Book Summary:
Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Sam Bennet

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Sam Bennet

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🗒 Note: My notes are a mix of key ideas and quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts.


At first, ads were only about authority. Brands could say whatever the hell they wanted, and people would believe it because it was on TV. Then people started questioning authority, especially after the Vietnam war, and things changed.

Stock footage represents everything that is fake about marketing. What people want most is authenticity.

  • Brand authenticity: being true to the character of the brand and want the brand stands for.
  • Audience authenticity: presenting the message to the audience in a way that treats the audience appropriately to who they are.

That’s why the best ads are always based on a universal truth. Ad legend Alex Bogusky says, “This generation knows you're trying to sell them something, and you know they know, so let's just drop the pretense and make the whole exercise as much fun as possible.”

🍕 That’s why Bogusky used to sit with his clients and ask: What’s the elephant in the room?
Example: Dominos. It was the pizza that sucked. It wasn’t tasty. So they made an ad where the CEO admits that → the pizza turnaround → and changed the recipe.

The Creative Process, Brainstorming, and Techniques

Early in the process, you should pick a mood, a feeling. Decide which emotion you want to leverage. Think about the day of your customer. Imagine where they hang out and find surprising touch points.

How can you buy the media before finding the idea?

The medium should be part of it?

It’s not just a screen.

😎 Positioning
Don’t settle on an -er as in quieter, faster, cleaner.
Niche down until you can go for an absolute -est: Quietest, fastest, cleanest.

Two negative ways in which people may respond to an ad:

Yeah, riiiight
So make it truthful and provable

So what?
→ make it relatable and solve a real problem

Engage the audience. Give them an opportunity to “solve” the ad:

That’s why the best ads are always based on a universal truth. Ad legend Alex Bogusky says, “This generation knows you're trying to sell them something, and you know they know, so let's just drop the pretense and make the whole exercise as much fun as possible.”


  • The most important strategic question – what do we have that the customer wants and the competition isn’t giving them?

  • Part of creativity is failing gloriously. Especially online. Don’t be afraid to try and try again.

  • Once you have a good idea, don’t become stuck on it: “Don’t keep stuffing all four sides of the same fire hydrant. Run like a crazed dog through the entire neighborhood.”

  • Don’t smirk or roll your eyes at your partner’s ideas. That would block them. Make it a safe space.

  • The two most common rejections of your ideas will be “I don’t get it” and “I’ve seen that before.It means that the idea is either too weird or too obvious.

  • First, say it straight, then say it great.
    Example: If you smoke for a long time, you will get lung cancer → “For more information about lung cancer, keep smoking.”


The headline writing process (word collider)

Take different facts about the product (e.g., country of origin, time of preparation, name) and mind map all the stuff that is related to this word.

Write down idioms, facts, and phrases related to those words.

Make connections between the idioms and the product facts.

Paraprosdokian headlines“a figure of speech in which the latter part of the sentence is surprising or unexpected. It causes the reader to reframe or reinterpret the first part.” It works with sentences you automatically complete in your brain. Then, instead of the expected part, you add something new. A twist.

Example: For more information on lung cancer, visit our website keep smoking.

Parallelism headlines

Statement + But/So or some other contrary

“Happiness isn’t around the corner. Happiness is the corner.” BMW

”The meek may inherit the earth. But they won’t get the ball.״ Charles Barkley

  • A see-say ad means showing the headline. Don’t do it.
    Never show what you’re saying or say what you’re showing.

✉️ Bob Levenson wrote all the classical VW ads. He used to write his copy as letters for one person. Like this:

Dear Charlie,

Copy copy copy

Yours sincerely, Bob

  • Be a minimalist: Every element you add to an idea reduces the importance of all the other elements. Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The only art is to omit.”

Tony Cox, a fabulous British writer said, “Inside every fat ad, there’s a thinner and better one trying to get out.”

  • Go to the point of sale: There’s nothing like the stark reality of a customer standing in front of a store shelf looking at your brand and then looking at Brand X. Soak in the vibes of the real marketplace. Go there and simply watch. You’ll come back with some ideas.
Storytelling and Branded Content

There’s no story without a conflict. Find the conflict in your industry/category and speak about it.

Examples of conflicts:

Republicans vs Democrats
Religion vs science

Big business vs small business
Cheap vs expensive

Hate vs love
Red vs green

  • Creative formula: Truth + Conflict = Platform Truth is the truest thing you can say about a product, often something that clients don’t even mention.

  • Creative technique: Intergalactic Thinking

    • Make a mind map (galaxy) of terms related to your subject. For example, Italian food
    • Then make another one, completely unrelated. Something like Circus, Ocean, or Military
    • Then connect terms from one galaxy with the other. It’s kind of like lateral thinking but with more options.

