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The power of advertising

By Monita Rajpal, CNN

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What it takes to make an ad?
  • CNN's Monita Rajpal is challenged to create her very own ad campaign
  • She enlists the help of Saatchi & Saatchi, responisble for some of Britian's biggest brands
  • The company even ran Margaret Thatcher's successful Conservative party ad campaign

London, England (CNN) -- Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, we are inundated with messages.

We don't even have to think for ourselves. All we have to do is sit on our comfy couch and be told how to live our lives.

From how to look, what to wear, what to eat, what our homes should look like, how to meet people, what to drive, practically every facet of our lives is taken care of.

That is the power of advertising.

A good advertisement tells us we need something even before we think we do. It offers us a look into the ideal life, the ideal body, the ideal mate, all wrapped in an ideal world.

If I sound cynical I apologize. Really I'm not. I am amazed at the influence advertising has on our lives and the power these "ad men" (and women) have over us.

On "icon" this month we look at this powerful world, both from the brand's perspective and from the perspective of the people behind the iconic commercials.

We travel to Atlanta, Georgia, the home of Coca Cola. While we were editing this piece for the show, I saw the iconic hilltop Coke ad with the song, "I'd like to teach the world to sing." Remember that? Well, for the rest of the afternoon I couldn't get that song out of my head. That's the power of advertising.

You need to know exactly what it is you want people to do.
--Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy of Saatchi & Saatchi.

What began as a little syrupy drink invented by a pharmacist in 1886 has become a pop culture phenomenon. From the cosmopolitan cities of the world to the tiniest of villages, this drink has crossed cultural boundaries.

It is a mainstay on the marketing mainstream all because of advertising; because of the idea that anything can be successful if it's packaged and sold right.

The creative giants Saatchi & Saatchi knew that and built a successful agency on that philosophy. In fact, their motto was and still is "Nothing is Impossible."

For 40 years they have made household names of everything from detergents to airlines to politicians. If you were in Britain in the 1970s you probably remember the Conservative party ad campaign featuring the slogan "Labour Isn't Working." Saatchi & Saatchi were hired by the Conservative then-leader Margaret Thatcher to sell the Tory brand to the British public. And they did. Successfully.

The Saatchi brothers, Maurice and Charles, had such influence in the branding of politics that when they attended the company's 40th anniversary celebrations in September at the Saatchi Gallery in London, you would have thought you were at a Conservative party conference. Past and present politicians came to show their admiration and gratitude ... even the Iron Lady herself showed up.

So, who better to offer advice when I was tasked with creating my own ad campaign? David Droga -- the man who ran Saatchi & Saatchi for many years, then left to start his own company with clients that range from Coca Cola, Puma, and UNICEF -- has challenged me to create a campaign of my own.

The "icon" team chose to promote the idea of volunteering, specifically Corporate Social Responsibility employees volunteering their time to charitable organizations.

I headed to the Saatchi and Saatchi offices in London to seek expert guidance. And I got it. Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy of Saatchi & Saatchi, sat me down and helped me work through the thought process involved in creating an effective campaign.

It comes down to the bare basics of identifying the issue or the problem (in my case, why do people not volunteer?) and then finding a solution to fix it.

He said, "Be clear, be straightforward, be believable ... You need to know exactly what it is you want people to do ... Think what you want to think and then start to edit on the basis of does it sound motivating, does it sound credible."

My brain started to think in a whole new way. It actually felt freer and more open.

In this age of multiple mediums, advertising is everywhere -- whether it's a pop-up campaign with people dancing at the train station (T-Mobile) that serves a multitude of platforms from television to the web, or a home-video-type commercial that is posted on YouTube.

We may not have to think for ourselves as much but we do have to be more discriminating to decipher what is credible and what isn't.

Bottom line though, advertising is a part of our existence. The good news is we're the ones with the power to choose.