Simon Larcey: Where is all the memorable creative? Hiding in plain sight among the data


SimonLarcey (1).jpgBy Simon Larcey (left), managing director, Path 51

What was the last TV ad that you thought was truly memorable? Odds are, at the moment, it’s probably Casey Donovan screeching “Down Down!” at you for Coles. But rather than something that gets stuck in your head like an annoying jingle, I mean an ad that cuts through and really speaks to you personally.

If you’re struggling to come up with something, you’re not alone.

In July, Magnum Opus Partners commissioned Think Global Research to conduct a survey to identify which ads Australians found to be the most memorable.

Of the 1500 Aussies surveyed, “66% couldn’t think of one advertisement they disliked”, which sounds encouraging until you read that “57% couldn’t indicate a single advertisement that they could remember feeling positive about”.

Emphasising the idea that there was very little cut-through being achieved was the finding that leading the way for “most recalled brand on TV” was “no brand/no ad”.

So the majority didn’t really care one way or another about ads, and nothing in particular was easy to recall.

Thinking on this, I realised that to find the last ad that really spoke to me, I had to go back more than 20 years!

My favourite ad of all time was the 1995 TV commercial for the Peugeot 406, entitled ‘Drive of Your Life’, featuring the song ‘Search for the Hero’ by M People.

It starts by saying, “The average person has 12,367 thoughts a day… Here are just a few of them.” Naturally, somehow, a Peugeot is involved with these thoughts.

Whilst I didn’t buy a Peugeot, I’ve talked about that ad for nearly 20 years. What really connected with me was a mixture of the awesome visuals and, of course, the song (laugh all you like, M People won the Mercury Prize – they were legit!).

So I asked a few other people about the ads that rang a bell with them. It was interesting to find that most of the ads were from TV, and most had some sort of story and music to them that the person liked.

Qantas ads resonate with my friends, as do the Jeep ‘Don’t hold back‘ ads. As to what the appeal was, most friends said they connected with these ads in a way that a standard ad based on a pure data play can not. It was more of an experience than advertising. It had an emotional connection.

Commenting on the survey findings, agency director of Strategy Stephen Yolland said, “To have almost nothing producing a ‘watercooler effect’ that is strong enough to be picked up in a survey like this does suggest that both the creativity and the entertainment value of the work we do has declined somewhat, and also possibly that there is now so MUCH advertising in the market that many ads seem to be being effectively ‘tuned out’ by consumers.”

It was perhaps inevitable. With advertising appearing in just about every moment we’re interacting with the world – whether looking at our phones, driving our cars, listening to the radio, watching TV, or surfing the web, they’re there – it’s a simple case of oversaturation.

So how do you get your message across when you’re battling so much noise? Welcome adtech! The combination of creativity and technology appears to be the sweet spot.

With dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) and some amazing technology – such as that developed by Unruly, which can target people based on their emotions – we are entering a world where we can truly begin connecting to people on a one-to-one basis. Of course, technology alone is not enough. Creative and the tech may seem like two worlds apart at times, but this is the space we need to inhabit.

Justine Musk – Elon’s first wife – once answered on Quora the question of whether just a combination of hard work and determination could make one a billionaire.

Among her response (which, first and foremost, began with one word: “No”) was a discussion of what makes a great idea:

“Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.”

So, if you’ll allow me, this is my little “thought baby” on the of issue making truly great, memorable ads.

Let’s look at two of the main ways of serving ads.

A TV ad reaches hundreds of thousands of people at once, of which only a very small percentage are sure to have some type of reaction. On the other hand, a digital campaign sees most ads delivered on a one to one basis until the goal is reached. As a result, the latter’s impact is going to be much less, because it’s staggered delivery, as opposed to reaching the total audience in one burst.

But imagine combining the targeting tools of DCO and emotions, and doing digital bursts over one minute and reaching TV sized audiences. This would enable advertisers to

reach hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously, but with insight as to how each individual is feeling right now, and deliver them an ad that will connect with them based on their real-time mood.

The results should be outstanding, meaning the ROI would be substantially improved.

This isn’t fantasy. As mentioned above, Unruly have made this emotion-targeted technology available, and the amount of digital advertising impressions seem to be infinite!

An ad of Peugeot-quality for me, a Qantas-level one for my friends, and those Casey Donovan abominations for – I dunno, whoever the sadists are that really get around them.

Technology is amazing. Nothing is impossible. While it may be concerning that people aren’t recalling ads like they used to, we just need to start adapting our approach. Strong creative ideas combined with state of the art, personalised delivery mechanisms just might be the answer.