A checklist for creating branded content:

BRAND – PRODUCT: What is it, and what does it do?
⬜ TRUTH: What is the single truest thing you can say about your product or brand? Be completely and totally honest.
⬜ FEATURES: What distinguishes it, defines it, or makes it special?
⬜ BENEFITS: What are the benefits of those features?
⬜ ONE WORD: If you had to convey your brand in a single word, what would it be?
⬜ BELIEFS: Does this brand have a bigger purpose or reason for being? How does it share beliefs or values with its communities?
⬜ COMMUNITY – USERS: Is there an existing community that’s a source of content and creative ideas?
⬜ USER INTERESTS: What is happening right now — in the news, in entertainment, on the internet, in real life — that the brand’s community is paying attention to or cares about? How can it be leveraged?
⬜ STORIES: What are the brand’s stories — real or created for inspiration — that can be told? Consider the brand’s history and what customers have said about it.
⬜ MEDIA: Where do your target customers spend their time? What particular platforms? How will the platforms’ technologies affect what you create?
⬜ INFLUENCERS: Who are the influencers? Can you collaborate with them? Use them as media channels?
⬜ UTILITY: What could you make or do for those communities?

💬 A method for getting people to talk about a brand.
Do > Invite > Capture > Share
Find many examples on

Ads and branded content should be helpful. “As marketers, we should be changing the mantra from ‘always be closing’ to ‘always be helping.’” Jonathan Lister

Brands should create three kinds of content. Facebook’s Pitch, Play, Plunge framework:

  1. Assets to pitch an idea PITCH, or immediate consumption content 70% of our time bent over our phones is about speed. Whatever it is we’re looking for — information, diversion — we want it now. For this area, create short assets that grab attention and gets across the campaign idea immediately. Think snackable content, three to six seconds in length.
  2. Assets that allow people to play with the idea PLAY, or interactive content 20% of our phone time we spend shopping, gaming, and screwing around with apps. Here, we focus on creating interactive content.
  3. Assets that let users plunge into the idea with longer-form content 10% of the content. PLUNGE, or immersive content. 10% of user time is generally spent on long-form content or experiences. Here, we create immersive assets that enable people to go in-depth into a campaign idea. This often means highlighting a brand’s most captivating stories (usually the longer, more emotional ones).

📺 Struggling to write a tv ad? Make a print ad and then write what happened before and after.

The last five seconds are the most important and most likely to be remembered by the audience. This is where your premise gets pounded. Try writing the last five seconds. If you can’t, you need to rethink your premise.

One of the problems faced with dialogue (in video ads) is weaving a sales message into the natural flow of conversation. “Can I have another one of those Flavor-rific brownies, Mom, now with one-third larger chocolate bits?” Don’t do it that way. It’s better to let a voice-over do this kind of heavy lifting.

Create tech-driven ideas. Today’s marketing campaigns use technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and IoT (Internet of Things), which include everyday electronic objects, from cars to baby monitors, web and mobile apps, UI/UX platforms, voice-enabled tech, NFC (near-field communication), RFID (radio frequency identification), AI (artificial intelligence), neural networks (AI technology that learns human behavior and mimics the human brain), and robotics.

NFC can also link smartphones to billboards. For example, as part of its “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove posted a digital billboard asking passersby to use their phones to vote on their idea of beauty, choosing between two pictures. Every vote was posted, in real-time, up on the board. Another one: on behalf of (Australia’s largest online classifieds for second-hand cars), the agency introduced “AutoAds.” This was a cloud-based program that automatically generated what appeared to be big-budget car commercials for any old POS beater you wanted to sell.

Presenting Ideas to Clients

Never show a client work you don’t want them to buy. I guarantee you; that second-rate work is what clients will gravitate to.

Don’t hand out materials before you present. They will read that instead of listening to you.

Don’t present your campaign as “risk-taking work.” No one in the corporate world wants to take risks.

If clients ask you to cram more stuff into the idea, tell them they need three ads if they have three important things to say.

Choose your battles: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘nice doggie' long enough to find a big rock.” Tom Monahan says, “Squabbling over body copy and other details is not where the advertising battles are won. Ideas—big, differentiating, selling ideas—are what win. And anything that takes away even an ounce of energy from the creating or selling of those ideas is misdirected effort.” The moral: don't win battles and lose the war.

And don’t follow data or focus group surveys blindly: Bill Bernbach said, “We are so busy measuring public opinion, we forget we can mold it. We are so busy listening to statistics that we forget we can create them.”

Life as a Creative and Mindfulness

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse. But over time, it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom, and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.” Steve Jobs

🐒 Every once in a while, your monkey mind will pause briefly to inform you that you suck. We all have this voice in our heads.

