Tag Archives: Television

Confusion Thy Name is Advertising

“Three Quarters of Americans Have Found a TV Commercial Confusing”

And so reads the headline of the Harris Interactive poll released August 26, 2010. Is anyone really surprised by this? How many times have you looked at a TV commercial and wondered “What the heck are they selling?” And it’s not confined to TV alone. How many times have you driven past an outdoor board with about 20 words of copy on it and said to yourself, “How am I supposed to read that at 60MPH?”

And, as the survey points out, the confusion isn’t related to age or education:

  • Roughly 90% of all adults watch TV commercials regardless of their age. And roughly the same percentage watch regardless of their educational level.
  • 75% have found a commercial confusing at some time.
  • Approximately 20% said it happens often or very often.

The report concludes that, “Commercials are supposed to be somewhat clear. Yes, they can be artsy.  Yes, they can be clever. Hopefully they are both entertaining and informative as well. But, a commercial’s main focus needs to be selling a product or service. If consumers watching these commercials are unsure of that main focus, the marketers are doing something wrong.”

It’s that last sentence that got me wondering what the marketers are doing that’s causing this confusion. Here’s the list I came up with (in no particular order of importance):

  1. The product has a simple selling point and the strategy on which the ad is based is way too complicated.
  2. There is no strategy. That’s right boys & girls, the ad was written on a whim, from the “Bewitched” school of advertising copywriting.
  3. The ad was approved by a committee. Just like a camel is a horse designed by a committee, so too was this ad.
  4. The spots are confusing. Really, they’re confusing.
  5. The client saw something last weekend and thought, “We should include that in what we’re doing.” So that’s what they’re doing.
  6. The creative group’s idea of what really resonates with the intended audience was developed at an art show after a few too many local brews. (Too high brow, too esoteric. Or the reverse.)
  7. The target audience needs a remedial reading course (but no one will say that out loud) and needs pretty straightforward communication.
  8. It was designed to communicate to a variety of consumers and instead talks to no one in particular.
  9. The media buyer got a real ‘deal’ so the ad (announcing a sale on women’s shoes) is now running in the NASCAR race that weekend.
  10. Poor graphic design and execution.

Those are my top 10. What do you think are some of the causes of ad confusion? Do you have a top 10?

I’m guessing that a lot of the responses will be from personal experience.

Just sayin’….

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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The Human Connection

One of the keys to successful communication is establishing a personal connection with your audience. When you have it, you will never lose their attention or miss out on the opportunity to establish a relationship.

At the start of any new campaign, we ask ourselves how we can connect with our audience on an emotional level that will be engaging enough to get them to actively consider the products/services we are advertising.

There are many ways to establish this connection.  One of the ways commonly used in consumer products campaigns is to use childhood experiences to evoke a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about your youth. Volkswagen has recently launched a TV campaign focusing on the favorite childhood road trip game “Slug Bug.” Unlike other car commercials, Volkswagen didn’t mention fuel efficiency, horsepower, commitment to safety, or other pressing issues other automotive brands have “responded” to this year. They simply used a well-known game to positively promote the many different Volkswagen models that are available for purchase.

The Food & Beverage category is another good example.  When was the last time you dunked your Oreo cookie into a glass full of milk? Can you remember your inspiration or how you even came up with such a phenomenal idea to mix milk and cookies? Nabisco has been using the “milk and cookie” message as part of their communication for years. Which came first, the ad or the idea?  And Kellogg won’t hesitate to recall how you used to listen to your favorite cereal before you ate it.

And while B2B campaigns mostly focus on rational and logical business reasons to select their product over their competition, some B2B campaigns are beginning to connect with audiences through emotional reasoning as well. AirTran Airways now offers Wi-Fi on all AirTran flights. To promote this feature as a benefit to passengers flying for business reasons, AirTran’s new TV campaign utilizes the excitement that employees feel when they are told of available birthday cake in the conference room.

Each of these brands used visual stimuli paired with familiar experiences to establish an emotional connection. Using this format to connect to their audience may influence a positive perception about their products and their brand overall. Still need more? Ask any father who shares his favorite game with his children and see if they don’t look back on that experience fondly.

No matter which industry you may categorize yourself in, or to whom you are attempting to sell, there are emotional triggers that you can tap to make your marketing more powerful.  Work to find this connection and incorporate it into your campaign strategy, and see what that does, not only to your unaided awareness, but to the success metrics of your campaign.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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Shorter attention spans mean longer formats?

TV is dead. We all know that. We’ve been hearing that for years, anyway, so it must be true. As everything goes “digi”, we hear a lot of conventional wisdom talk about attention spans and eye tracking and the ever-measurable click-through.

