[00] The four steps for an advertising campaign to work

Here we will see what must and can be done a priori to be effective. In agr! we have built a simple methodology based on the natural process we all follow when we interact with advertising.

 

First step: ask with rigour.

 

Drawing up the commissions that agencies receive (briefing) correctly and without committing any of the four habitual mistakes is something that must be done by the advertiser.

 

To be able to talk about efficacy, it is first necessary to talk about goals. This is something that is obvious, but which unfortunately not all commissions received by agencies define clearly. The marketing and communication goals have to be specified with figures. If we do not do this, we will make the first mistake.

 

As I will explain later, an advertising campaign cannot be considered successful or valid simply because a post-test shows that it has been liked or many people have seen it.

 

The first thing will be to set targets to be achieved with a certain strategic and tactical approach in which communication will be one of the elements to consider; the agency will therefore only be responsible for the communication targets in this mix. In other words, if the sales fail to work because the distribution, the product quality or price are not right, there is little that advertising can do.

 

Marketing goals generally seek to increase sales or the price, to achieve market participation, to introduce a new product, to penetrate a new market with our product, etc. On the other hand, the communication targets can be to support a brand launch, to report the qualities of a general product, to make a brand better known by consumers or that it should transmit values that encourage consumers to buy it, etc.

 

To say the amounts and percentages that we want to achieve with our marketing plan, we will analyse the sales and prices of the previous years, the market trends, the strengths and weaknesses of the product at the time and the threats and opportunities that the market gives us. We will broadly analyse the competition and the consumer and finally, we will set targets that the agency, on the communication side that corresponds to it, will assume as its own. In this way, the communication will help the remaining elements of the marketing mix to achieve the goals in a pre-set time and with a certain budget.

 

Generally the quantitative and qualitative goals for communication will be based on the degree of brand awareness (notoriety) and the image and positioning we start with before doing the advertising campaign.

 

And here the second mistake can be made. Practically all managers in any sector know the sales of the previous year, the prices that were achieved, the new products that were launched, etc., which makes it easier to be able to quantify the marketing goals for the following year.

 

However, very often in my professional life, I have seen that there are very few managers who, before starting an advertising campaign, know where they are starting in something as basic as the percentage of real and potential customers who know their brand, the values with which it is associated or the opinion that is had of it. Unfortunately, there are few companies and organisations that know the degree of notoriety or the image values at the beginning, and without these we will not be able to know what has been achieved in the past nor will it be possible to set logical communication targets for the future.

 

The third mistake that can be made is to set unrealistic or simply impossible marketing or communication goals, given the characteristics of the competition or our product, due to the insufficient amount of budget allocated, the shortage of time available, etc.

 

In order to start to be effective, advertising requires a minimum  amount of time and money to achieve coverage, precision, repetitions, etc. It will not be enough to have products that have something that makes them better than the competition if we fail to communicate this as often as needed to the right people and with the right supports.

 

Finally, the fourth mistake that can occur in a briefing is to confuse the goals with the strategies. Very often this is just a problem of the writing or the structure of the document; however, as we already know, one of the keys to an effective campaign is the correct choice of the communication strategy, and this is a meticulous job which, if the advertiser is unwilling to do it, must be left to the agency.

 

An agency with a good communication strategy can consider itself to be fortunate. Strategy, along with creativity, is the most important added value that an agency can give an advertiser. In fact today the main advertisers choose their agencies according to strategies and leave the creativity for a second level, sure that the winning agency will find the best creative idea.

 

If the advertiser predefines their strategy, the means and the disciplines, they leave no opportunity for the agency to make other proposals to achieve the goals and fail to get the most out of their agency and their investment in advertising. It is in the awareness of the product and the competition, in their experience in the sector, where the advertiser’s orientations are fundamental for their agency’s communication proposals to be effective. Therefore what I recommend is at least to ADD, and leave the strategies open to improvements by the agency.

 

Assessment: to make sure the briefing has been drawn up correctly and that no mistake has been made, no one better than the advertiser’s agency responsible for working with it. An honest preliminary meeting will suffice.

