Friday 30 March 2012

It's taken 100 years to get here.

One of the great difficulties with advertising is knowing whether it works, or not. An age old problem.

Of course Advertising the main (!) and it builds brands, but we just don't know why exactly and by how much. The ridiculous adage of "50% of my advertising doesn't work" now can be binned to history.

Sometimes you produce work that's good and it works, but at a lower level for some reason. You're really really proud of it, but it just doesn't spark. And sometimes you produce mediocre work which explodes. How many awards festivals have I been at to, where the great work fails and the stuff you thought was "okay", wins. A lot.

I remember the classic 1980 Arks Advertising campaign for 'Harp' beer by Frank Sheerin. "Sally O'Brien and the way she might look at you" as a case in point. Fairly innocuous stuff at the time, at least on paper and I'm sure that Frank would agree with that, but once broadcast, it exploded.

Huge success, huge brand impact, huge Harp drinkers for what was well, ordinary creativework - but cleary it wasn't ordinary to the consumer.


Advertising is an art not a science. Get over it.

All we, as advertising creators, can say, is that we learn from experience what tends to work and what doesn't. 

Yes sure, we can measure it to a point through "pre" and "post" research awareness testing, both prompted and unprompted, by I'm not a fan of that at all. Worse still, the craze for research pre "concept testing" which is supposed to "fine tune" creative work, to make it 'better'. Yep, a futile attempt to make advertising a science.Largely of course, produced by researchers who've never worked in advertising agencies. 

In fact, no creative person, worth their salt, should agree to let a pre-research group of men + women on the archetypal "Clapham Omnibus" tell you if your Ads are good or not. Either you're on it or you're not and no research should be allowed to change that. Have the confidence. Either you can do Ads or you can't.

Equally too, concepts that are "safe", work well in concept testing because they're more easily understood. I've no doubt campaigns that are ground breaking do badly, for exactly the same reason. They're hard to understand in research.

Do you think classic campaigns like "you've been tangoed!" would have researched well? Or how about going with Audi's "vorsprung durch technik" on a car commercial aimed at the British market? Not a chance.

So that's the problem. A continual strive to get Results. And as Agencies try to attempt to pretend to clients that they've found the holy grail through dubious metrics, is like selling snake oil. It's frankly, bollocks.

Measurements such as Media viewership is in some ways scientific but I do have this long standing burning feeling that the data is dubious. It's most certainly not regular enough, especially in the print area which accounts for nearly 50% of the spend. I mean a newspaper that promotes readership numbers based on 3 readers a copy? Not in my house anyway.

Online attractiveness to brands is of course, clearer measurement. It deals with this long-standing problem really well.

The numbers who click-thru, the now sophisticated analytics of website traffic, the ability to measure search keywords, the ultimate measure of numbers of online sales...all contribute to a medium that is replacing traditional. 

I KNOW how many friends I have or that my campaign has generated on Facebook and so I KNOW when I post a message how many will see and by using influencer sites such as Klout, I KNOW if it's being re-posted and working. I can measure followers on Twitter, I know the impact on Pinterest and on and on it goes.

Communication now has a return on investment. A further blow to traditional media.

Worse news than that, is what happens when online media activity is sold based on sales instead of space? 

If I have an Ad on a site, and say they say it's completely free until I sell a 100 books and then it's 2% of book sales? Or ticket sales or training course sales or clothing sales? Real hard to argue with that.

Would I not move more money online away from traditional media? Be sure of it.

And don't tell me you can't build brands online. Actually it's the great brand-leveller.

I happened to hear an interview on Sky with a senior Outdoor executive from JC Decaux, the big global player, who said he'd never heard of a brand being built online. What the?

What's Amazon if it's not a brand that has become the biggest bookseller in the world? What's Twitter? Mashable? Facebook? if they're not brands and brands that the world wants to be associated with, big time. The Huffington Post is not a brand?

One of the great things about the web is that it has allowed young, spotty idealists to compete with long established brands and throttle them, quickly. Bezos, Cashmore, Zuck, Jobs and Larry Page.

And do you know what, it's not even nearly there. A new land of brand opportunity of results driven communications.

Just what our clients have been looking for. 
For nearly 100 years.

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