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Testimonials—the best kind of advertising—were real-world “likes” long before Mark Zuckerberg was born, let alone Facebook.

In addition to lending credibility to the value of a company's product or service, this kind of advertising is also powerful, because most of a marketer's targets understand how many hoops the advertiser had to jump through to get the ad approved by the customer.

But just because testimonials are, in our minds, the most effective form of advertising doesn't mean they're all created equal. For instance, Xerox Corp. has a long-running and excellent testimonial campaign. One of the more recent ads trumpets Xerox's work for Michelin North America. The endorsement from Michelin is highlighted at every turn: It's in the workmanlike headline: “We focus on managing Michelin's finance processing. So they don't have to.” In the visual, the Michelin Man runs, clearly out of place, through a world of cubicles. The tagline sums up this well-constructed campaign: “Ready for real business.”

Zurich North America's ad has a visual at least as arresting as Xerox's. Part of Zurich's “HelpPoint” campaign, first launched four years ago, the ad features a dramatic twilight photo of a petroleum processing facility that makes it clear it means business-to-business. But the best part of the ad is the quote from a NuStar Energy executive, which is placed in a position of honor at the top of the page: “94 million barrels of tankage capacity. 8,417 miles of pipeline. 90 terminal and storage facilities globally. 3 refineries. 1 Zurich energy insurance policy.” For Zurich, that's a “like” worth highlighting. And ultimately we like this ad a lot, too.

We have a love-hate feeling about Schneider Electric's print ad. We love that it's a testimonial and one from a customer as esteemed as Microsoft Corp. at that. What we don't love is almost everything else. It's a visual mess that has no center holding it together. The photo and quote from the Microsoft employee touting Schneider Electric's data center should dominate this ad visually, but they seem an afterthought at the bottom. This testimonial is the ad's most compelling message, and yet it's buried beneath an avalanche of technical benefits that would have been better presented not in the ad but on a microsite, where Schneider could more effectively communicate the granular advantages of its data centers.

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