Ad effectiveness: five lessons from the Godfathers

ThinkTV's Steve Weaver reflects on what he learned after meeting legendary adman Les Binet, the head of effectiveness at London's Adam & Eve DDB. Full article available on Mumbrella and for a full summary of Binet's Keynote at the 2018 Australian Agency Leaders Symposium, you can download the slides on the ThinkTV website here.

Five top lessons from the“Godfathers of Effectiveness”.

1. It’s all about reach

Did I mention that already?

Yes, embrace as much new ad tech as you want but always be asking yourself, how can I reach as many people as possible? As Les puts it: “The most effective marketing strategies talk to everybody. Marketing is a numbers game.” Or, as Byron Sharp from world-renowned Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has proved repeatedly, to grow your brand you have to reach both buyers and non-buyers. It can’t be said enough.

2. Boost your share of voice

When I was younger, I used to use this as a clever ruse to get more ad dollars until I realised it actually worked. Les and Peter’s evidence makes it very apparent brands that grow ensure their share of voice is equal to – or larger than – their share of market. So, next time an agency says “increase your share of voice”, take note.

3. Look to the long-term

My time at Millward Brown, and with Nielsen BASES in new product forecasting reinforced the importance of brand building for long-term brand success.

Les and Peter’s current crusade is against the unfortunate shift to short-termism in marketing. The switch has been driven in large by big data and by data-literate CFOs craving a direct cause and effect between marketing activity and sales. Les, Peter and others show that this approach is the highway to brand commoditisation hell.

Too many advertisers are hooked on the retail advertising drug, locked in a price war with their rivals that never ends. It’s great for publishers but bad for brand managers because consumers only differentiate on price.

Les and Peter’s data demonstrate brands have the greatest opportunity to win in the long-term if managers choose the right split of media investment between warm fuzzy brand building and sales activation. The duo plumbed the UK’s IPA Databank from 2004-2016 and found that the optimum ratio is typically 60% brand, to 40% activation.

But there’s a twist. Because the digital revolution has given brands direct channels to conversion, they now say brand building is becoming even more important, not less: the ratio in the more recent years of the study rose to 75% brand and 25% activation. 

4. Creative consistency across inventory

The crew at Neuro-Insight have shown me time and time again that creative elements at heightened levels of engagement, used repeatedly across various campaigns, extend brand memory and messaging, especially video. Les and Peter’s research shows the same. “Smart marketers and advertisers use TV and online video together because they work in synergy,” says Les.

Sounds so obvious, but many advertisers fail to link their retail messaging back to the creative elements of their brand campaigns. As I see it, every execution, retail or otherwise is an opportunity to get your brand out there, and it pays to have consistent creative and messaging across multiple platforms.

5. Video builds brands

If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video paints a thousand pictures.

Brand building is so important because 99% of advertising is not viewed at the time of purchase. You need to have already made an emotional connection, conscious or sub-conscious, so that your consumer is more likely to be mentally available when they are physically available to buy. And the medium that does emotion best? Video.

The great work that Professor Karen Nelson-Field has done on this, commissioned by ThinkTV, demonstrates that video is best at providing that memory in a lasting manner. But it also shows that not all video platforms are equal.

Ads watched in a TV content feed, viewed on any screen, not only generate a greater immediate sales impact than ads watched on YouTube or Facebook, but they also continue to generate a greater sales impact long after Facebook and YouTube advertising memories have completely faded. That does not mean put all your money in TV – broadcast or BVOD – of course. As with brand building and activation, it’s all about striking the sweetest balance.

Indeed, as he was wrapping up his presentation, a journalist asked Les where he would spend his money if he was a brand manager. He thought for a moment then said: “If I had a big budget to spend on a marketing campaign I’d probably spend it on TV and paid search, because TV is the best brand medium and paid search is the best activation medium.”

It’s a powerful combination that we’ve already thought about at ThinkTV and an area where we may have some interesting insights of our own to talk about down the track.