Is it Time to Get Back to Basics with Retail TV Advertising?

August 27, 2009

Picture for Post #16With TV viewership at an all time high, how can it be that many retailers believe that TV advertising doesn’t work as well as it once did? 

Among the plethora of reasons why, I want to offer you perhaps the most obvious reason, yet arguably the most overlooked one: Ineffective TV commercials.

What you have today are too many ad agencies spending too much time worrying about entertaining consumers, and far too little time trying to sell them.

David Ogilvy, the founder of one of the world’s largest and most successful ad agencies (Ogilvy & Mather), once said this about retail advertising:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

Ogilvy backed up this statement with thoughtful insights on what made for effective retail TV advertising.  

Here’s just a sample of what he had to say, verbatim …

1)     Brand I.D.  Research has demonstrated that a shocking percentage of viewers remember your commercial, but forget the name of your product. All too often they attribute your commercial to a competing brand.  Many copywriters think it crass to belabor the name of the product.  However, for the benefit of those who are more interested in selling than entertaining – use the product name within the first 10-seconds of a commercial.  

2)     Open with fire.  You have 30 seconds.  If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer.

3)     Voice-over or on camera? Research shows that it is more difficult to hold your audience if you use a voice-over. It is better to have the actors talk on camera.

4)     Supers. It pays to reinforce your promise by setting it in type and superimposing it on the film or video, while the soundtrack speaks the words. But make sure that the words in the supers are exactly the same as your spoken words. Any divergence confuses the viewer.

5)     Changes of scene.  Not many people can view numerous scenes without confusing them. I can’t, and I bet you can’t either. On average, commercials with a lot of scenes (cuts) are below average in changing brand preference.

6)     Miscomprehension. In 1979 Professor Jacoby of Purdue University studied the ‘miscomprehension’ of 25 typical commercials. He found that all of them were miscomprehended, some by as many as 40% of viewers, none by fewer of 19%. If you want to avoid your television commercials being misunderstood, you had better make them crystal clear.

Do I agree with everything Ogilvy professed 25 years ago?  Of course not. Do I think that a lot of what he had to say still makes good retail advertising sense today?  You bet I do. 

And this conviction becomes stronger with every passing commercial break – where I’m often entertained, but rarely sold.

(Source: Ogilvy on Advertising)


Retail TV and Online Advertising Work Better Together

August 25, 2009

For the first time, the effectiveness of using TV and online advertising in tandem has been examined in depth.  A pioneering new study conducted by Q Media Research in the UK has shown that using TV and online together is significantly more effective for advertisers than using either in isolation. 

The study concluded that using the two media together does provide a very powerful combination across the whole process … from telling consumers about a brand they never heard of before … to helping them decide on which brands are more relevant to them.

Although it’s not always the case, the relationship does tend to flow from TV to online with TV sparking initial interest, awareness and “talkability” about a brand.   With online providing consumers with the additional information they need to aid in decision making and purchase.

This particular combination is very powerful in raising purchase consideration with retail TV advertising generally starting the process and online completing it.

 Other key findings from the study include:

  •  Using TV advertising and online together results in 47% more positive feelings about a brand than using either in isolation. 
  • The likelihood of buying or using a product increases by more than 50% when TV and online are used together. 
  • 48% of the sample group of 3,000 respondents watched TV while online, most days. Going online was second only to eating for activities that people do while the TV is on. 
  • The findings reinforce the need to ensure creative synergy between TV and online advertising:
    • TV and Online campaigns need to have a consistent theme/message.
    • The strength of each media needs to be maximized (TV for excitement and impact. Online for interaction and personalized engagement).
    • There needs to be a high level of visual synergy between the two mediums.
    • Rather than use online as a reach medium, it should be used to target those who have already seen the TV advertising as a way of extending the campaign message.

Graph for Post #15

Guy Phillipson, CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, had this to say:

“This important study delivers clear evidence of just how powerful and effective the TV and online combination is. In all the categories we tested, the results were very positive for both ‘soft’ brand measures and ‘hard’ purchase intent scores.”

Click here to read entire study.



Retail TV Advertising: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t work.”

August 22, 2009

1960-Philco-TV-AdAs an ad agency owner, it never ceases to amaze me on what makes this business tick. In light of the worst economy in 60 years, logic would say that agencies should be pitching their ability to make the cash register ring.

Instead, any talk about getting customers through the door is obligatory at best with a lot of agencies. Why talk about results when you can drone on and on about your agency’s “award winning” TV commercials? After all, it’s how many awards an agency wins that separates one shop from next. Right?

Who’s kidding who, it’s a lot easier for agency people to wax philosophical on their “break through creative” (the most over-wrought words in advertising) than to defend their work through the prism of increased market share and higher comparative sales.

Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues have forgotten the golden rule in retail advertising:

“It’s not creative if it doesn’t work.”

And even more prefer the easy way out through the creation of advertising that “tells not sells.” You know, the kind of commercials that spend 22 seconds setting up the joke and the last 8 seconds poorly selling the product.

So the next time, you’re ad agency is enthusiastically trying to sell you on another “award winning” television campaign. Keep them honest and ask four simple questions:

  1. What is the strategy behind what you’re proposing? (Note: “because it’s such a cool idea” is not a strategy.)
  2. Why is this campaign the best use of my advertising dollars?
  3. Is there anything else we could do that would deliver a better ROI?
  4. Will this campaign increase awareness or sales? (Note: awareness is hard to measure; sales are not.)

