How's your NCAA bracket ending up? Hopefully good, unless you're in one of my ESPN bracket groups in which I hope you had Duke going to the Final Four. But if you created a bracket, or are just a college basketball fan, you've probably been watching a lot of TV. And while you've been watching no doubt you've seen notable amounts of advertising from two categories: fast food and insurance.
What's happened in the insurance advertising category over the last eight years is worth noticing. What started with Geico has really pushed Allstate, Progressive, Farmers and State Farm to all do great advertising. Like a good college athletic conference, each school pushes the others to higher performance.
Geico in 2006...
On the contrary, what's happened in the fast food category during this same period is also worth noticing.
There was a time when some of the best advertising was found in fast food. But it's been different recently, hasn't it? Either largley one-dimensional about the food or just not being highly relatable...
We have reached a strange time when insurance advertising is more interesting than fast food advertising.
This is largely because the insurance category is doing three things at a stronger level: using emotive power to change behavior, producing creativity that uniquely links, and tapping into pop culture.
1. Using Emotive Power to Change Behavior.
At a presentation last week, Ipsos ASI showed a chart of the Super Bowl ads that were most re-transmitted online after the game. The takeaway: The higher the emotive power of the ad--Chrysler and VW--the more it was shared and liked. This is important because consumer attention on YouTube is 1.5x higher than on TV.
(Important: Emotion is that which is stirred within and relatable to consumers. Not the emotion of brands themselves.)
Emotion is one of the strongest ways to affect behavior change. And that's what advertising is largely trying to do. Where advertisers get stuck sometimes is that we think we're trying to change attitudes, which is very hard to do. The Ad Contrarian discusses this in the most concise way I've seen. (He wrote a great book... It's free and downloadable.) Some examples he cites:
It's easier to convince you to eat a Big Mac than to convince you that eating a Big Mac is a good thing to do.
It's easier to convince you to go to Las Vegas than to convince you that going to Las Vegas is a wise thing to do.
I think about milk marketing that way: it's easier to convince you that you should always have milk in the house than it is to convince you that good health requires three servings a day.
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith said it well: Faced with the choice of changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
Allstate really gets this. They put forth great emotion to connect and relate to people's worldviews to affect behavior...
2. Producing Creativity That Uniquely Links
According to Ipsos, fifty percent of the time an ad proves ineffective it's because the audience fails to link the advertiser to the advertising. What produces this? The first answer is lousy advertising. If it's not interesting, relevant or intriguing, why should someone pay attention?
But the second reason this happens can be seen in those unfortunate cases when great work is produced but it's not uniquely tied to the brand; people can recall the ad with precision except for who's responsible for it.
Both of these challenges are overcome by good creativity.
Millward Brown, the prominent research firm famous for creating the Awareness Index to measure advertising efficiency, just evaluated a collection of award winning campaigns from the Effies and IPA awards (awarded for sales effectiveness) and Cannes Lions (awarded for creativity) and had this to say at the end of their data analysis of all three award shows:
It has long been known that advertising needs to be underpinned by an appropriate strategy. This analysis adds another factor: branding. It is all very well for an ad to leave vibrant memories, but do these memories link to your brand uniquely?
Branding has nothing to do with repeating the brand name and showing packs; it has everything to do with making the brand the centre of, and the reason for, the creative idea. The Marlboro Cowboy, the Andrex Puppy are excellent examples of well-branded advertising.
Which brings up Progressive and Geico who do a nice job linking the work to the brand in ways that create brand salience in the mind.
A great definition of salience was just explored by Martin on Canalside View which broke it down into five categories of definition:
Prominence - the prominence of the brand in memory relative to its competitors.
Accessibility - the accessibility of memory content relating to the brand.
Associations - the quantity and quality of associations in the mind.
Order - the degree to which the brand comes to mind in buying or consumption occasions.
Familiarity - the ‘size’ of the brand in one’s mind that allows the brand to come forward in response to recall cues.
Martin summed this up nicely by taking "vivid memories" to the next step:
All this reminds us that the real communications goal is not so-called ‘engagement’, but the creation of vivid memories - and their activation in moments of purchase or consumption.
3. Tapping Into Pop Culture
Brands have always had the ability to partake in pop culture through sponsorship and association but it's been difficult to measure. Today, we can apply metrics about how engaging with pop culture events creates an advantage.
For example, in February Buddy Media reported that major brands who posted Super Bowl-related messages on their Facebook pages before the game had 60% greater engagement than posts unrelated to the game.
This is supported by what we see at DC. Whenever we work on social campaigns the content that directly ties the product or service to positive events in pop culture performs three times better in engagement metrics than standard posts.
Planning ahead for pop culture moments, and creating specific work around that, is smart. The most famous example is probably Write the Future, created specifically for the World Cup.
During the NCAA Tournament both State Farm and Allstate created good work just for the event...
By contrast, fast food just ran their regular spots...
In thinking about what makes good and effective advertising, a post years ago might have used fast food as examples throughout.
But it just flowed easily to use insurance instead...