But as a creative and an instructor at the local ad school, trying both to do right by my clients’ needs, and to guide my students to push past further than today’s business realities allow, I can’t help but notice that what still gets the most “buzz” are conventional pieces that look a lot like TV.

Some clients hear the death knell of TV blowing through the pop biz books, and are relieved. While TV spots give brands the legitimacy and prestige they clamor for, they are also seen as a tremendous drain on the ad budget– which they are. TV costs money. Media costs money. Talent costs money (and I don’t just mean the monkeys in front of the camera). Despite what that guy at the cocktail party in the black turtleneck says, YouTube and Red Cameras do not mean good quality TV gets a whole lot cheaper. Then the obvious question is Why produce TV when Twitter costs literally $0? I’m not going to answer that, because I respect you.

So TV moves to the Web. It gets longer. Or shorter. But mostly longer. (I was shown a study yesterday claiming the ideal length for online video is between 30 and 90 seconds. Content is a little in the grey area, but for optimum ROI, there is apparently a running time.)

This month, the world went crazy for Nike’s World Cup spot. As of Sunday night, in less than three weeks, more than 12 million people had watched it on YouTube alone. I have it on good authority it’s the spot that both the agency and the client are going to put down as their crown jewel for the year. Though personally, as I’m not much of a futbol fan but I am a giant nerd, I’m partial to Adidas’s work that launched last week just in time for kickoff. Both the Nike and Adidas spots are over two minutes, and clearly cost a boatload of money. And I don’t hear anybody complaining about attention spans, and I’ll bet come awards season, we’ll be seeing them again.

Can you do awesome long format video that doesn’t require the expense of David Beckham sitting down with Greedo at George Lucas’s house? Sure. As kinetic and absorbing and “spectacular” as the Nike spot is, I was much more moved by the 12 minutes I spent with Mother’s Docu-sponsory™ (I’m coining that) for Stella beer,  UP THERE.  It’s beautiful, moving, and probably cost what 2 seconds of the Nike spot cost. And it made me thirsty.

Here at Kilgannon, the agency recently produced some long-format work for Manheim. You can see it here, and you can read a much better explanation of it here. We’re pretty proud of it, and we think it’ll pull pretty hard for them. And as I sit here typing this, I’m looking at casting tapes for a TV spot. Yes, an actual TV spot that will run on that black rectangle in your living room. It’s not dead yet.

— Devon Suter, VP, Group Creative Director

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Social Media and the Trust Deficit

My first car was a land yacht from the early 1970s. It leaked oil everywhere, and only ran on seven cylinders — when it ran at all. By the time I was 19, the car and I were mortal enemies. By then, I had rebuilt or replaced every moving part under the hood – including the engine. Then the transmission disintegrated.

Twice.

As my car was towed away, I asked a friend of mine how often one should have to replace engines and transmissions in cars. He replied,

“I don’t really know, Steve. I drive a Honda.”

My friend had unknowingly become a brand ambassador for Honda that day. See, friends and peers can be valuable sources of information. We listen to our friends. We trust our friends. Their experiences with products lend weight and credibility to their opinions. Which is why I was startled by a portion of Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer which suggests that the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half since 2008, from 45% to 25%.”

Something about this statistic didn’t sound right to me. It seems to conflict with my sense of intuition. Sure, the economy is terrible, but why would we suddenly consider our friends “less credible”? So, I wondered… What kinds of questions were being asked in this survey? What could have changed since 2008?

Edelman states that the survey “consisted of 25-minute telephone interviews… (with) 4,875 informed publics in two age groups (24-34 and 35-64). All informed publics met the following criteria: college educated, household income in the top quartile for their age in their country, read or watch business/news media at least several times a week, follow public policy issues in the news several times a week.”

Here is one of the questions asked in the survey:

Q: If you heard information about a company from one of these people, how credible would the information be?

Results (highest credibility to lowest):

Expert, Industry analyst, NGO representative, Person like yourself, CEO, Government official, or regular employee.

Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere. To me, it would seem that we seek out different types of peers depending on the type of information we’re looking for. And with the recent economic downturn, we are more likely to turn to experts for information about companies, more than to traditional media or a fan page on FaceBook. Included in our conversations about products are discussions about transparency and trustworthiness of corporations. Survey results also show that consumers are wary of profits, and are increasingly interested in a company’s standing as a corporate citizen. The survey was limited to attitudes about companies and corporate reputations. It was not about the products or services they provide.

It’s the difference between asking “Which product should I buy?” and “What kind of company should I buy it from?”

As the results of Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer go viral, it’s important to keep this context in mind. It would be a stretch to infer that there’s a sudden trust deficit among peer groups or that Social Media is less effective in a recession. The good news is that we still listen to our friends, especially when the topic is about recommending a particular product and brand.

P.S.   If you must know… I have been a proud Honda owner for 20 years.

— Steve Close, Senior Media Buyer

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