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September 6, 2010Does an advert have to be good to be effective?

What makes an effective ad campaign — and can these principles be applied to social media?

It’s impossible to avoid being bombarded with advertising in London. As a copywriter working in London, it’s even harder to not stop and take notice. Like a surgeon holding his knife like a scalpel and listlessly cutting into his Sunday roast, it’s hard for a copywriter to avoid dissecting other people’s work.

I see thousands of posters every morning. Sometimes the copy is good, sometimes it’s very bad. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes it’s long. Sometimes, I’m only looking at an idea, three words, and a very good design. Whatever the ad, I judge it by the simplest and most obvious criterion: how memorable is it?

Is being memorable the sign of good advertising?

Take this advert for example: it’s a simple, almost simplistic poster ad advertising boohoo.com, an online clothes store:

I think it’s effective. Why? Because it’s simple, memorable and innovative.

Whether or not you agree the use of ‘OMG’ should ever cross over from the internet, whether or not you like the kooky smile on the face of the model, whether or not you like the poster’s basic design… it’s memorable.

So I’ve always imagined it’s a good advert. But I was on my way out with two girls in their early 20s last night and on seeing the poster they struck up a conversation. They both hated the ad. They thought it looked cheap and tacky and made the clothes look rubbish. They both claimed they ‘wouldn’t be seen dead in anything like that.’

‘Maybe you’re not the target market,’ I suggested. ‘Perhaps you’d be happier in a boutique or shopping at Selfridge’s.’

‘But we are,’ they both argued: they both bought clothes online. So was the ad a failure?

I waited five minutes until the conversation moved on a little. ‘That ad,’ I said. ‘Can either of you remember what it was for?’

‘Boohoo.com!’ they both said in unison. Then one of them added ‘boohoo I bought those awful clothes!’ They both laughed.

But by my standard judgement — is it memorable? the advert was clearly effective.

Conversion or conversation? Which is the better metric?

It’s easier to judge effectiveness once you’re on the web. You can see exactly how many people visit your site, you can work out how many of them buy your products — in short, you can see how many people your site is converting. You can do the same thing in real life with sales figures, but let’s stick to the web for a moment.

It’s said that social media is all about conversation. Well, I just gave you an example of a real life conversation that didn’t involve Twitter or a Facebook Wall — conversation the old fashioned way. Yet it didn’t apparently result in a conversion. So what’s the benefit?

Well, clearly the two girls remembered the name of the site. That may make them more likely to visit it anyway, even if they don’t like the ad campaign. Moreover, the old maxim — there’s no such thing as bad publicity generally holds true. Getting people talking about your brand, increasing brand awareness, is almost always a good thing. The more people talking about you, the more advertising you’re getting for free.

Conclusion: conversation can be measured.

It’s a bit of a buzz-word, but ‘buzz monitoring’ is much more possible now in the era of social media. Whereas before companies had to guess how effective their word of mouth campaigns were being, now you can see online who’s talking about you on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The important thing to remember is that conversations don’t necessarily have a direct or rapid impact on your conversion rate. The fact that people are talking about you is (unless your ad is disastrously bad) almost always good. And even then, it can be-so-bad-it’s-good. The point is it gets people talking. The boohoo.com ad sticks in people’s minds and gets them talking, therefore by my definition, it’s a good ad.

It’s a rule of thumb that holds true 90% of the time: the bigger the brand, the more it sells. Creating conversation, therefore, is always valuable.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 6th, 2010 at 10:59 am and is filed under Advertising, Blog, Branding, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment

  1. kristin says:

    My husband and I had a similar conversation this weekend.

    An ad for a office supply store came on the television. The long & short of the commercial was that it was back to school time and the mom saved a bunch of money buying her two sons back to school supplies so she was able to buy “new sons” for her moving business Someone and Son’s Moving. The two news sons were big beefy men and the “old” sons were two teenagers.

    I don’t normal laugh at commercials but I did at this one because it was so lame. We got into a conversation about whether or not it was effective. He argued it wasn’t – I thought it was. We were talking about it and said the name of the store about 10 times during the conversation. To me – that is the success. Good commercial or not, we were talking about it.

    Thank you for all your posts. I get excited when I see them in my reader. You always give me something to think about and I love the tone of your writing.

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