Crafting the Cut-through in the World of Advertising

Apr 15, 2020 / Industry Insights / FOTW

Creative Director at FOTW Marlon Griffin talks through his 5 top tips for crafting the cut-through in the world of advertising.

As the divide between Direct Response and ‘Above the Line’ advertising becomes so much more blurred, how do we get the balance just right – crafting work that both charms and drives results? In our creative work at FOTW, we always strive to combine the best of both worlds. We refer to getting this recipe just right as the “Sweet Spot’.

The Evolution of Direct Response

Once upon a time, Direct Response advertising was seen as the dirty cousin of the cool & sexy ‘Above the Line’ brand work! But in today’s world, where marketers’ budgets are spread across numerous channels, clear results & KPI targets are needed to be seen from the channels they invest in. But at what creative cost? A Gorilla banging on the drums to Phil Collins makes no bloody sense to sell chocolate, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need to Cut-Through all that noise! With this everchanging landscape we’ve seen the divide between Direct Response and Above the Line advertising become so much more blurred, giving birth to the term ‘Brand Response’ advertising.

In Brand Response creative, our aim is to get the best of both worlds from our creative communications. Over the years FOTW has seen this change and has evolved into a Response-Driven Creative Agency. This means that our work still always needs to drive an immediate response to act on a current offer and generate sales in the short-term, but it must also simultaneously emotionally engage with the viewer, building the brand and customer loyalty for the long-term! Essentially in our creative we combine the best of both worlds. We refer to getting this recipe just right as the ‘Sweet Spot’.

TOO MUCH HARD SELL The viewer tunes out & doesn’t absorb the message take out, weakening its
effectiveness. But on the flip side…

TOO MUCH NARRATIVE & CHARM The viewer does engage, but they get emotionally wrapped up in the story & doesn’t get the message take out, which weakens its effectiveness.

It’s not about one or the other, there is no trade off…it’s both, it’s the perfect recipe.

1.The Trigger Line

“The Trigger Line” is a scripting technique we’ve developed to use at the front of our adverts. In one opening sentence we want to communicate 4 things in a very efficient time frame.

1.The Creative Hook: Grab the viewer early
2.The Product: Land the product or offer
3.The Brand: Land the brand
4. Connect with the visual: The language should visually connect with what you are seeing

For a Sky Sports advert, our ‘trigger line’ needed to communicate that you could now choose to only pay to watch the Sky Sports channels you want, rather than pay for the entire package. We open with the V.O – “Put Yourself in the Driving Seat…” At this exact moment we see Max Verstappen putting on his crash helmet. Essentially the statement is landing the proposition, as well as ‘glueing’ the picture, hooking the viewers’ attention and interest to see what happens next. This opening sentence and visual creative is effectively landing the Brand & Product.

2.Don’t confuse, excite!

Don’t simply bombard the viewer with a list of facts & figures! There may be a whole list of great things to say, but don’t try to cram too much information into the one advert. The viewer will disengage – the brain can only take in so much information at one time.

It’s key to land the right amount of information in the right channel – a 30” TV spot should not try to communicate everything there is to say about the product or offer. The information needs to be balanced with the creative story.

A Sky Sports advert we created was dialled up and adjusted to better reflect the ‘Sweet Spot’ & light up all parts of the brain. We pulled out the sports more & made sure that upcoming events were clearly landed to drive engagement. As a rule of thumb, keep it simple – land what’s important well, otherwise information will slip through the net! Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. Less is more…simplicity is key.

3. Face Time

As humans we naturally engage with the facial expressions of other humans. When great actors portray emotions – we feel their joy, euphoria or pain. The intricate details of a face, the way it creases & shifts based on emotion is a language we all instinctively speak & understand.

So, if you have great content, especially content that features people – make sure it’s presented full screen with big name faces or scenes that are very disruptive. Unfamiliar content is hard to recall even if it’s given longer screen time. As an example, when we create adverts featuring movies, we always hero the famous star faces in close ups – it’s the same for sports.

4. See What You Say

If you have messaging visually on screen, make sure the V.O is using the ‘exact’ same language as in the script. If they don’t connect you are confusing the brain of the viewer. It’s the equivalent of rubbing your stomach & patting your head.

We recommend to always visually include a light sweep across the on screen text in sync with the V.O. This directs the viewers’ attention to where they should be looking at that exact moment in the advert.

In the above Oddschecker app, when we hear the V.O say “44% more” we make sure the viewer reads “44% more”! We deliberately use a strong depth of field at this exact moment to give the viewer no choice but to read and hear the message at that precise moment. Are you a fun irrelevant humorous brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Choosing the right V.O artist is as equally as important – it’s not just what you say, but the way that you say it!

5.The Power of Sound

Music is a very powerful tool for presenting what type of brand you are & who you are targeting at. If used correctly it can control how the viewer feels,
what messages they hear at the right time and enhance immersion & message take out.

We should always remember that the Music, SFX & the spoken word is 50% of the immersive experience – it’s just as important as the visuals. It sets the tone and the emotion.

Here’s a recent piece we created in house which uses no V.O, yet through only the use of music & sound design alone – we build anticipation & excitement aimed to get petrol heads revved up about F1!

Like what you see?
If you fancy a chat about what we do, give us a call on 01582 881144 or drop us an email We’d love to hear from you!