In Advertising, as in Life, Popularity Doesn't Always Equal Success
|Ace Metrix' 2010 Top Ten Holiday-Themed Retail Ads on TV*|
|Retailer||Ad Title||Ace Score|
|1||Walmart||Help Home Feel Closer||623|
|2||Best Buy||Who's Supporting Christmas?||614|
|3||Kohl's||Can't Return a Scarf||605|
|4||Macy's||Animated Children Mail A Letter To Santa||605|
|5||Victoria's Secret||One Gift and a Thousand Fantasies||593|
|6||Overstock.com||Entire Order Ships For Free||592|
|7||Overstock.com||Employees Sing Jingle Bells Tune||592|
|8||Victoria's Secret||What's Your Fantasy This Christmas?||591|
|9||Victoria's Secret||Merry Christmas Angels||589|
|10||Macy's||Everything Is Better at Macy's||588|
|*Definition: Ace Score is the measure of ad creative effectiveness based on viewer reaction to national TV ads. Respondents are randomly selected and representative of U.S. TV viewing audience. The results are presented on a scale of 0-950, which represents scoring on creative attributes such as relevance, persuasion, watchability, information, attention, etc.|
Case in point: Walmart's "Help Home Feel Closer" ad, featuring its Procter & Gamble co-branded "Operationfamilyconnect.com" promotion, was the most effective single holiday ad -- measured by ads' ability to persuade, increase desire, change opinion, provide useful information -- according to Ace Metrix. The Walmart ad, which focused on helping people connect with Armed Forces personnel overseas, resonated across all demographic groups. It scored more than 100 points above the retail ad norm for "likability" and "attention" and more than 90 points above the average for all ads in the Ace Metrix database of nearly 8,000 national ads.
Philanthropic ads for major brands continue to show strong advertising value. Consumers respond better to a message about what companies are doing for them, instead of a straight sales pitch. The winning Walmart spot performed extremely well with men and women, especially those with children, and the ad resonates by promoting family, charity and empathy with those not able to be home for Christmas -- all moving elements consistent with the holiday spirit.
Effectiveness is a much different measure than "likability," which Target 's holiday campaign featuring comedian Maria Bamford was reported to have achieved in spades this holiday season. Interestingly, despite the fun and likability of the Target ads, the creative was far less effective than many other holiday ads and failed to even make it into Ace Metrix' top 10 most effective holiday ads list.
Target 's Bamford ads are both funny and polarizing, two combinations that don't always equate to effectiveness. In fact, polarizing ads generally fail, even if they succeed with a specific demographic. The goal is to have a high score within your core target , but not alienate the rest of the population. This is the mistake that many marketers make.
|Ace Metrix' 2010 Top TV Holiday Ad Campaigns*|
|Brand||Average Ace Score By Brand||Range (highest vs. lowest scoring ad)|
|* Campaign scores represent the average score across ad creatives.|
Budweiser, for example, does a masterful job at nailing the core beer-drinking male target , while still maintaining positive reaction from other groups. Brands like Heineken, Dos Equis and Coors Light generally don't score well with women, and women buy the bulk of the beer at home. The point is: Be careful what you wish for when you want a good response from a target consumer.
Victoria's Secret is an example of a polarizing brand that had very good results on a campaign level this holiday season. Despite disparate scores between men and women, Victoria's Secret's holiday campaign was more effective with men than women but did not go so far as to alienate women -- a fine line to walk. The Victoria's Secret campaign, which proved to be the most effective retail campaign this holiday season, proved that sexy was selling in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Interestingly, while both campaigns were top-scoring, Victoria's Secret and Kohl's appealed to very different demographic groups. Kohl's appealed primarily to older women, with high "information" and "relevance" scores, while Victoria's Secret appealed to men and younger women and scored very low within those two categories but very high on "attention."
All in all, the real measure of an ad's effectiveness is often lost in the approach. Popularity certainly helps with reach, but often doesn't have an impact on sales or other brand-success measures. Nine times out of 10, funny ads win the popularity contests, but "likability" is only one dimension of an ad's overall effectiveness. Just because an ad is funny or popular doesn't mean it is effective at driving consumer behavior.
The moral of the story: Think twice before jumping to the conclusion that popularity equals success.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Peter Daboll is CEO of Ace Metrix. With leadership positions at ComScore, Information Resources and Nielsen, Daboll has pioneered work on ad testing and predictive advertising response modeling, and recently filed a patent application on measuring consumer engagement. Daboll was most recently CEO of Bunchball, a venture-backed company focused on building consumer incentive and reward systems for brands and websites. He was also previously chief of insights at Yahoo.