Six tips to make people love your ads again

Australians are ambivalent about ads. David Took says they don’t have to be.

Dave Took headshotThe growing consumer apathy towards brands and ads is not a new story, but it’s unfortunately getting worse. The latest stat that 57% of Aussies cannot recall an ad they feel positive about is a stark reminder that consumer attention is a limited resource and consumers aren’t likely to waste time on content that is off the mark.

Because this leaves us with a very hard truth – if consumers don’t like our ads, then a lot of money is being wasted. We wanted to explore the issue further.

At Kantar Millward Brown, we have seen that the worst 20% of digital ads actually damage brands on key measures like purchase intent and brand favourability

Analysis of 37 campaigns for one client revealed that sales impact of advertising decreased by 64% as a result of ineffective creative. By contrast, one of our creative development clients saved $485k by simply removing inefficient ads from the mix and optimising the creative they progressed. Another client increased total short-term effectiveness by 15% through improving the efficiency of their creative.

We repeatedly see creative power as the single biggest variable in securing marketing effectiveness. It can turn $500k of media into $690k. It can be the difference between a 2% sales decline or a 4% sales gain.

So what can we do to help harness this potential?

Since the impetus to prove advertising dollars are working as hard as possible is only strengthening, we wanted to share our top tips to make people love your ads again.

1. Let creatives be creative

Consumers may be bombarded by ads but they still seek entertainment. The best ads can still be that entertainment. Flying ostriches or super evolved crash-proof humans still have the power to stop and engage us against a barrage of other distractions. For these ideas to truly fly, a supportive client that backs their creative team is key.

2. Check with all consumers

Consumer research is often considered the enemy of creative thinking: ‘Who cares what they think, I’ve worked in the industry for years.’ In an age of hyper-message exposure this could not be further from the truth. We need to respect the consumer and integrate them into the process. More than that, it’s vital to think about all relevant consumers.

Consider that just 3% of Sydney agency people live outside central city suburbs versus the 78% of all Sydneysiders who live in the Greater West (from the ‘How agency are you?’ survey carried out by Adshel). The net-net: one focus group in Surry Hills does not equal consumer insight.

 

3. Integrate the research in planning

For consumer research to be valuable, it must be part of the total creative development plan. Tagging it on as an afterthought is the source of nearly all pre-test evil in the world. It instantly positions the research – the consumer – as an alien to the process. This will do no favours to the research agency, the creative agency, the advertising itself or the consumer.

4. Let creative agencies and research agencies talk

Too often, the research and creative partners only meet at the final debrief. This denies the research agency the chance to truly get under the skin of the creative tensions already experienced in development so far. It also is unfair on the creative agency who are suddenly put on the spot with confronting and new feedback on an initiative they have worked on for months. A team effort combining research, creative and client together for the brand will produce a stronger final output.

5. Align research objectives with the comms strategy

It sounds simple but consumer research must focus on growing ad performance in line with the communications strategy. An ad aiming to drive strong emotional response to benefit long-term growth should not be judged by its ability to deliver product news or a short-term sales response. Research agencies need to be strong here and guide the client on the measures most suitable to gauge performance against objectives.

That’s not to say financial impact is to be ignored. In fact, the right measures of emotional power and long-term equity have been validated to achieve financial growth just as much as persuasion measures. Either way you slice it, key measures should be clearly articulated and based on financially validated metrics.

 

6. Relish failure

In a world where consumers face a daily barrage of ads and display increasing ambivalence to what they see, the solution is not going to be more of the same. Be bold, take risks and accept that a blocked path in one direction is a door opening in another. All stages of creative development, including the consumer research, should be prepared to take a knock back for the opportunity for brands to take leaps forward.

 

David Took is a lead researcher at Kantar Millward Brown.
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