Marketing Ideas.... From Thin Air

There’s a funny television ad for AT&T with an adult sitting in what looks like a pre-K class, with kids, well, just being kids. In one of the ads the adult asks if saving money is better than not saving. “Yeah” say the assembled little ones, followed by what they would do with money they saved: “buy an island made of candy,” (love the “sand full of sugar” line) with water made out of soda. The punch line of the ad is “It’s not complicated…..saving is better…..switch to AT&T.”

When I look at ads or any memorable communications, like the AT&T spot, I marvel at how ideas seemingly come from thin air; at least, that’s what I’ve always told my kids about the creative process. Of course, they do come from thin air, but there’s a lot that happens before the moment of inspiration.

So, I’m sure there was a group brainstorming session by the creative team doing AT&T’s work. Most likely, someone had the idea of engaging kids in a classroom (kids are always a hit; pretty safe bet in advertising); and I remember liberally using children on TV and radio spots for The Big E, when I had the privilege to do the fair’s fall advertising. Maybe it was another person on the creative team that came up with the kind of adult who could facilitate the dialogue in the AT&T ad (most likely some comedic actor someone was familiar with). And the “it’s not complicated” analogy would come out of the dialogue because, after all, kids are not complicated. Bang—a campaign is born.

Sometimes, the answers for how to address a challenge are simple and right in front of you. Recently, we were engaged to develop and launch the Stay In School campaign in Springfield. Representatives of the sponsoring agencies, the Pioneer Valley United Way and Springfield Public Schools, brainstormed about what to call the initiative until, right there in thin air, the most obvious identity was chosen—Stay In School. It’s great when the name of any initiative is also the core message.

Our challenge was to make the initiative interesting visually. So after many visual renderings of the words Stay in School, the word “In,” which is the most important message, simply fell out of the sky, from thin air, and we built the campaign around it. 

Bottom line—in marketing, sometimes “its not complicated.”


Photograph of Paul Robbins
Paul Robbins

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