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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

7. An advertising strategist should choose the role of the advertising

Ads work in different ways – so the advertising strategist’s job is to pick the right role. And advertising mostly works INDIRECTLY. That’s the point. Tell people to do something. The vast majority won’t do it. But an awful lot of people are influenced.

advertusing strategists select the lrole of the advertising

If I am passionate about this it is because when interviewing the earliest planners we could find for the book 98% Pure Potato about the beginnings of account planning this came up time and time again. Here’s just a couple of headlines before you go and buy the book. Advertising works better against people already buying the product. It’s not very good at persuading people to buy it for the first time.  And the way it influences them often is to remind them of the positive experience of using the product – in other words you are not communicating anything new. You are re-activating an experience they have had. Its not the only role of advertising but my inbox is full of posts from experts telling me they know how to build audience engagement.  And mostly they are going for an immediate return on investment. Advertising engage sell – but real life isn’t like that.

Advertising strategy is the art of indirection

Stephen King one of the founders of account planning laid out a ladder of indirect effects in the order of  indirectness and argued that the more indirect the advertising the more effective it is.  You can imagine what a problem this gives the ROI brigade. The more you chase an immediate conversion, the less effective your advertising is – because much of the effectiveness of advertising is long term.  What he and Jeremy Bullmore successfully did at J Walter Thompson was to persuade clients to take the long view. When a recession came along their clients would continue to spend. Because the agency had shown the longer term value of doing so. You can see how different that is from the current pressure to deliver immediate results.  Indirect effects doesn’t have to mean months and years. But it doesn’t mean clicks either.  Direct response advertising works – but it works by getting hold of a customer – lifetime value. Or a purchase which is so valuable that it repays the marketing cost in a single purchase. Most purchases don’t work like that. So think indirect. And think how you can get advertising to do its magic the way it does it best. Indirectly.   Advertising strategists need to know this – it’s pure gold. I am unpacking Stephen King’s Developing advertising strategy document on a separate page. You can find a fuller description of the ladder of immediacy by going to this page and scrolling down.

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