Manifestos make millions.

Writing tip #4.

I first realised the power of manifestos as a junior working on a heavy retail client. We were trying to sell a new brand positioning, something long neglected, and I wrote an emotive manifesto to try to set the tone. I read it with emotion as well, something worth doing even if a little awkward. After a long pause, the client asked if we could mock it up in the brand’s colours, set and frame it, so he could hang it in his office. We sold in, still to this day, the biggest campaign they’ve ever produced. (And most successful, as far as I’m aware.)

During a recent stint working with Ogilvy, then-ECD David Ponce de Leon also knew the power of the manifesto. He would get me to pepper decks with what he called ‘minifestos’. Short bursts of emotion throughout a presentation to keep everyone in the room enamoured. I loved this term and have since appropriated it.

Every now and then you come across some jaded folk in advertising that roll their eyes at ‘manifestos’. Seeing them as some kind of cheap tactic or deck filler. I reckon we’d be a lot better off if these crusty folk just shuffled off, read the anonymous comments on any industry blog for more evidence.

The truth of the matter is that manifestos make millions. And the very reason for this is no different than what we’re trying sell through our work. People buy on emotion. They don’t buy on product features or ingredients or newton metres of torque. They buy on what the culmination of that stuff does for them. How your brand or product makes them feel.

Clients, after all, are human like the rest of us. Those 74 slides of rational argument are likely not as powerful as the one that hits them right in the chest.

In terms of manifesto writing tips, it’s a hard one. Because I’ve only ever done it on instinct. What I would say is to just remain human. Don’t laden them with jargon and corporate bullshit. Don’t use overcomplicated language and marketing fluff, there’s probably enough of that on the other slides. This is your moment to connect with the client, one on one. So write it to them. Make their heart flutter. Their hair stand on end. Their eyes widen. We work on lots of stuff, but this one brand is their entire world. I don’t say any of this in a cynical fashion either, this is genuinely the headspace I’m in both writing a manifesto and producing work for the brand thereafter.

Stay conversational. Write with confidence. Open with an undeniable insight, weave a compelling tapestry, and then land undeniably at the positioning line. As if there’s no way for them to argue with the journey they’ve just been on. And perform it. Don’t just meander or rush through it. Read it like a speech, or poem, or call to arms, or whatever feeling you’re trying to evoke.

Because manifestos end up being internal documents, I’ve never really kept any. They just sit in decks. It’s perhaps a bit sad, but still, they’ve done their job. All I’ve got as an example is this one I wrote for the women’s fitness app, Sweat. It was purely a tone of voice exercise in an internal document, but the company founder loved it and turned it into a video and voiced it herself.

Manifestos rarely turn into outward facing pieces of comms, but every now and then they do. This Beats by Dre spot knocked me for six when it came out. I can only imagine what it was like sitting in the room hearing it for the first time.

It’s not an ad, but Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ could be another source of inspiration.

Never underestimate the manifesto. They win pitches. Build brands. And make careers.

Writing tip #1


Writing tip #2

Writing tip #3


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