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Ways To Create a Great Ad #3: Double Meanings

In '100 Ways to Create a Great Ad' Tim Collins offers an overview of a hundred tried-and-tested approaches used by advertising creatives. Tim has selected 10 of these to be featured by D&AD, which means there's 90 more in his book.

Double Meanings

Incredibly popular with copywriters, 'double meanings' are words or phrases that can be read in two different ways.

One of the more famous copywriting advertising examples of double meanings is Saatchi & Saatchi's 1979 ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster for the Conservative Party. This three-word poster could be taken to mean both that the British workforce was unemployed and that the governing Labour Party was failing. New York radio station WINS used the classic slogan ‘You give us 22 minutes, we give you the world’. The station ‘gives you the world’ both in its commitment and in its international scope. 

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
The Conservative Party / Saatchi & Saatchi / According to some, this double meaning was powerful enough to sway the result of the 1979 UK general election.

Some provocative campaigns use lines that could mean good or bad things about the brand. The UK online electrical retailer Dixons ran the line ‘The last place you want to go’. While hinting at the snobbery some might feel about discount retailers, this also acknowledges that many people buy things cheaply online after spotting them in shops.

The positive connotation of the line outweighs the negative one. Shocking or taboo double meanings can be playfully hinted at. An ad for Albany Life Assurance asked, ‘Are you making plans for your wife’s death?’ and showed a knife, a pillow, some bleach and some pills.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Albany Life Assurance / Lowe Howard-Spink / Dark double meanings can grab attention. In this ad, the plans you should be making for your wife’s death involve insurance rather than murder.

Double meanings can also be a source of lewd humour. A campaign for the UK package holiday firm Club 18–30 was a master class in sexual innuendo, featuring such lines as ‘Something deep inside her said she’d come again’, ‘Holiday forecast: Damp, followed by wet patches’ and ‘Wake up at the crack of Dawn (or Lisa, or Julie, or Karen …)’.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Club 18–30 / Yellow Pencil, Saatchi & Saatchi, 1997 Smutty double meanings can be appropriate for 18–30-year-old funseekers. Other audiences might be put off by them, though.

If you're interested in learning how to write for advertising, why not take a look at our advertising copywriting course with Will Awdry. 

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