Why my favourite ad has no copy

Posted on 3 August, 2020 by Paul Walden

Ogilvy Mexico City created the Land Rover print ad “birds”. It shows a flock of birds taking flight from the dense bushes of a rugged hillside. And there’s a Land Rover logo. But nothing else. No headline. No body copy.

It is my favourite ad of all time. Why?

Because it’s such an excellent example of the immense power of creative concepts.

What’s a creative concept? A classic creative concept (à la the creative revolution/Jon Hamm’s Mad Men) is a combination of different elements – traditionally a picture, headline and body copy – that leaves a little work for the viewer to do. When interpreting the concept, the viewer fills in the blanks and arrives at a conclusion that they will perceive to be their own.

In this case, the conclusion is that there is a Land Rover driving through the middle of that rugged and heavily vegetated terrain; Land Rovers must be incredibly capable off-road vehicles!

It’s a lightning-fast, visceral conclusion. You have thought it and felt the associated feeling of awe before you know it. Yet there’s no copy there to guide these thoughts and feelings.

There are naturally lots of other great creative concepts with no copy. You might also want to note that not everyone will have the same strong impression of the Land Rover ad. That’s ok. Because anyone who is in the target group will get it immediately. And I happen to be an outdoorsy guy.

Another example that comes to mind is not from advertising at all. The country road to my parents’ holiday home runs through a residential neighbourhood where they have had problems with people speeding. The traffic signs obviously weren’t enough for drivers to slow down. So, what did the residents do? Erect more signage?


They permanently parked a toddler’s tricycle at the edge of the road.

Whoever did that has the makings of a strategic copywriter. They didn’t focus on the format (words/traffic signage); they focussed on the ultimate goal of making people think and feel something (“there are small children here – I should stick to the speed limit and watch out”).

Brilliant. Anyone speeding past that tricycle would feel very bad about themselves, even if they had seen it a hundred times before.

This is the essence of strategic copywriting: to create a strong intellectual and emotional reaction without spelling out what you want the reader to think or feel.