 

Second case: that the campaign should be seen.

 

After starting work the first thing the agency will do is to ensure that my target audience can see the campaign, and especially that they can see it in the place, at the time and on the right support a minimum number of times; if my target audience, customer or consumer fails to see, read or hear my message, or does so far fewer times than is necessary for it to be recalled, failure is assured. To excessively dilute a campaign to reach more countries or to stay longer is to throw one’s money away. A certain geographical and time concentration is needed for the campaign to achieve its purposes.

 

The disciplines it uses, my message’s support and the time for which it appears determine the agency’s strategy. It may be a press article, a large event, a commercial in a football match or a direct marketing event. This is determined, amongst other things, by the nature of the product or service, its positioning and the mix of communication disciplines (advertising, promotion, direct marketing, and public relations) that will be used to take the planned message to my target audience.

 

If, as is usual in campaigns with large budgets, the strategies contemplate the use of the large mass media (press, radio, exteriors, television), then it will be the planning and media purchasing agency that decides on what medium, when it must be used and with what intensity to effectively reach my target audience.

 

Everything can be quantified beforehand and everything achieved can be seen later. We must and can make sure that our target audience will have the chance to see what has been achieved. In fact we must and can make sure that our target audience will have the chance to see and interact sensorially with our campaign. The agency must be required to make a previous analysis of what is going to be achieved with all of the disciplines in terms of number of appearances, mailings, interviews, coverage, frequency, GRPS, OTS, etc.

 

Assessment: in order to guarantee that the media plan ensures that my target audience will see my campaign sufficiently in the right period, I recommend contracting a good media agency. Only these have the necessary technology to carry out the work correctly. Then there is always the possibility of comparing the proposals of several media agencies.

 

Third step: what catches one’s attention.

 

We therefore ask the following question: is it sufficient for a campaign to be effective that our target audience can see it? It is not. It is necessary, but not sufficient. That they are able to see it does not mean that they “see” it. The responsibility for our campaign does not go unseen and comes down to CREATIVITY.

 

If our commercial, radio or press ad, direct marketing action, etc., fails to catch our attention among the thousands of ads, we will once more have only gone half way.

 

How much money is wasted on advertising if it is not done properly! To see this, think of the advertisements you remember of the approximately 4,000 that you might have seen yesterday if you live in a large city and consume the television, radio and press media in Spain.

 

Everyone knows what has to be done to avoid going unnoticed, but few manage it: good creativity is that which surprises us, excites us or makes you think. Everything but leaving you indifferent. You do not necessarily have to like it to be struck by it, but your mind and heart have to be “caught”. If you do not do this, the message transmitted by creativity will not reach its target.

 

Assessment: Once the agency has finished its advertising materials and before they are published, a pre-test can be made to see how they affect our target audience. After the campaign a post-test can be made to see how it has worked.

 

Many professionals do not believe in the usefulness and objectivity of the pre-tests, some even consider them negative,  they believe that very few of the advertisements considered the best in the history of advertising would have come to light if they had seen them. Two factors take credibility from the pre-tests, one is obvious in the case of pre-testing a television commercial with a model made with storyboards. An opinion is asked for on a material, drawings, very far from what the final result will be, a marvellous commercial. It is like comparing eating a paella with reading its ingredients.

 

In my opinion, pre-tests are essential when the product is going to different countries or when a new product is to be launched.

 

The second factor is the unnatural surroundings in which people submitted to the pre-test distort their reactions and opinions. To go further into this delicate subject, I recommend one of the best books I know on advertising: “Truth, lies and advertising”, by John Steel.

 

Another thing are the post-tests performed after the campaign, which are necessary if we periodically do advertising and we want to know what works, what doesn’t and why.

For advertising: we will have a Research Institute and will measure:

 

–          The spontaneous notoriety, which is the important kind, the suggested is less important.

–          The understanding of the message to see whether what has been understood is what we intended.

–          What is most recalled from the commercial.

