The 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards illuminate much of what is changing in advertising, how questions of effectiveness are shifting. But there are elements that have not shifted with technology or trends, observes Mike Teasdale. Make the brand famous and make it easy to buy.
Look at the winners from the 2018 IPA Effectiveness Awards, and what you see are clear patterns for success.
Emotion deployed in the service of a motivating message is the key creative driver of most winning campaigns.
And the use of familiar distinctive brand assets is everywhere.
This holds true whether you look at Audi or L’Oréal or British Army or Lidl or Guinness, or any of the big winners.
It also holds true if you look back over the history of the IPA Effectiveness Awards.
It’s always been true. If you disrupt people’s lives with a famous campaign that lands a motivating message in an emotional way, and if you combine that disruption with ease of purchase (both physically via distribution and mentally via distinctive brand assets) you are guaranteed success.
Thomas James Barratt, the man behind the original marketing success of Pears’ Soap, proved it spectacularly 140 years ago.
Barratt was keen to equate Pears’ Soap with quality and high culture, so he ran a series of ads portraying cute children in idealized middle-class homes, associating the brand with social aspiration and domestic comfort. Most famously, he bought the copyright to Sir John Everett Millais' iconic painting of his grandson looking up at a soap bubble, then added a bar of Pears’ Soap at the bottom of the painting and used the image as an ad. He produced postcards featuring the tweaked painting on one side and copy outlining the advantages of using Pears’ Soap on the reverse. And it sold like hot cakes.
The world of marketing can change all it wants, but if you do things like Barratt did you will be successful.
Yes, yes, yes… I know everything is different now.
I know consumers now have the keys to the asylum thanks to the internet and social media and mobile technology.
I know the way we shop for products and services has changed radically. Gone are the days of brands being content to broadcast at us while we watch telly of an evening. Now they also want a conversation with us across multiple devices and platforms and moments in the day.
I know the ways to engage with consumers have exploded and the potential for hyper-personalisation on key media platforms is huge.
In this changed landscape, the onus is on advertising to earn its right to be seen. It must compete, either as pure entertainment or as a source of essential information. And it needs to seamlessly hand off from one platform to another.
I know our industry is gripped by manic short-termism. Real time digital metrics mean an addiction to instant results.
I know our industry is rabidly inconsistent. Too many creativity service provider options and too many channels, with no one sure which combination is right, means there is inconsistency in how brands behave.
I know that the very nature of marketing creativity is evolving. Marketing creativity nowadays needs to be more than awareness-seeking creativity. Now it needs to be also data-based creativity to discover customer insights or develop innovative new products or design a user experience that is individualised.
I know the answer to the eternal marketing question of "What's the best way to boost sales?" is no longer simply “Raise awareness” so the solution needs to be much more than a TV campaign.
And I know that algorithms working in smart devices to make choices on our behalf are not only evolving the way we consume, but also the way we behave. 21st century consumerism will eventually use AI to commercialise even those things that lie at the very core of what it means to be human, like relationships and beliefs and happiness.
But people are still people and focused on the same things people have always been focused on. Like food, security, sex, feeling good, parenting, and status. Marketing success will always depend on our ability to empathise with people’s needs, hopes, and fears.
And creativity is still king. It’s still the single biggest contributor to marketing effectiveness. And it always will be.
Yes, advertising needs to now use data to create low-cost fast-turnaround branded content that is programmatically narrowcast to nudge specific people along a path to purchase. But advertising can’t just be about this micro contact, it must also be about macro impact.
And the rules for creating macro impact campaigns remain the same. Tap into unchanging motivations in new and different ways. Use emotion to do so. Use broadcast media to reach lots of people. Couple fame with ease of purchase.
It’s not rocket science. It’s not even neuroscience. It’s common sense. So, why are there so few examples of brands doing it well?