In terms of stickiness, there are few examples better than Telefun’s 0900-78601 jingle; a melodious chorus that has remained stuck in my mind for over a decade. Undoubtedly, communication is critical for any product or service. After all, if no one knows about a brand, how can one consider it? If we don’t try a brand, we cannot become a regular user of it. Most importantly, communication is the one variable that allows brands to build a personality consumers can relate to.
Hence, it should not be a surprise to learn that global ad spend is estimated to be between $500 and 600 billion – and according to Magna’s advertising forecast, in Pakistan alone, it is estimated to be in the region of $850 million. With all this money spent, there must be a concrete way to evaluate a credible ROI. Surely advertising models help ensure effective communication is being created?
The fact that advertising works in myriad ways has been under discussion for a long time. In 1974, a research paper by Alan Hedges stated that “it is not possible to make a realistic test of the effectiveness of a commercial in a laboratory situation in advance of real-life exposure.”
Unfortunately, there is a disconnect in terms of interpreting the results that come from advertisement testing. Clients (especially the marketing team) want simplistic metrics to ascertain the effectiveness of their work – and therefore, using awareness and association as KPIs is convenient. Furthermore, the research model, no matter how intricate, can only make ‘guesstimates’ of the actual ROI.
Consider the case of Ufone’s communication. In 2010, they began to pivot their communication in favour of humour. Their ads featuring Faisal Qureshi and Adeel Hashmi were hugely successful and became pop culture references. The Saaf Awaz campaign was showered with awards by the Pakistan Advertisers Society in 2011 and in 2015, Qureshi’s curved spoof of a competitor’s poster became a viral sensation. To this day, in creative testing focus groups (even for non-telecom categories), respondents do not fail to recall the ‘Ufone ke funny ishtihar’.
Yet, now Ufone has foregone humour for a more thematic approach. So how is it that a creative concept that clearly broke through the clutter and carried such high recall value was discarded? It may have been a case of the production overshadowing the product, as according to Ufone’s current Chief Marketing Officer, “people didn’t necessarily associate Ufone with the ads and even if they did, they didn’t see it as a relevant telecom company in the context of the ads.” In other words, humour did not have the desired result of increasing revenue.
According to Ipsos, ads that have “continuity (a consistent theme, characters, celebrities or creative style), outperform those without.” Ads with continuity scored better in interest, branding, attention and recall.
Emotion, apparently, is the key to creating effective communication. In 2013, the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), stated that 43% of emotion-driven campaigns reported large profit gains as opposed to 23% of rational-based campaigns. Ipsos, a French global research agency, corroborates this by stating that purchase intentions increase sharply as the number of emotional associations goes up. Recent examples of such advertising in Pakistan include campaigns by Shan Foods and QMobile which depict characters and incidents that break social stereotypes.
However, it is important to note that emotional association only provides a better chance at making profit gains and the flipside of IPA’s data is that over 50% of emotion-driven campaigns fail to provide large profit gains; therefore, it is critical for any campaign to have a clear objective that is communicated to the audience consistently. According to Ipsos, ads that have “continuity (a consistent theme, characters, celebrities or creative style), outperform those without.” Ads with continuity scored better in interest, branding, attention and recall.
In 2010, P&G’s market research highlighted that more women buy hygiene-related products than men. Using this simple insight for their Old Spice brand, they launched ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign – although the product was for men, the campaign cleverly targeted women too. The campaign went viral and boosted sales.
Consistency is critical because building a perception takes time (lots of it) and changing a brand’s persona, even longer. In 2004, Mobilink (Jazz) launched their Indigo ads, featuring Shaan as an affluent individual, who although plays golf and drives a Mercedes, also discusses post-paid plans. Almost 15 years later, people continue to associate Jazz as the ‘businessman’s choice’.
An example of clear objectives, emotional association and consistency can be found in Unilever’s washing powder portfolio, namely Persil, OMO and Surf Excel. They are all built around a single concept globally: Dirt Is Good, with execution tweaked to suit the local context; for example, the Diwali and Dagh campaign in India. This tagline changed the perception of washing powder from being about the size of the molecules or the severity of stains, by equating dirt to creativity – while establishing Surf Excel as the category leader in the South Asian market.
So where do advertising models fit in the grander scheme of things? As a first step, a clear objective needs to be defined by identifying an attribute that is both a market driver and a differentiating factor. These can be identified by understanding consumer perceptions about a category through qualitative research and verified quantitative studies. I often suggest correlating various attributes of a brand in order to gain a more rounded perspective. However, defining a brand’s persona requires diligence and a clear line of thought is critical to ensure coherence across different campaigns.
Another key point is to ensure that the ad is tested among the people who reflect the market. In Pakistan, most advertising models focus on major urban centres, hence extrapolating the results to the national level must be done carefully; otherwise it may result in misleading interpretations.
Once the objective is defined, consistency is key in order to embed this perception. Therefore, when testing your communication focus on the KPIs and metrics that fulfil your brand’s objectives to ensure that the correct message is communicated. As time passes by, it is a good idea to revisit your initial brand persona and cross-check whether the current communication brings out the desired associations.
Another key point is to ensure that the ad is tested among the people who reflect the market. In Pakistan, most advertising models focus on major urban centres, hence extrapolating the results to the national level must be done carefully; otherwise it may result in misleading interpretations. Interestingly, few people claim to be persuaded by a single advertisement in isolation; however, when it comes to new sources of information, all forms of advertisements feature prominently. It is reasonable to assume that although self-decision drives the selection process, that decision is influenced by the various types of communication a brand pushes.
Ultimately, deciphering what constitutes a successful campaign is a very complex process because of the number of variables involved. On the surface, advertising changes rapidly – and is perhaps sometimes even oversensitive to the latest trends. Beneath the shimmering surface, public attitudes, values and beliefs change more slowly and beneath that again, the basic dynamics of persuasive communication change very little.
Ans Khurram is an insights professional working in the telecommunication industry in Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org