Opinion

Did you see that ad?

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Jimmy Ashworth

Here come the Olympic Games and all its splashy advertising.  Large-scale efforts, like P&G's "Thank you, Mom" campaign featuring athletes, already are airing.  And every major sporting event is trying to showcase similarly memorable work. I still recall the FedEx commercial featuring a 30-second test pattern, followed with the message, “Hey, we spent all this money on a Super Bowl spot but didn’t use FedEx and our delivery was late.” Perfect.

So why isn't all advertising as compelling every day? I mean the kind of ads people will talk about around the water cooler. Why isn’t every piece of communications as engaging, inspirational and creative? Big-time events may have super-sized media prices: $5 million for 60 seconds, but it doesn’t cost much to come up with a great idea. The FedEx spot was on brand, effective and entertaining. The budget for producing it? A test pattern.

But not all the work at these huge events is that great. Why not? Why don’t more breakthrough ideas see the light of day?

Sometimes it is a case of trying to do too much; companies trying to shoehorn everything into just one ad.  It's easy to get caught in the, “I want to talk about this one particular benefit, or I want to say there’s a sale on tomorrow."  But what does the customer want to hear?  Are you speaking to them or at them? Have you rewarded them for the time you’ve stolen from them?

Everything you do, whether it’s a TV spot, print ad or banner ad, is overall branding for your company and reflects your personality. By doing work that isn’t engaging, are you doing a disservice to your brand? Are you wasting not just your consumers’ time, but are you wasting your advertising dollars’ potential?

Advertising is in the business of solving problems in a unique way. You start with an understanding of your brand and its value in the marketplace. You consider the target audience, determining who it really is and what is important to them about your product or service.

In some ways, having a limited budget can be of benefit, because with finite funds, you face the challenge of creating an impact and making a difference going up against, well, a Goliath. And that brings about a certain focus fast.

How can your company get started? Here are four questions to consider:

How can you make your ads stand out?

Ask yourself, “Is what we’re saying going to define us a bit more or be relevant to consumers? Have we told our story in an interesting way that differentiates us from our competition?”

Understand the message from your customer's standpoint — and how your brand and values align with them. Addressing this up front will result in a more creative expression and a better connection to your audience. Be yourself. Warts and all. People relate to people, not products or corporations.

How can you be more creative with advertising?

Use strategy and brand insight to really dig deep. Ideally, you have to uncover something that catches the imagination and also connects to the product in a way that is relevant to the consumer. Just don’t bore them.

How important is the strategy behind the creative?

It’s no longer enough to say your target audience is women ages 45 to 54. Doing the legwork and figuring out what some tension points are is important.  Ask yourself what factors could make a difference in customers’ lives.  That’s critical to getting to the right creative.

What’s the future of advertising in general, and your brand in particular?

You’ve got to be true to your brand while also respecting the consumer. Today, it’s hard to keep up with the changes in the media and the delivery of the message, not to mention the ever-changing generational perspectives on advertising.

These days, people don’t have to watch advertising; they can turn it off or hit fast forward and refuse to engage with it. In the future, brands need to do a better job, not just with content, but how they deliver it, so it’s not intrusive and consumers actually want to engage.

Be part of the conversation, not just background noise. If you keep this in mind, they’ll reward you at the water cooler and at the register.

Ashworth is executive creative director at ndp in Richmond. He can be reached at jashworth@ndp.agency.




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