporate-speak or does it sound like a human might’ve written it? Exxon’s “We’re Exxon,” is about as thought provoking as a bag of manure. (Also a fossil fuel, I might add.)

Naturally, creativity isn’t formulaic. The best ones come from being in touch with your audience; from knowing your brand; and from staying up late and writing till your fingers ache. So if you follow these guidelines, I can’t say you you’ll hit a home run. But I can pretty much guarantee you won’t produce crap.

Josh Tavlin is a Sr. V.P., Group Creative Director at a New York ad agency and an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute. And if he has written a crappy tagline, he?s not talking.