What makes Advertising Work?

WHAT MAKES ADVERTISING WORK?

This weekend we witnessed one of the great sporting spectacles which is the Super Bowl, the final of the American Football season. While the game is the main attraction the adverts have taken a life of their own and garner just as much attention. To the point where hype and excitement is built around the advert itself pre-Super Bowl.

You’ve got to pony up

The advertising slots themselves are not cheap, costing in excess of $5 million for thirty seconds. The reason why companies choose these excessively priced slots is because it is the most watched event in America, with almost half the population tuning in. With the proliferation of viewing choices these days and the level of Internet consumption, to gain such an audience for a single show is tricky, to say the least, hence why the slots sell for so much.

What do you remember?

On watching the adverts and the game on Sunday night through to early Monday morning, I was accompanied by my colleagues (it’s a work policy to stay awake and watch the Super Bowl) and some other marketing and branding guys and gals. The next day I spoke and phoned all those who had seen the ads with me to get their opinion on which they liked the best. More importantly I wanted to know the ones they recalled the best.

While it cannot be officially called poll the insights gleaned reflected what we already know about how advertising works. The brands which appeared most frequently brought about recall. So for example, T-Mobile ran a variety of ads, one with Justin Beiber, none were in themselves memorable or cleverly executed but we did see their brand colour and name frequently. The same can be said for Alfa Romeo which ran a couple of different adverts as well.

Creative plays second fiddle to repetition

What was most interesting was that there was a number of ad’s which had a great narrative, well executed, the Mercedes-Benz one which was directed by the Cohen brothers, was an ode to Easy Rider and was very good I thought, as was the KIA ad with Melissa McCarthy which was very funny. When asked about recall some of us remembered the story or what happened in the ad but not the brand itself, others couldn’t even recall the story and only the very stupid or ridiculous ads came to mind immediately.

The most popular recalled advert we found amongst our group was the World of Tanks one which had two 16 second adverts back to back. In essence it was one slot but the repetition and ridiculous nature of it brought immediate recall for all including not just the narrative of the ad but the brand name as well.

Don’t tell me once

The overall insight we get as we assumed is advertising, no matter how clever or well-crafted the content is, it only works if it is repeated. We did a further experiment the following day by watching the adverts again, and again on the subsequent day. What we found was the well executed adverts and the ones we related to were being easily recalled, not only with the narrative but also the brand name.

Alastair Campbell who was the director of communications and strategy for Tony Blair made a very good point when it came to getting people to understand and act on a message. He stated ‘if you are going to tell me something once, don’t bother telling me at all.’ It is the principal by which advertising and all communications works. Repetition is key, you could have the best creative on the planet and it is so hard to recall all the information necessary with just one viewing. What our little experiment showed is if you are doing the one exposure the totally ridiculous ones are easier to recall.