Believe it or not, advertising agencies have been around since 1869. These agencies perform a number of functions for their clients, including market research and ad placement at often-discounted rates. But it’s more than just discounts to thank for the survival and growth of ad agencies for more than 150 years they’ve produced creative advertising which is far more effective than the material that most of their clients could create on their own.
Author James Hurman, among others, has researched three decades of ad campaigns. He’s found that when executed effectively, creative ad campaigns deliver an ROI that’s as much as eleven times higher than non-creative campaigns.
Today, creative advertising is more important than ever. Here are five reasons why.
The normal human response to noise is to ignore it. That becomes impossible, though, when the noise is either very loud and annoying, or very compelling.
Most people will do everything they can to avoid loud noises; the ones they actually pay attention to are the compelling ones. For example, it’s natural to tune out arguing neighbours or a crying baby (unless it’s your baby, of course). It’s just as natural to stop what you’re doing to listen to a songbird or a beautiful guitar solo. Both “noises” are compelling and demand attention. Here’s how that applies to advertising; it’s estimated that the average person sees and hears anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 branded messages every day, compared to just 500 ads forty years ago.
Why so many today? The enormous increase is due in large part to the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets. A 2016 Nielsen Company survey found that American adults spend more than 10½ hours consuming media daily, an hour more than the previous year. That’s a lot of media, a lot of ads – and an awful lot of “noise.”
When you think about human reactions to noise, the important lesson becomes obvious. The best way to be noticed in the midst of advertising “noise” is to be compelling. And the most compelling ads are creative ones, which grab and maintain the viewer’s, reader’s or listener’s attention. The rest are just noise which most people will avoid or ignore.
Most ads are eminently forgettable, whether they’re on TV, in print or online they often simply blend in with the noise and have no lasting impact. The best example is the Super Bowl, the biggest day of the year for US television advertisers. In 2018 they paid more than $5 million for each 30-second ad, and more than 50 unique commercials were shown during the game.
In recall tests done a week or so after the Super Bowl was over, though, most people only remembered a few of the ads. Some recalled an M&M turning into Danny DeVito, or the NFL’s takeoff on the movie “Dirty Dancing” with Giants stars Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., but most of the ads weren’t memorable.
The $5 million spent to air a mundane Tiffany Haddish commercial for Groupon? It was basically a waste.
Commercials which people do remember stick in their minds for one reason: creativity. Those who are old enough can still visualise the futuristic 1984 Super Bowl Apple ad, or the 1979 Coke commercial with Mean Joe Greene; they became classics. Similarly, the 2018 Super Bowl ads that people do still recall, even though they aired in a virtual blizzard of advertising during what many consider to be the best game of all time, were memorable because they were creative.
Only a few companies are in the position to spend millions of dollars on a single ad, and online advertising costs just a fraction of that amount. But the important takeaway is the same as it is for Super Bowl advertisers: audiences remember creative ads.
We’re bombarded by advertising every time we open a browser or pick up a tablet, so creative ads which can break through that noise are essential for success, as well as this they’re more likely to go viral.
There’s no guarantee that your advertising will go viral, needless to say. British market research company Millward Brown, which has created a new metric to measure viral ad penetration, estimates that only about 15% of the campaigns designed for that purpose actually succeed.
However, the firm identified the ten biggest reasons why ads are widely shared and the #1 reason, by a wide margin, is that they are creative and engaging. You can create ads for a long time before you hit on one which goes viral, but the exposure and return can be huge.
It might seem counterintuitive that you can save money by producing creative advertising. After all, hiring talented writers, artists, designers or directors – or paying an expensive agency big bucks for an ad – sounds like a budget-busting expense. It is, unless the advertising is creative and effective.
A study published in the Harvard Business Review was designed to measure the financial impact of creative ads. It found that every euro invested in highly-creative advertising campaigns, particularly if the ads are artistic and elaborate or illustrate a product benefit, returned twice as much revenue as a euro spent on “ordinary” ads.
There’s one other cost benefit: creative advertising that works well has a much longer shelf life than a series of moderately-effective (or ineffective) standard ads. Producing just a few creative gems can save a lot of money which would otherwise be spent on dozens of ordinary ads, benefitting a company’s bottom line.
Ads aren’t always an intrusion or annoyance, in fact many consumers actually appreciate and recognize the effort that goes into producing a creative ad. Even if they don’t remember the specific advertising over the long-term, and even if the ad doesn’t explain a product’s benefits or convince them to buy, there’s a positive effect on the company’s brand.
A study by Micael Dahlen, Sara Rosengren and Fredrik Torn, published in the Journal of Advertising Research, found that a highly-creative ad is likely to make its mark with consumers. It turns out that many people believe that a brand is high-quality and worth their attention, simply because they’re impressed by the effort that went into producing such a creative advertisement.
Although study findings were only preliminary, they provide one more great reason to invest time, effort and money in creative advertising.