Then, just sit back and get ready for the show; along with developing all those award-winning commercials – many agencies have become quite adept at the lost art of tap dancing.


A Checklist for Better Retail TV Advertising

August 19, 2009

Fact: Nobody woke up this morning waiting to see your TV commercial.

Challenge: With thousands of messages fighting every day for consumers’ attention, why should they pay attention to yours? 

checklistThe Checklist

1)     Is your commercial “benefit” driven?

  • Your commercial must provide consumers with “real” benefits.  Hint: “Family owned and operated” is not one, nor are uncorroborated claims like “We won’t be undersold.”
  • Remember it’s not what you want to say, but what your customers want to hear that’s important.

 2)     Does your commercial help differentiate your business from the competition?

  • If you’re not unique on some dimension, you’re just a commodity. And commodities live and die on price only.
  • Blending in will kill your margins and eventually your business model.  Standing out ensures survival.

 3)     Is your commercial relevant to your target audience? 

  • TV advertising is not fairy dust … it can’t sell a product or service that consumers don’t want at prices they’re not willing to pay. TV advertising guarantees an audience – not success.

 4)     Is your commercial focused?

  • All display is no display.
  • When possible, boil the message down to one or two points of distinction.
  • A good commercial is designed to engage and persuade, not serve as an owner’s manual.

 5)     Does your commercial support your brand position?

  • Your commercial should reinforce the way you want consumers to think and feel about your brand.
  • It’s not always what you say, but how you say it (tone & manner) that often separates retail brands.

 6)     Does your commercial move prospects to the next level?

  • If it doesn’t then you don’t have a retail commercial, period.
  • Decide what action you want prospects to take (call for an appointment, visit your website, shop your stores, etc.) and develop your commercial with that focus in mind.


3 Basic Elements to an Effective Retail TV Commercial

August 14, 2009

TV Call To Action for Post #8TV advertising can be the most effective form of advertising you can use to grow your retail chain – or it can be colossal waste of money.  

You decide. 

Don’t depend on your ad agency to tell you.  A lot of them are too busy winning awards with your money to worry about what’s effective or not. 

 It’s up to you to know the difference between commercials that win acclaim and those that win customers.  

 To help out, here’s s are some basic (but essential) elements that every retail TV commercial should possess.

 1)      Call to Action:  Why advertise if you’re not providing consumers with tangible reasons to shop your store?  The key word here is tangible. Stay away from generic platitudes like “low prices” and “great selection.”  Or other obvious claims like the one I saw the other day for a fence company, where they proudly advertised: “We build dependable fences.” As if there was a market out there for undependable ones.   

 2)      A Brand Promise:  A lot of retailers (and some ad agencies) think that a strong call to action and a branding message don’t mix well in a 15 or 30-second TV commercial – you have to choose one or another.  On the contrary, it’s only when both the brand promise and the offer coexist, that you have the makings for an effective TV commercial.  Would you rather have a .99 cent hamburger from a no name burger joint or a .99 cent Big Mac from one of the most recognizable brand names in the world?  Without a brand promise, your price and item commercial will fall flat.

 3)      Consistency:  Al Ries, probably the nation’s foremost authority on retail marketing said it best:

“Brand building is boring work. What works best is absolute consistency over an extended period of time.”

Find something that works and stick with it. Just ask BMW who has stayed the course since 1975 with “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.  Or how about Maxwell House Coffee’s 94-year history with its “Good to the last drop” positioning?   Short and simple – consumers reward consistency.


Retail Chains Benefit from “The Recency Theory”

August 12, 2009

retail“Spend your media dollars as efficiently as possible … only advertise when you have the greatest chance for success.”

If you’re responsible for the television advertising budget for a small to medium size retail chain and you’re not employing The Recency Theory into your media strategy – then keep reading.

Don’t worry; I won’t bore you to death with some technical dissertation. Although this concept may be different from what you’re doing now, it’s really more about common sense than anything else.

The Recency Theory states: Ads work best when people are ready to buy. Pretty simple, huh? It also favors reach over frequency, which is especially beneficial for those chains struggling with limited ad budgets.

Under The Recency Theory, commercials are bought to target consumers as close to the time of decision as possible. The closer your message gets to the time of decision – the greater the impact. On the other hand, the influence of the ad exposure diminishes the further away from the time of decision.

For example, an Olive Garden commercial is more effective right before dinner time than in the early morning. Logic dictates that Joe is going to be more receptive to an All-You-Can-Eat Pasta offer when he’s hungry for dinner than right before his morning coffee.

Under The Recency Theory, consumers have a role in making the advertising work.

  • The advertising itself did not get Joe to perk-up to the offer. The hunger in the pit of his stomach did.
  •  The TV advertising simply reminded Joe how hungry he was and at the same time presented him with a timely offer.
  • In fact, Joe may have been exposed to multiple Olive Garden commercials throughout other time periods, but hardly noticed them because he was not thinking about food at the time.

With The Recency Theory you only advertise when you have the greatest chance for success. You choose reach over frequency. In the case above, one strategically placed commercial at dinner time trumps two or three commercials placed in the morning hours.

It’s all about influencing the purchasing decision while spending your media dollars as efficiently as possible. The recency theory requires retail chains (and their agencies) to look beyond traditional measuring metrics and to rely on something that is hard to quantify on a flowchart: Common Sense!