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Where have all the good Ads gone?

Internationally advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry with revenues generated from advertising in 2016 having exceeded $490 billion. This makes it a major contributor to global GDP. Advertising is essentially a creative thing and as such, what appeals to one person may not appeal to another, but the rule of majorities must apply. In order for an advert to work it must appeal to a specific sector of the audience. Take fast food for example, it should appeal to everyone who indulges in this type of meal. Women’s sanitary products on the other hand, will clearly not appeal to the male section of the populace.

So, what is it that makes advertising appealing? That is possibly the most asked advertising in agencies around the world and something which creatives constantly grapple with. When they get it right, it looks so easy and other agencies all look at the result and think ‘We could have done that!’ or ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’ When they don’t, the reaction is quite vociferous and the campaign fails.

Some may say this is due to the instant world we live in where people want everything ten minutes ago, or sooner. Where reactions to products are ‘aired’ quickly, decisively and without pulling punches. If people/customers don’t like something they will tell you – in no uncertain terms. They are also not tolerant with mediocre messages. Much has been written in publications in recent months regarding the quality of advertising as well as the reaction of audiences to what they consider sub-standard advertising. It may just be that audiences are too demanding but it could also be that the standard of advertising in general has dropped.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal in June of last year Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo was quoted at the Cannes Lions advertising festival as saying, ‘We are here celebrating 0.5 per cent of the work that actually gets made. The other 99.5 per cent of the work is generally crap. And when that happens, consumers don’t want to see it.’

He also said that with the rise of digital advertising and the 30-second TV ad feeling more like a relic of a bygone era, brands feel compelled to churn out hundreds of pieces of work. But that is reducing the quality of the marketing and creating a ‘digital landfill’ of ‘crap content that gets produced quickly and cheaply and doesn’t connect to the brand’s narrative’.

The result is that advertising must talk to its audience. This requires that the marketing people within the client organisation must know their brand, what it is about, what it does, where it comes from, where it is going and most importantly what it wants to achieve. It could be as simple as increased sales, or it could be far more complex. Simply, they must know their brand. Thereafter they must be able to explain that brand to their chosen agency in such a way that the agency feels the buy-in. Not simply does the work in order to get paid, but actually lives the experience.

If all of this occurs, the chances of a good advert being created are greatly increased. However, it is still up to the creatives to come up with the concept which conveys the message in a way which is attractive to the target audience. Here too, there seems to be a disconnect. Depending on your age, think back to the adverts you saw on Television or at the Movies when you were a kid. To quote a forbidden subject, think of the Marlboro adverts of yesteryear. Irrespective of whether you smoked or not, those adverts were emotive, they made you want to live that lifestyle.

I am fortunate enough to have lived overseas for a period and think back on the Heineken adverts of long ago, they were funny, attention grabbing and created a connection with the audience. Whether I drink Heineken or not is immaterial, the brand awareness was created at a young age. In the local market, think back to the Nandos adverts. They were outstanding and got you laughing and even thinking. I remember sitting in a cinema in Durban watching the award-winning adverts from that year and being in awe of the sheer creativity.

So, what is the point of all of this? Personally, and even in the mind of Mr Jakeman, (reading between the lines a bit) too much emphasis is placed on winning awards or ensuring that the client can be presented with sufficient invoices rather than finding the right solution to make the brand appealing to its chosen market.

People in general may be too jaded and not in the mood for advertising on the whole – think of the tendency to ‘Zap’ adverts in streamed content rather than sit through the whole thing – all 30 seconds of it. However, if you want your advertising to win through, you will have to make it something which grabs their attention. The advert does not have to be a full feature length epic, but it should be relevant, entertaining, pertinent. Politically correct is one thing but when it comes at the expense of the real value of the advert, that is a step too far. Poking fun at political correctness is another way of getting the desired result.

Let’s get back to the situation where adverts are more than an irritation and become the occasional bit of fun. This way, you justify your existence in a much more meaningful way than merely being presented with another award – the value of which you cannot really determine. Do something which makes your customer look at you with appreciation and which elevates your customer in the eyes of his audience.

To misquote a well-know song ‘Its raining ads – where have all the good ads gone?’

Article by Mark Norris

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