Understanding Advertising

How the best Ads Work

Robert Heath

In his fascinating book The Tipping Point1 Malcolm Gladwell introduces the idea of stickiness:

The hard part of communication is often figuring out how to make sure a message doesnt go in one ear and out the other. Stickiness means a message makes an impact. You cant get it out of your head. It sticks in your memory.

Stickiness is what most ad agencies and their clients crave above all things. The idea that a message can be implanted in the consumers brain so strongly that they cannot get it out is advertisings definition of Nirvana. And some ads seem to achieve this. For example, when we hear the name Marlboro most of us mentally add the word cowboy; when we see Heineken, many of us still think Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach; and when we hear the line Go to work on an quite a few of us spontaneously add the word egg. What makes these ancient campaigns sticky, while thousands of more recent ads effortlessly slip out of our minds?