Tag Archives: advertising effectiveness

Judging from the sofa

David Reviews, the influential TV and film aggregation site, has recently started something called The Lunch Break. This is a selection of TV ads put together to watch as if in an ad break. The very good idea behind this is obviously to better replicate the experience that viewers have.

People rarely watch any advertising with devoted attention – unless they’ve specifically sought it out to view again. TV viewers watch a series of different ads from non-competing markets with varying levels of attention (all of which we now know are valuable to advertisers, thanks to neuroscience).

This is not astonishing; I’m clearly not breaking much new ground telling you this. But it occurred to me while I was on the jury for the Campaign Big Awards that when we judge ads they are dislocated from their natural habitat, and often alongside others in the same market.

Advertising is affected by many things, but one of its primary concerns is context; the TV programmes you’re rubbing shoulders with, the pages of the specific magazines or websites you’ve bought, the posters in those particular locations.  And let’s not forget the emotional and physical contexts of rushing to work or relaxing in the bath and cuddling with your kids/cat on the sofa. But when judging awards normal contexts are lost and artificial ones imposed.  It is impossible to recreate the actual viewer experience when lined up alongside an eclectic bunch of people you don’t know well in a hotel room focussing solely on a screen and watching 60 TV ads in a row.

Where TV is concerned, the influence of the context in which we watch is incredibly significant. For sponsorship credits I would say it is impossible to judge them fairly when detached from the editorial context in which they appear and with which they are supposed to relate.

Later this year we’re publishing new research into the influence of watching TV with other people, but initial findings show that it exerts a big influence on the impact and effectiveness of TV’s advertising.

So, taking all this into account, perhaps it would be better for creative judging if ad judges convened at one of their palatial country houses to lounge around the living room watching Peep Show or The X-Factor, eating a takeaway curry and letting the short-listed ads appear serendipitously, just as the media planning Gods intended.  Let’s see what works best then.

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TV goes app

Now, here’s a lovely thing that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while. The brilliant Barclaycard ‘Waterslide’ TV ad propelled its iPhone app spin-off to become the most popular free, branded game in the history of the iTunes App Store. This is a fine example of TV and interactive media cuddling up and making babies.

BBH’s Barclaycard’s ‘Waterslide Extreme’ iPhone app has clocked up 4 million downloads from the iTunes App Store since its launch in mid-July. It became the top free app in 57 countries.

The Barclaycard TV ad was an instant hit and sparked lots of Twitterface activity.  I loved it too; given that their previous campaign had featured a heartthrob from an all-time favourite TV series, that’s quite an achievement.  Dare (the creative agency behind the app) also created a YouTube channel where people made their own versions of the ad for other to vote on (the excellent tea&cheese’s take on the ad got the most votes).

Apart from actually buying the product, in the ‘olden days’ (like 1998) we could only really show our love for TV ads or programmes by talking about them, imitating them, reading articles about them or buying some related merchandise, like a board game or a mug. We can and do still do all this both on- and offline but, as the existence of the Barclaycard app highlights, we can now do so much more with our TV creative.

We can be inspired to make our own versions, chat in real time about them with people on the other side of the planet, watch extra content, send them to friends, play games based on them or simply watch again. We can even have conversations with the fictional characters that TV ads give birth to, such as the half million Facebook friends and 24,000 Twitter followers of the pre-eminent meerkat of our time.

Of course not every app is as successful as Barclaycard’s but it does demonstrate how potent the TV + online combo can be. T-Mobile’s Life’s for Sharing campaign gets it right too.  Nothing gets the party started like telly and interactive media extends the fun.

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Plouffe of effectiveness

Maybe it’s the heat, but some recent commentary has got a bit carried away when interpreting what certain wins at Cannes portend for TV. The successes of the fantastic Obama campaign and Tribal DDB’s brilliant ‘Carousel’ – an online film for Philips TVs – have got some a little over-excited.

There is a small but noisy contingent desperate to prolong a TV versus internet polemic; so when what is effectively an online TV ad wins at Cannes they absurdly pronounce the death of TV advertising, much as they announced that online advertising can’t be working when Google started using TV to promote Chrome.

Away from the theorists and bloggers, in the real world brands are just getting on and finding out what works best for them.  Increasing numbers are realizing that the combination of TV with online activity is really rather good – not least many online brands – and the Obama campaign is one of these.  After Obama’s success there was an unseemly rush of media claiming credit for it, but few wrote about TV’s contribution.  

So, saying more that I could hope to and not having the burden of being expected to say it, it is worth listening to David Plouffe, the brains behind the Obama campaign. His measured words help cut through any apocalyptic froth. Talking about the Cannes success he said: “It is fashionable to suggest that TV ads are less and less important, but we needed to have balance, and they were incredibly important to the campaign.”

I would add that it wasn’t just TV ads, but TV appearances, live broadcast debates and speeches plus events and rallies that inspired people to believe in Obama and make them want to interact with him and his campaign online and in person.  Plouffe values the relationship that TV can start but sees that the most effective ad campaigns of all are integrated. Those celebrating the Obama campaign’s intelligent internet-ness are right to, but they must also acknowledge its terrific TV-ness, otherwise they risk missing a vital engine that made it work. Just as Democrats worked together to win, so do media.

Plouffe made some interesting points about how they used TV advertising; they wanted the reach and emotional connection of TV but opted for longer 2 minute ads, thereby sacrificing frequency for depth.  In the final week they bought a whole half-hour slot.  Maybe this is something that other brands can learn from.

As Plouffe does, let’s understand and acknowledge the contribution that every aspect of the marketing mix makes, let’s stop – sometimes willfully – confusing accountability with effectiveness, and let’s not get so overheated about false dawns.

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