It’s not often you’re walking the streets, tunnels or malls of Hong Kong and your head is turned by a striking piece of advertising.
Alas, perhaps it was typhoon Mangkhut or Autumn’s arrival, but does the tide appear to be turning?
I saw two such pieces this week, though I only got a photo of one due to the other being behind a speeding MTR train. Really solid stuff. And it made me think. About something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. So you could say I was thinking about thinking.
And then I thought, I should write about this.
And here I am.
So here it is: Why on earth, when we know and data shows that single benefit advertising is more profitable, more breakthrough and results in far higher consumer recall, do 99% of ads not stick to the rule"?
This was even the case when I worked in an agency. 9/10 briefs featured 4-8 benefits to be covered in one advertisement.
It’s just plain madness.
We often hark back to the ‘Golden Age of Advertising’, when good work was the norm not the exception. It was founded on a pretty simple premise: simplicity. Industry had a product but didn’t know how to sell it. Ad men found a benefit and then sold it beautifully.
Mad Men we are not. But we do appear to have all gone mad.
If you ask a creative team to write a TV ad that sells cereal and the single benefit is ‘crispy’, they can go crazy. And the customer is going to remember that ad for one thing: crispy. Talk about nailing your marketing objective.
The problem is these days, it’s not always about the marketing. Corporations are so complex, projects have so many stakeholders, that the effectiveness of the advertising comes second to the idea of pleasing everyone internally.
The product team need the ad to talk about how the cereal comes with 5 vitamins and Omega Fish Oil.
The sales team want it to include a discount and mention the free toy promotion.
The board feel the ad should also promote a sense of ‘community’.
The marketing team want it to talk about ‘crispy’. And now, unfortunately, all of the above.
What’s that ad gonna look like?
Just take a look around Hong Kong and you’ll see it everywhere.
You’ll see it, then forget it instantly, because there’s nothing there worth remembering. Because we only recall ads with a single benefit.
Who’s to blame? Nobody. And everybody.
Agencies don’t do a good enough job of showing clients how effective single benefit advertising is.
Corporations don’t do a good enough job of insulating marketing departments from outside pressure, or of simply insisting on effective, proven advertising methods.
Because let’s be honest, who can blame a marketing person with a mortgage and 2 kids for stuffing an ad with everything good their company has to offer, and pleasing everyone who holds a stake in it? If the ad goes wrong, they did everything they were asked.
If they hold to a single benefit, ignore and anger all the stakeholders, and the creative doesn’t turn out as expected - they’ll be clinging to their job.
It’s a problem that’s not easily solved.
So there I was, thinking about how I need to write about this. Because I came across two ads that made me stop and admire them. Not because they’re award-winning - because who cares - but because they are advertising done right. And that is a rarity. These days.