Simple versus wonderful – finding balance in the two speeds of marketing

In a clinical dissection of marketing psychology and the six second ad, Adam Ferrier asks ‘why not go shorter?’ With micro-spots moving into mainstream marketing, it’s time to take stock to figure out what really works.

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Psychology is the science of behaviour and mind, and many years ago when practicing as a psychologist I had the scientist practitioner model drummed into my head: ‘don’t do anything as a clinician unless there is scientific evidence to support it.’ 

So when I made the switch to adland, I was amazed by how decisions were made. In a nutshell, the whole thing was completely made up. There was no science behind the creative, or even strong data to back up the insights. The most common justification I heard for creative recommendations was ‘trust me.’

Being inquisitive, but largely just really nervous about saying the wrong thing, I set out to try and understand a little more about how creativity and advertising actually worked. So I did some fossicking and read a few books, and came across The Hidden Power of Advertising by Robert Heath. This book (and others) helped me to start to understand advertising from a more scientific foundation and, importantly, also gave me some language that helped to articulate what how it all worked.

 

Things are moving on

“Never underestimate the powers of tradition,” an old boss once said to me – and in many ways he was right.  

In many areas, the industry has not completely removed itself from the shackles of the old analogue world. However, the science and the practice of advertising are – at least in some quarters – starting to hold hands. We see outspoken academics and scientific based learning starting to make inroads into our decision making. This type of thinking is probably most prevalent in media selection and impact.  

For example, according to Sankey & Roberts there is emerging evidence that 15-second ads are as effective as 30-second ads. And in a further shock to the 30-second spot, there is research that indicates the six-second advertising concept – driven by YouTube, Facebook and in recent times the FOX Network with its NFL Super Bowl experiment – potentially works as hard as the 15’s. 

This is interesting stuff for marketers and advertising people who have long held the belief that advertising worked by engaging people in a story or narrative. 

Perhaps the whole thing is a lot simpler than that?

 

Six seconds or Less

How short is too short? Do we actually need a full six seconds? Across certain media, shorter and shorter video ads provide brands with the opportunity to increase the reach and frequency of their campaigns with the same budgets. Does this mean ultimately they are more effective?

This is something that I will be discussing further and exploring with CMOs from leading brands during the upcoming ‘A World of Unmissable’ events. One medium that does very well with six seconds, or less, is out-of-home (OOH).

From its foundation, OOH has in the main been a medium that needed to gain impact immediately and even with its digitisation, has remained true to displaying content that’s simple, succinct and requiring little involvement. Which brings me back to Robert Heath.

 

Simple but frequent

Heath’s theories on ‘low involvement processing’ still hold, and basically say you don’t need to be aware you’ve seen an ad in order for that ad to have an impact and build your brand. It makes sense, we don’t remember all the ads we see in a day, we don’t even remember most we see on a drive down the freeway – but they are all making an impact. They are being processed implicitly.  

Keep things simple, jingle the logo in front of people for a while, a bit of paired association, and lo and behold you’ve got a memory structure that may lead to a sale.

 

Wonderful too

At the other end of the spectrum is every planner’s favourite odd couple – Peter Field and Les Binet (2013) – who say that ‘fame’ based work is the most effective. Stuff that people take in, process, enjoy, participate in and talk about. Creating fame in six seconds of advertising is tough (although it can be done, as the NFL proves).

Now that both the science and the technology are pointing to shorter form content, there is the real opportunity for a proliferation of six seconds ads. We all like seeing strong, big and better creative ideas that garner people’s full wide-eyed attention and wonder. These wonderful ideas will still hold currency and be powerful in building brands (fame).

But is our job to actually bring the simple and the wonderful together?

Getting the basics right and maximising exposure via low involvement processing, keeping Mr Heath happy, yet at the same time, looking for moments of wonderful that create genuine fame for Messrs Field and Binet?

The clients and agencies that deliver both with passion will do well, as will the media owners that support both requirements.

 

Adam Ferrier is founder and chief strategy officer at Thinkerbell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Image copyright: Ajeet Mestry