(Revised from an earlier post.)

“Don’t do an ad. Do something interesting.”

This is one of the best and most basic pieces of advice I have for my students and, for that matter, anyone in the communications industry. Because when you follow it, you’ve pulled yourself out of the old world of advertising into the new.

The old-world model is what I’ll call “interruption-based” advertising.

In this model (which is kinda like Mad Men), we all sit around drinking “highballs,” smoking filter-less cigarettes, and figuring out the right message; the right headline. “What,” we ask, “is precisely the thing we want to say?”

Once we have this polished gem of advertising perfection, we go out into the world and use it to interrupt, harangue, and irritate pretty much everybody. We barge into their homes, onto their TV programs and car radios, and breathlessly unreel our fascinating story about our acne medication that will change lives.

The new model, I think, is not only more polite but more effective. The new model suggests instead of saying something, we do something. We do something so interesting we don’t have to interrupt anybody to get their attention. Because if what we do is sufficiently interesting, they’ll find us. Our ads don’t have to carry our message, people will.

The real trick in this new model is this: we have to do things so interesting, people will listen even if they’re not currently in the market for our brand or even our category. I’ve watched – and I’ve shared – interesting content made by tampon manufacturers. Such is the difference between messaging and content. Because content is interesting in and of itself.

Where we once spent time worrying about what our clients should say, today our time is often better spent figuring out what brands can do.

Doing something interesting, something that communicates the value of a brand without using interruption, is the first part of a simple four-step approach I learned from my co-author, Edward Boches. He writes about it elegantly on pages 211 – 213 in the new edition of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.

I’ll be doing a live webinar on how folks can use this concept to leverage social media platforms for their brands. I promise it won’t suck and it happens this very Friday, March 30th at 1pm EST. You can register here.