How to write a great advertising slogan

Here, our advertising correspondent breaks down the methodology for creating a great slogan, by examining some of the iconic endlines of the past. But is there really a formula for brilliant creative work?

If you set yourself the task of writing the best endline in advertising history, where would you start? With a big brand, perhaps?

That might then give you the ubiquity necessary for the line to be repeated, remembered and used in everyday speech. Nike’s Just Do It, Apple’s Think Different, and BT’s It’s Good To Talk have all been part of massive campaigns for equally massive companies. So that’s the key, isn’t it?

Well, not exactly. One of the best-known endlines in recent decades is ‘It does exactly what it say on the tin’, for the medium-sized brand Ronseal. David Cameron used it when he was Prime Minister, it was included in the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, and Katie Melua even wrote a song with that title.

But did the writers of that line think it was so brilliant that it would be used in newspaper headlines 30 years on? Nope. Back in 2013 they (Dave Shelton and Liz Whiston of now-defunct HHCL) said, “In 1994, when we came up with the line for Ronseal, we never dreamed how it would enter the language.” So you might not even know when you’ve hit paydirt.