Is relevant advertising really so annoying?

Simon Sinek has written a book about a brilliant idea: „Start with why„. Now he has written a semi-good blogpost about the ad industry titled „I hate you: a tale about the advertising industry„.  His main take out: agencies knowingly produce stuff people don’t want to see, so they look for ways to make people watch that stuff anyway. His proposal:

the ad industry should work to improve the quality of their product to a point where people want to watch it.

Well, isn’t that what creative agencies are trying to do anyway? It’s a problem of targeting. The best ad is wasted on someone who doesn’t care or even hate the brand. And once an ad is well targeted, it’s message should be relevant, and there should be no question about acceptance. A good creative targeted at the right audience should never fall into the trap of being annoying.

However, the world isn’t perfect, and in mass distributed media, there will always be a spillover – i.e. ads delivered to people who don’t care about the brand, the message, the offer. And it’s not only a question of entertainment, as Simon Sinek suggests:

The quality of advertising should always be measured based on how entertaining or engaging it is. They should stop measuring how many people are forced to watch (reach and frequency) and start measuring how many people choose to watch.

The main factor is not entertainment, it’s relevance. An ad can be highly successfull, if relevant, even if it’s not in the least entertaining. Given the right context, a fitting message and good targeting, you might also want to call advertising „information“.

Of course, if neither of that is true, you should call it „spam“ or simply annoyance.

The main point of Sinek is, however, that ad agencies produce their creative having a different target audience in mind: the client. For that matter, we might even add another target audience that sometimes play an important role: jurys of advertising award shows. Much of what is created serves to satisfy individual client needs, or may be even simply client internal political structures.

So Sinek argues, that ad agencies should instead again focus on their main target audience: the end customer.

Producing a product for the consumers who are the ones actually consuming the product makes more business sense, too.  Clients would be able to spend less on media because the work would be more memorable.  Plus, if people CHOOSE to watch the ads, they are more likely to like the brands, products and companies featured in those ads. In other words, if advertising was made for consumers and not clients the ultimate benefactor would actually be the client…and isn’t that supposed to be the job of good advertising?

Good idea. Given what I notice in the industry, this is definitely the intention when creating new ideas. Within the realm of highly user-centric media such as social media, this thinking has already started to sink in. It just needs to permeate all the layers of „integrated“ agencies, until even the most classically oriented teams are also familiar with this idea.

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Crowdsourced advertising – the reality behind famous examples.

The Superbowl has yet again been a large show off for TV ads. Even though some argue that the quality of ads has been lower than the previous years, one thing stuck out again: the spots not produced by a typical „Madison Avenue Agency“. Two Doritos spots, allegedly created by consumers, a Google ad produced internally,

NY Times hence wrote an article with the catchy title „Do-it-yourself super ads„, subtitle: „be afraid, Madison Avenue. Very afraid“. The article mentions the user generated spots and their „ranking“ on and twitter, deducting that consumer know best what consumers want to see.

Well, that’s only one part of the story. And shall we say: the badly researched part of the story.

AdLab busts that story by stating a few facts that the NY Times should, in fact, have researched.

The first Doritos spot „Underdog“ was created by Joshua Svoboda a 24 year old, who works as a creative director. The second spot „House Rules“ was created by a writer/director from Hollywood.

Even the other Doritos commercials from the previous years plus other „UGC“ clips were apparently created by people already working in film related businesses, states the above mentioned article.

So it wasn’t brand fans or advocates who put in their efforts to create a brand message for the brand they like. It was creative people, producers, writers, who were probably more interested in promoting their own „brand“ through the PR associated with the clip.

It’s not really that surprising. However, the fact that this has not been picked up by the media correctly is suprising. In a way, I also fell for what might be the reason for the whole ignorance: the story of consumers creating ads with only a few hundred Dollars production costs, that are shown during the Superbowl with a mediabudget of more than $2.5 million, reaching more than 100 million viewers – it’s too good.

I work in an ad agency, so I shouldn’t like the idea of consumer generated ads. Yet due to my interest in social media marketing I did in fact like the idea. (And with everything connected to the setup of the contest, there would still be enough scope for agency work…) So it is rather disappointing to find out about the truth behind these famous examples.

