What makes a great ad – and what doesn’t

What makes a great ad - and what doesn't

My friend, collaborator and all around word goddess @getnance sent me an ad. A great ad which got me thinking about why so much advertising isn’t so great…

Lazy advertising really bugs me, and I doubt very much I’m alone. At times (seems like more often lately), I’m called on to comment when the Australian Ad Standards Board comes down on a company for offensive or inappropriate advertising.

Sometimes, it’s a case of “are we being a bit too sensitive”, but there are also times when I can see the point being made by those complaining and underneath that sits what I think of as lazy advertising. This often manifests in the cheap shot, the “funny” situation (usually involving making fun of someone).

And that’s not even taking into account the ones that fall outside of the standards board’s jurisdiction (at least until they add some categories) – the unimaginative, uninspired and just plain “why did they bother” bad ads.

I’m not tackling the increasingly complex advertising landscape – that’s a blog for another time. Today I’m talking content and in that sense what’s true for a print ad is just as true for an online ad. What’s true for a TV ad is just as true for the same ad on YouTube or streaming on a website.

Advertising done well has the power to inspire and enthral. It can make you think. Give you hope. Make you laugh (and cry). And yes it can sell you things. It can be an instrument of captivation or detachment. But why try and describe what you can easily see and feel for yourselves.

I think we’re all too familiar with the worst, so you could say the below are examples of what I’d call the better angels of advertising.

And to get things started is the ad that inspired this post that was sent to me by my friend, collaborator and all around word goddess @getnance:

OK, now keep that smile on your face and consider for a minute how differently it could have been handled. How other insurance ads are often done. And yet with nothing broken, flooded or stolen the company deftly demonstrates the value of their product and what they care about.

Heartstrings are effective. But you can also connect to funny bones. This one uses a totally different approach. It has been around for a while. Irreverent, pretty funny and has been watched by over 20 million people on YouTube.

And last in my catalogue of examples is one with a social message from the most recent Super Bowl (that bastion of ads that try too hard and too often fail). This one gave me goose bumps the first time I saw it and nearly every time since by putting me squarely in the middle of what’s going on. No people or swelling music needed.

Whether they are selling home insurance, shaving gear or social awareness doesn’t matter. These are great ads. Not because they had huge budgets, snazzy special effects or an amazing offer. They are successful because they know what they care about and find a way to make that visible and tangible in an unexpected way.

They weren’t afraid to use emotion. They aligned the message they wanted to get across with the way they told each story. Kevin Roberts the global CEO of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi captured this thought in a speech he gave over a decade ago:

“We are experiencing a shift from transactions to relationships. From the rational to the emotional. From information to meaning and context…”

He was talking about his idea for the evolution of brand into “lovemarks”; and while I don’t agree we need a new version of anything, the idea he was touching on seems more right as time goes on. Or to use an anonymous quote “People will forget what you say. People will forget what you do. People will never forget the way you make them feel.”

Last week I talked about the super power of “being the customer” that business has but doesn’t use. And here is another one that any business can use and should expect their advertising agencies to help them use.

Take the time to figure out what you care about and put that at the heart of what you’re selling and how you sell it. Don’t be afraid of it because it will help me care about it too. And when that happens the likelihood that I’ll buy from you just went way up.

See you next week.

Get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at [email protected] This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Michel is an Independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.

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