Sure, Digital’s Getting All The Dollars, But No One Remembers The Ads!

Sure, Digital’s Getting All The Dollars, But No One Remembers The Ads!

It’s B&T columnist extraordinaire Robert Strohfeldt to the rescue once again. In today’s piece he argues that adland’s undoubtedly seen a momentous shift to the digital stratosphere, but when it comes to remembering the actual creative, it would appear consumers have all contracted Alzheimer’s…

The research commissioned by Magnum Opus Partners (Think Tank Global), highlights the growing result of the obsession with “Digital First” and the relegation of the message (creative) to a poor second behind media planning and buying.

“57% of Aussies cannot recall an ad they feel positive about” (Compared to past where have traditionally been clear winners).

Stephen Yolland, from MOP, sums it up well:“We also suspect that the big switch of media dollars into online has resulted in a fall in product and brand awareness from the days when the vast majority of media money was spent on TV. Nearly two billion Australian advertising dollars now go into online. That’s a huge switch in advertiser behaviour. Where that growth in online expenditure has replaced expenditure in other mediums, as opposed to supplementing it, there may well have been a fall in both ad and brand standout.”

Online ads might be useful – indeed they are, just as with any medium – but we think these findings suggest that they are pretty much useless in terms of creating brand positivity, as they are nearly always transactional in nature. And frankly, it is very hard to convey emotion in a banner ad or create an emotional connection with it, when all’s said and done.”

Then there is mobile – I subscribe to and most days receive papers and advice on mobile. Mostly they all make sense (though I go through them like most people do with junk mail and decide in a second whether to read or delete) – generally common sense that any person with solid sales experience would agree with. (Though frequently packaged in acronyms and buzz words and phrases to make it appear more complex than it really is.) One issue is rarely, if ever addressed. The average consumer is not just going to receive your well- crafted Push Notifications, In App Messages etc. They will also be getting thousands of others – you are not the only person who wants to use mobile to sell (or I should say market) to them. As with banner ads, the higher the regard for the product or service, the greater the chance of the being the handful that get through. (Out some 13,000 brands the average consumer encounters in just one year).

Highly regarded/desired brands can run effective, simple retail offer advertising (in all forms) as the success of these activities is predicated on a strong brand franchise. The advertising does nothing to enhance the image of the brand. It is simply leveraging a brand image that has already been built. Of course, each element of the 4Ps must be working in harmony to achieve this highly regarded brand image. (Product, Price, Place/Distribution and Promotion) and great advertising is not going to help a poor or overly priced product. (May do more harm than good).

These research results are an early warning sign of the longer consequences of a “digital first” strategy and a world in which media is thought of as the advertising solution, not part of it.

We are continuously told how “everything is different today”. Consumer behaviour will change with shifts in technology, but human behaviour does not. (Convenience and price have always been major drivers. On-line shopping, offers this. But we are social animal and there are also products people will want to see, touch and try before buying, so bricks and mortar will always have a place). Emotion plays a major role in high image products – From long established fashion brands such as Armani to new “uber cool” brands such as Supreme, logic takes a back seat to emotion. If the purchase was based purely on logic, then no one would pay the huge price premiums for products that can be identically produced for a fraction of the cost.

Supermarkets have discovered that many FMGC brands can no longer ask for the price premium over what are essentially house brands. Today, house or generic brands have changed their approach from when they first appeared using names such as “No Frills” in horrible two colour (blue and white) packaging. The idea was to make them look cheap and they succeeded at doing this.

I have mentioned numerous times the propensity of today’s marketers to take a “one size fits all approach”. Many years ago, I ran focus groups for J&B scotch with young, high-achieving males. One respondent from a group of young investment bankers summed up the prevailing attitude with the statement:“If I kick a goal and bring home a girl, I would not have any concern about her seeing “No Frills” orange juice in my fridge, but I would not want her to see “No Frills” after shave in my bathroom.”

This may offend some of today’s politically correct, but nothing has really changed and it demonstrates the difference emotion and image plays in different product categories.

Digital advertising has many advantages, but it also has major weaknesses which rarely, or are ever addressed by the media players. Take the current logic and approach back to the pre-digital era and the media solution for most products would be 1 column x 1 cm ads in newspapers. You could buy them by the truckload and be in front of the target continuously, but what you say and how you can express it would be severely limited.

Mr Yolland was one of the very few people I have heard talk about the restrictive qualities online advertising presents. To put it bluntly, it is a lousy creative canvas in comparison to TV, radio and print. I liken banner ads to outdoor advertising. But great outdoor is more noticeable (and effective) than banner ads. The latter have an average click through rate of 0.06 per cent (lower than the failure rate of birth control) and around 40% of these are due to “fat finger syndrome” i.e. a mistake.

This is not to say online and social do not have important roles to play. But they should be viewed in the context of the type of product category and how they best fit into an integrated campaign, making use of their strengths and utilising alternatives to cover their weaknesses.

Ironic. Advertising is evolving to a point where the ads themselves are just an after- thought. Not particularly important or relevant – Unfortunately it is the consumer telling us this.


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Designworks Robert Strohfeldt

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