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Ad Land Circle Creative Spot

This is a real challenge for ad experts. The following video is a huge collection of TV spots. It was made as part of the launch of the new identity of the Creative Circle awards in the UK. As adverblog writes, there are more than 78 spots referenced in this single video. Or, at least, that’s the highest number found so far. How is your score? (Mine is pretty bad)

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Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners

Not quite digital marketing, but similar rules surely apply to creating well selling online web pages. The NY Times has a piece on how restaurants are trying to improving their menues. Things like highlighting the most profitable items on the menue via putting boxes around them, display prices without a dollar sign, etc. Some restaurants seem to be continously testing how to best design menues so that revenue and profitability increases.

“If admen had souls, many would probably trade them for an opportunity every restaurateur already has: the ability to place an advertisement in every customer’s hand before they part with their money.”

Very true. An inspiring read: Using menue psychology to entice diners.

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The value of the intangible

Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy UK spoke on TED Global about the value of the intangible, and how advertising helps create that value:

Highly entertaining, as usual for Rory. Having worked with Rory in a brainstorming some time ago, when I still worked at Ogilvy, I can tell you: he really is that entertaining. The story about how to make the train ride between London and Paris any more enjoyable I already heard back then, it’s a classic…

For the rest of that talk: I do believe that we’re now living in a world of mass produced commodities, no matter what you buy, the added value almost always lies within the imagined value that you yourself (with the little help of stories created by advertising as well as socially networked word-of-mouth) asign to your individual brand experience…

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Recent crowdsourcing campaigns and the risk of speculative work

Is crowdsourcing really the way of the future? Will your target audience do your work for you and create advertising and products at minimal cost?

Unilever seems to think so. First, they fired Lowe and now they call out for Users to create the next TV spot for their peperami brand. They’re offering $10.000 in a competition to create ideas for the next TV and Print campaign. Their benchmark seem to be the Doritos and Pringles campaigns, where the winning ideas cost about $6 or $300 to produce. A rather ironic quote in these circumstances by Unilever about Lowe, their agency for 16 years:

„We are extremely thankful to Lowe for the brilliant work they achieved over the last two decades and are looking forward to seeing the ideas to take Lowe’s legacy forward into the next era of Animal.“

It’s a punch in the face of Lowe. And of course, that is worth a test. However, „Unilever said it has no plans to retain a full-time ad agency for the Peperami account in future.“ It’s one thing to test this kind of approach on singular occasions. Not sure, weather this is a good idea for the long run – when not piloted first.

In my humble opinion they’re not taking into account the laziness and complacency of the general public. It’s fun producing ads the first time around, maybe the second or third, too. At some point, novelty will wear off and it will become the „daily grind“ – yet with no guaranteed pay off.

Another example: Audi also engaged in some crowdsourcing, however it is not as directly tied to daily business. Instead, they’re asking for inspiration, they want users to help them design the car of the future.They’re approach is a little different:

Audi is posting videos of their design process, information about the contest as it progresses, and soliciting questions and feedback to find out what the fans would like to see in a car of the future. It wants its 300,000 fans to know that as a company, Audi listens to its customers and wants to engage in a conversation about the future.

Is this any better? They don’t seem to offer any remuneration or prizes, so they’re also not raising any materialistic hopes. Who ever joins the conversation does so out of passion or joy, not because he or she hopes to win anything.

There has been an extensive debate about these kinds of crowdsourcing projects, especially about the speculative work involved. People participating in these kind of crowdsourcing contests, activities etc. don’t know whether they’ll get paid or if it will stay „a hobby“. There is a chance of winning a lot of money, but the odds gets smaller, the more people participate. At the same time, brands face a much higher potential of actually receiving something worth airing, the more people participate. It doesn’t sound like a win-win situation to me.

Crowdsourcing projects should be organised in a way that is rewarding for both sides. For marketers in my view this means: organise contests, that are mainly fun for the audience. And if want to receive something in return, make sure you don’t look greedy.

(Also, if your interested in some more crowdsourcing casestudies (and you can read German), see this list here.)

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