WTF Is an Advertising Insight, Anyway?

Alright, buckle in because this is something that most people in the ad industry still struggle with. 

I’m not kidding, but I wish I was. There are people out there making six figures in their advertising jobs, and they couldn’t tell an insight from an idiom.

After reading this article, you’re going to be better at advertising than they are. Chew on that and let me know how much it pisses you off, on a scale from 1 to 10, in the comments.

WTF is an advertising insight?! 

In the simplest terms possible, an insight is an observation that makes people say “omg, that’s SO true!”

Let’s break down why: 

  • omg: this is because it’s surprising! They haven’t heard this interesting thought articulated before, so it catches them off guard, and your perception skills impress the heck out of them.
  • SO true! : this is because it's not only true, but it is completely, undeniably, inconceivably! true. 

Ok. By now, just from that simple reaction breakdown, you should be starting to get it. Let’s take a quick quiz. Which one of the following is an insight? (Makes you say “omg, that’s SO true!” )

  1. Cats are evil, but people still like them.
  2. People love when dogs do "people things."
“Dude you are so tense right here, lemme just work out this knot for you.”

“Dude you are so tense right here, lemme just work out this knot for you.”

Answer: #2 is the insight. Why? Because this concept isn't in the general dialogue yet. It's not commonly said. Therefore, it's surprising ("omg"). Yet, when someone does finally say it, you can't argue it! ("SO true!") Dogs eating at the table? Hilarious! When you snap a photo that makes it look like your dog's trying to give you a high-five? So precious.

Why do you think the popular Instagram dog accounts are the ones that caption the photos from the dog's perspective, as if they were a human running their own instagram account?? See?? It's true! You just needed to have someone point it out for you. (And now you're going "omg, it's SO true!")


Insights are truths that haven’t yet been articulated. They’re not a cliché – yet.

The man bun is this generation's mullet. Quick, use this insight for your advertising before it becomes as cliché as the man ban itself!

The first person to observe “the man-bun is this generation’s mullet” had an insight. But soon everyone'll be saying it, and it'll be well on its way to clichéville. 

"What?!" you ask, "Insights are time-sensitive??" Yup! Sorry. It’s gotta be original to truly be an effective insight.

You might even say an insight is a baby cliché that hasn’t yet matured into its fullest form. 

Think about the first person who said “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Back then? Genius! Insightful! Inspiring! Now? Boring.

What was once an insight, is now a cliché. What is now insight, may someday be a cliché.


Comedians Get It

Comedians have mastered the art of the insight. Many of those insights could be applied to advertising.

One of my favourite insights I heard recently was an observation by a comedian:
"When a woman says she doesn't want you to judge her for her past, she probably had a threesome in college or something. But when a man says he doesn't want you to judge him for his past, he could have done some really sinister things."

(Side Note: I don't know the comedian's name. It wasn’t that guy in the picture. It was some local guy. Sorry, local guy. If you're reading this, let me know and I'll link you!)

Comedians who do observational humour just get it. That's all they're doing, they're just spewing off insights that make you go "omg, it's SO true!"

Any Seinfeld sentence that starts with "What's the deal with ___?" is about to get real insightful on you.

Homework: Come up with an insight and leave it in the comments! Or keep it to yourself so you can use it in an ad campaign / stand-up routine.