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Book review: The Advertising Concept Book

When I started out in advertising in the late 1980s, almost the only tool and certainly the most useful, was a few sheets of photocopied A4 paper. I think it was called something like “How to get your first job in advertising” and it was written by Dave Trott, then Creative Director and Co-Founder of Gold Greenlees Trott, and still going strong today after several different agency incarnations. He also writes an interesting blog on the Campaign magazine website.

Those scraggy few leaves of paper had good advice for how to get a portfolio together (3-5 campaigns of 3-5 executions each, I seem to remember). Also how to start thinking up good ideas as opposed to clichéd ones or tired puns.

Useful as it was, how I wish The Advertising Concept Book had been around then. Written by Pete Barry, it’s a proper folio of information as opposed to a skimpy quarto. There are 16 chapters, such as Basic Tools, Strategy, Generating Strategies and Ideas, plus different chapters for print, TV, and of course these days, Ambient, Integrated and Interactive. There are also useful chapters on areas such as Taglines and Selling Your Work. There’s also a fantastic Conclusion, again ramming home that a great idea is what matters; for example “40 things that are not concepts” – such as a killer soundtrack, a big budget, a celebrity and so on.

It’s great stuff, also referencing many of the great ad campaigns from the last few decades, and showing why they were great.  Plenty of great line drawings throughout as well. By showing these campaigns as if someone had drawn them up for a portfolio it emphasises the importance of great ideas rather than just beautiful executions, which is what sadly much of today’s advertising is.

It’s billed as being for art directors and designers, but would be just as useful for any aspiring conceptual copywriter. Plus it’s easy to dip into and out of at any time.

Great stuff – five stars out of five from me.


For some examples of advertising concepts of my own, please take a look at my advertising copywriting and my radio copywriting pages.



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