Defensive Strategy

The Advertising Challenge

20 Mar 2013  

On Monday I flew back to the U.S. from Germany. On the Lufthansa flight I watched a short video called “World’s Best Commercials, 2012.” It featured winners of the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards. Apparently 430 senior advertising executives cast 430,000 votes and selected the finest advertising spots in the world.

My observation: heaven help us. If senior advertising executives think these are terrific spots then marketers have a huge problem.

The winning spots were certainly engaging. One featured spectacular scenes of nature. Another was a delightful spoof of the royal wedding that had all the participants dancing down the aisle, including the Queen. Yet another ad had thousands of exploding balloons. There were funny spots and sweet spots.

The problem is that the ads weren’t likely to do much for sales or brand building. Most had terrible branding; it wasn’t at all clear what the commercial was actually for. In many cases, the brand showed up in the last frame. Overall, the spots had terrible brand linkage, connecting the creative idea to the brand.

A number of advertising executives raved about a spot featuring a bear acting as a movie director. One after the other, these folks praised “the bear spot.” One observed, “Everyone love it when we saw the bear.” It seemed fairly unanimous.

Of course, praising “the bear spot” simply illustrates the problem; the commercial was about a bear. It wasn’t about a brand. What was the spot advertising? I have no idea. The creative idea came through but the brand didn’t

One reason people have trouble doing effective marketing is that they hire advertising executives more interested in creativity than brand building.

Here is a good piece of advice: remember that the creative team at your advertising agency wants to create engaging, award-winning commercials. These award-winning commercials don’t always drive sales or build brands.

I suppose it is no different from financial advisors. You want to believe that your investment manager always does what is best for you. But that is naïve. Your advisor wants to be successful and her success and your success are often two different things.

With advertising executives and financial advisors, be careful.

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Defending Your Brand is now one of the top five finalists for Expert Marketer Magazine’s Marketing Book of the Year. Many thanks for your support.

This week I head to Switzerland. On March 27 I’ll be in the UK talking about defensive strategy at an event organized by the Kellogg Alumni Club of London. Then back to Chicago to start the spring semester. And catch up on sleep.

3 Responses

  1. Terry Carlgren -- Kellogg '01 says:

    It’s the struggle for them to think of their industry as artists rather than the psychological commercial connection of a brand to the consumer need. Although sometimes I expect the usage of the abstract advertisement is to hide the fact that the company or product has NO linkage to a consumer need. And in that instance, duct tape is not a viable solution for a Titanic hull breach.

  2. Brand linkage may be poor on the highlight reel, but it’s utterly missing from the run-of-the-sewer spots on air. “Tell delightful, surprising stories” is a great starting point, but a terrible destination.

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