“It’s hard to think of any idea, let alone a big one,” writes ad veteran Josh Weltman in Seducing Strangers. “And the bigger the idea the client wants, the emptier my head gets.” To avoid freezing up, Weltman came up with his own definition of a big idea. “A big idea is one that can beat or kill a smaller idea. It’s like that joke about outrunning the bear. I don’t have to outrun the bear, I have to outrun only you. I think my definition is freeing because I no longer have to come up with a big idea. I just need to find one that’s bigger than the other guy’s idea.”

To get the creative engine to turn over, I sometimes began concepting sessions by challenging my art director to see who could serve a really crappy idea first. I was always happy to oblige, and whatever POS idea popped into my head next, I'd send over the net. It was usually terrible and we'd both groan, “Boy, that totally sucked.” Then she'd return the serve. And maybe it sucked, too, or maybe it sucked less. And back and forth we'd go, and after a while, we were coming up with things that didn't suck.

  • “The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really crappy first drafts.”
  • “You’ll get better ideas,” Belsky wrote, “because you can dive deeper with an oxygen tank than you can if you have to surface for air every few minutes.”

“Be orderly in your normal life so you can be violent and original in your work.”
I don’t know much about novelist Gustave Flaubert, except he said that great line, and it seems to fit in right about here.

🚪 Creative theorist Steven Johnston calls this phenomenon “creative adjacencies.”
You can’t see the other doors until you go through the first one.

When we have a creative project, we tend to get anxious, and the uncertainty of not being able to find a logical solution creates anxiety in itself. The brain is primed to experience at least a mild threat from most forms of uncertainty. Learning to be okay with uncertainty is part of the process of having more insights because the more anxious you are, the less likely you are to notice any subtle insights.

“Lots of people are creative when they feel like it,” says Seth Godin. “But you’re a professional when you can do it even when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is work and not a hobby.”

  • Author Jack London’s advice: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
  • Bertrand Russell said: “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief one’s work is terribly important.”
Tips for Portfolio and Landing a Job in Advertising

If you have a partner, apply as a team. Agencies prefer to hire young creatives in pairs.
They know that together, you’re likely to hit the ground running.

In your portfolio: Don’t add any pee-pee jokes, potty humor, and for the love of God, no cheeky condom ads. All these things have been done to death. You won't just be beating a dead horse. You'll be beating the dust from the crumbling rocks of the fossilized bones of an extinct species of pre-horse crushed between two glaciers in the Miocene Era. [haha, wow]

Do your homework and ask lots of questions. Ryan Carroll says, “I actually appreciate being grilled by juniors. How does the creative department work here? What do you expect from a junior creative? What will I work on? Who will I report to? How do I work my way up the ladder? How can I make an impact here?”

The market needs better, more innovative creatives. More and more these days, young people are coming into the business able to shoot their own commercials, create websites, program games, take photos, make animations, build Facebook apps, and generally act as one-person ad agencies.

Be a “T-shaped” art director or copywriter. Generally, the term T-shaped refers to employees who have very deep skills in one area (the downstroke of the T) and also possess some proficiency in other skills (the horizontal stroke).

“Remember, don't make things for the internet. Make things out of the internet.”

Best Ad (and Creative Tech) Schools in the World

•Art Center College of Design in Pasadena
•Miami Ad School
•Hyper Island, Sweden
•Creative Circus in Atlanta
•School for Poetic Computation
•Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm
•Mudra Institute of Communications in Ahmedabad, India
•Xaviers Institute of Communication in Mumbai, India
•Media Design School & Auckland University of Technology, NZ

•Brigham Young University in Provo
•Boulder Digital Arts, Colorado
•NYC’s School of Visual Arts
•The University of Texas in Austin
•School of Communication Arts 2.0.
•University College Falmouth
•AWARD School & RMIT University (AUS)
•Watford Course at West Herts College
•School for Poetic Computation
•Central St. Martins College of Art and Design

More Good Stuff
  • Always under-promise and over-deliver
  • KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
  • “Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.”
  • Hemingway called the blank white page “the white bull.”
  • Idea-rrhrea
  • “Hard writing makes for easy reading.” Wallace Stegner
  • In 1759, Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote, “The trade of advertising is now so near to perfection it is not easy to propose any improvement.”
  • Most of my student’s parents think they’re at school learning some secret method of hypnotizing unsuspecting citizens into buying things they don’t need.
  • “In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. In our century, they want to be entertained.” —Novelist Michael Crichton
  • Jeffrey Zeldman, digital expert, and author, said it well: “The best way to engage honestly with the marketplace… is to never use the words ‘engage,’ ‘honestly,’ or ‘marketplace.’”
  • On user-centric design — Apple was one of the first digital companies to leverage the marvels of user-centric design. The first iPhones, to everyone’s amazement, didn’t come with instruction books; we just intuitively knew how to use them.
  • “Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful. But if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”
  • 60% of mobile banner clicks are accidental, according to
  • Todd Henry’s Twitter axiom: “You cannot pursue greatness and comfort at the same time.”

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