2009’s Most Effective Ads. As a resolute champion of delivering measurable and actionable results, that headline in Adweek caught my attention. Unfortunately, the story didn’t hold up to the promise of its headline. Rather than offering a new and better way to measure TV advertising effectiveness, it only raised the same old question about just what is an effective ad after all?
If you read the comments from readers, the results of this study clearly rankled the creative purists. And for good reason. The Rubbermaid spot deemed most effective in this study simply isn’t very “creative.” Raising the age old question, are “creative” ads necessarily effective and can a “non-creative” ad still be effective?
Above all, advertising must be effective. But No ad is a silver bullet that delivers the goals of a Brand on its own. Effectiveness can not be measured in a vacuum; it must be measured based on the goals and objectives for the product advertised. Ace Metrix, the syndicated commercial tester who provided the study results, tells us the Rubbermaid spot measured well in their persuasion and watchability algorithms, but compared to what? Just because it is more favorable by Ace’s measures than the other spots measured doesn’t necessarily mean it was successful for the Brand. What were the Brands goals for this TV spot going in? What was their expectation for the TV spot’s contribution to the overall success of the campaign? What other media and tactics did the Brand employ and how did the TV campaign support and enhnace those tactics? Most importantly, did this spot drive consumers to action?
The Rubbermaid, VP Marketing, tells us it was engaging and compelling. So by compelling can we assume it drove sales? Or perhaps it drove another action, to wit, did it drive consumers to the online coupons offered in the ad? Or was Brand awareness all they expected to achieve? If so, what effect did awareness from the spot have on other tactics to help drive consumer action? How did results compare to past efforts/benchmarks? We don’t know from this article, but it appears the study design is missing some critical measures to determine the ad’s true effectiveness, much less anything approaching ROI.
As for creativity, you bet it’s important. Subjectively, based on my 20+ years experience, the Rubbermaid spot is really boring. And it didn’t need to be. The product seems to be really a good solution to a problem many of us have experienced with other storage containers; but the demo is just plain clumsy — it’s not funny or dramatic. It’s dull. So I have to ask, did the strength of the product itself drive the persuasion? And therefore, could this spot have been even more effective had it be more entertaining or engaging? Can better creative lead to greater consumer involvement? My gut tells me, we as an industry can/should do better than the Rubbermaid spot in this article to help drive stronger, more actionable results.
So what is an effective ad after all? How you integrate media tactics with your entire marketing mix is critical to optimizing the effectiveness of any ad. So set your goals, identify metrics and integrate all media and marketing tactics to motivate the specific action you intend. Then measure each ad in the context of its contribution to the overall mix. Not in a vacuum.