–          The level of persuasion with respect to other advertisements, etc. If what we have made is a promotion, what we will measure is:

 

In sales promotion we will assess:

 

–          The percentage of consumers /target that we have addressed with the promotion as compared to the total number, giving absolute figures.

–          The percentage of those who have taken part in the promotion with respect to those contacted, also in absolute terms.

–          The cost of the promotion per participant.

–          The increase in sales during the time of the promotion and the months following as opposed to the same the previous year.

 

If we have made a press office and public relations, we will measure:

–          The number of appearances as a result of our mailings and contacts.

–          The different types of supports.

–          The times of appearance.

–          The quality of the contents.

–          The notoriety of the news.

–          The coverage in the areas of influence.

–          The evolution of the notoriety and the positioning in public opinion.

–          At PR events; the number and profile of the people attending and the number of prescribers involved.

 

In any case, beyond the recall and reactions our campaign causes, if the media plan, the choice of disciplines and creativity are correct, our brand’s notoriety will have grown, more consumers than before will know it and will be able to take it into account.

 

A relatively easy way to achieve notoriety is with a lot of investment in media, but if our budget limits us here, which is the normal thing, we still have the correct choice of disciplines and a large, even risky, creativity.

 

However, another thing is that the attention that we have managed to draw to our campaign translates into purchase intention, so let’s look at the fourth step:

 

 

Fourth step: the message should motivate a purchase.

Is it sufficient for a campaign to be effective that it should have been liked, that it should have been seen and remembered by the majority of a target audience? No, once again. This is the final step, the time of truth, where the notoriety gained with the creativity must be transformed into true persuasion that positively influences the leaning towards our brand.

 

The responsibility for achieving this lies mainly with the strategy, with the decision of “what we are going to say and show” in our brand or product communication and what reaction we are going to cause in the target audience.

 

To get it right we have to think a little about in what competitive environment my product with the chosen attribute is the best option, which will generally mean addressing a certain market segment. This is the essence of the strategy with many ingredients: study, creativity, professionalism, experience and common sense.

 

Sometimes “the content” of the communication which arises from the strategy exceeds the “form” or creativity in its ability to catch people’s attention thanks to how new, original or even obvious the message is.

 

Other times campaigns that are very striking fail to work. There are generally two reasons behind this: because the creativity is so powerful that the message is “eaten”, and even the brand of the advertisement (many people remember large creative advertisements but not the brand nor the reason why this product was to be bought) or because the chosen value or attribute fails to make our product the best option in the considered environment.

 

Assessment: At the end of all strategies comes a choice, or in other words a discard. From the different attributes of our product, one has to be chosen.

 

Is it possible with a pre-test to assess what the value will be that will most motivate the purchase and see whether we beat the competition in this value? If this information is accompanied by experience, common sense and intuition of the strategy, it is possible.

 

In any case, in order to assess whether strategy has worked we must see two things: how the image of our brand has evolved after the campaign, seeing whether it approaches the required positioning and whether the message transmitted in the creativity is really that which has caught the target and whether the message translates into purchase intention. This is seen by the post-tests made by market research companies and how sales have evolved. In the end, if sales have evolved better than in other years, the objectives have been achieved and the only variable of the marketing mix that has changed is the communication and not the product, nor the price, nor the distribution, nor the market environment, nor the competition, we can say that the communication has been responsible for the increase in sales. The media plan, the choice of disciplines, the creativity and the strategy will have worked simultaneously. Everything has to work, which is why it is so difficult to turn advertising expenditure into a good investment; however, when it is achieved, it is the best investment.

 

Finally, we have to measure the medium-long term efficacy achieved by the accumulation of advertising campaigns using the assessment of the “value of the brand”. If the agency with its experience and work has managed to define a long-term brand view and a strategic communication plan to achieve the view with the correct use of the different communication disciplines, the value of the brand achieved with time will be high, and therefore too the return on investment made in commercial communication.

 

This value is defined by the percentage of consumers who prefer my brand at a certain time and how much more they are willing to pay than for the competition

 

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