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Play it Long

In Super Bowl week, the oft-maligned TV ad is still as relevant as ever

The Blogfather takes the fight to short-termism, an AI bot named Lucy, and rallies with the likes of Ritson, Binet & Field, and Hoffman to champion the TV Ad.

So here we are, four weeks into the New Year. We’ve seen off the most depressing day of the year, the first pay day has come around, and there is already a bit more stretch to the evenings, so all should start to seem bright and perky. 

Has much changed to date? Not really. Brexit is still a shambles, Trump’s still Trump, and another major brand has dived off the top step of its benefit ladder with a homemade rocket of self-importance up its arse in search of its raison d'être, trying to make the world a better place.

But the fact that not much has changed is no surprise, even leaving my innate cynicism aside. Bill Bernbach famously spoke of the unchanging man, and things tend to change at a slower rate than any fad chasing spiv would have you think. 

Looking back to any marketing prediction blog from 2-3 years ago would be awash with AI as being the next big thing. If you want an idea of where, in reality, AI actually is, it’s summed up succinctly by this pearler of a convo I had with an AI bot called Lucy recently.

...and another major brand (P&G) has dived off the top step of its benefit ladder with a homemade rocket of self-importance up its arse

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Deus Ex Machina it ain’t.

Yet we live in a time where people want instant gratification and quick results more than ever, and this is certainly true in marketing and advertising. Short termism is rife. There’s much talk of the old, traditional ways of marketing, such as TV, being dead; most famously from the mouth of Gary Vaynerchuk. Despite the best efforts and great work of the likes of Binet & Field, Mark Ritson and Bob Hoffman, it seems to only be spreading. 

To focus on the medium, the tactic, is the wrong starting place entirely to begin with. The lines between traditional and modern, between digital and non-digital are blurred. Waterstones have a section of books dedicated entirely to YouTubers. Are any TV sets in operation today not ‘digital’?

By way of a counter point, a King Cnut against the tide of short-termism if you will, is this great sketch from Jono Hey (I highly recommend you subscribe to the sharing of his work).

To focus on the medium, the tactic, is the wrong starting place entirely to begin with.

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We highly recommend you subscribe to the sharing of Jono's work

“Small changes lead to big changes over time”. This could quite easily be a new mantra for marketing. Your average C-suite may not like to hear it, but change could take years. Most of them probably don’t have a marketing strategy that extends beyond 12 months.

We need to consider the long term. Binet & Field’s recent new body of work; Media in Focus – Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era builds on the great work done previously in 2013’s The Long and the Short of It. It re-emphasises the importance of the 60/40 budget split in marketing and advertising in delivering sales growth; 60% long term brand building and 40% short term activation. 

What is the lynchpin tactic for long term brand building? It has to be the TV advert. Binet & Field’s work is replete with case studies on the likes of John Lewis and the AA that conveys the value of long term brand building, within which TV commercials is intrinsic.

Mark Ritson, in a blog at the back end of 2018, states there should almost be a third plane; ‘the long, long of it’, to convey how brand building can happen across years, decades even. 

His blog also references the BBH Labs World Cup of Advertising. The vast majority of the ads in the line-up, compiled off the back of tonnes of research from Tom Roach, first aired years ago.

What current ads will be remembered 10 years from now? It’s unlikely to be the new ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ Gillette ad, at least not in a positive way, even though it has got a lot of coverage and comment recently. In what is a bizarre form of public, brand self-flagellation, Gillette has seemingly taken a good look at itself in the mirror (after a shave with its own, dirty, naughty razor, presumably), not liked what it has seen, and decided an advert on toxic masculinity is the only way to repent.

Bob Hoffman sums this ad up best, in his usual no-nonsense way; “You want to prove you’re committed to doing good in the world? Spare us your sermons and pay your fucking taxes.”

Gillette have been accused of a very conceited virtue signalling, which is very hard for them to deny, and probably accounts for my toes curling when I watch it. TV ads works best when they are not trying to change the world, and there is some very positive signalling around this, something I’ve blogged on before.

I’ll be lazy for a paragraph and paraphrase part of my old signalling blog:

It’s becoming increasingly prevalent in to hear people refer to TV advertising as a waste of time and money, but it is that very “waste” which could be the most important part; the perceived extravagance of an advertisement contributes to its effectiveness by increasing credibility, and strengthening perceptions of brand quality. And, as Rory Sutherland states, brand reputation is a proxy for trust-worthiness; “It is like a race horse owner betting heavily on his own horse. Why would it be rational to disregard valuable information of that kind?”

One stick oft used to beat TV ads is that of ROI, and measuring it. Mark Ritson’s most recent blog makes the great point that revenue is a rubbish way to measure success for most ad campaigns. Where do you even start, and then stop measuring the success, for a start?

There is a reason why brands fight to secure the best ad slots around the Super Bowl this coming Sunday, for millions and millions of dollars. It will be interesting to see what adverts land.

Hopefully there will be some great ads, like this one that came to my attention via the BBH World Cup of Ads that I’ll leave you with. If a better ad exists that sums up Brand Signalling, literally and superbly, I’m yet to find it:

Further perusing suggestion: We do like to share interesting bits to read at Gasp. The BBH Labs World Cup of advertising also crowned a winner for the best book on advertising, which was Richard Shotton’s ruddy bloody amazing The Choice Factory. If you want to know more around signalling, behavioural biases and all that good stuff, then you’d be Gillette-style nuts not to get your hands on a copy. Also, we are off-the-chart excited to announce that Richard will be the first guest on the all new Call to Action Gasp podcast…more to follow on that! Stay tuned, folks.

 


 

If the Blogfather’s forthright opinion and pithy wit is to your liking, then click here, and we can keep you connected, if you know what we mean (what we actually mean is that we will send you an email to notify you every time he writes a new one, nothing heavy is going down).

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28/01/2019

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