Want people to talk about your brand? Welcome to ‘Advertainment’.

Social Media may be top of most clients list but the word every client needs to put on your checklist for 2013 is ‘Advertainment’. Does your ad (in whatever format it is in, a 30 sec TV commercial or a 3 min online film) entertain? If not, either get a new idea or a new agency!

When people say viral, they really mean what people are talking about, word of mouth (WOM). And what every client wants, is everyone talking about their brand, on line, offline or even better, in the media.The key here is knowing the difference between what you want to say and what the consumer wants to listen to and how it’s presented.

I think we are all past the naive period of virals when people thought that you could throw a cheap video out there and expect it to self-seed and reach masses. Now most of us know it’s often an expensive and expert process, and even then very hit or miss.

What we know from news, TV, press and events is there are certain things that get people talking and sharing. Summed up, entertainment is the number one. So welcome to the world of ‘Advertainment’ – ads that sell because they entertain.

The latest example is John Lewis (2.3m), previous examples include Dumb Ways to Die byMelbourne Metro (35.5m), Graffitis for Aides, Quiet Square for TNT (42m), Sexy for M&M (28m), Will it blend for Blendtec (6.6m), Old Spice (44m), Cadbury’s Gorilla (8m), Star Wars for VW (55m) and Greenpeace’s spoof, John West’s man fighting bear (3m), TippEx’s man not shooting a bear (20.5m), Evian babies (mostly bare) (60m)…  and many more.

What every one of the top hits have in common is entertainment value. There simple are no dull ads people talk about. (Check out Unruly Media’s list of top viral ads http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/chart_keyword/Top_Ads_of_2012?interval=all_time .)

The bad news for clients is it’s often the stuff real people do that competes with you rather than other brands ads. At least in a 3 minute ad break you just have to outdo 5 other ads, but online it can be thousands and animals and babies dominate. A video of a performing cat, a mad Japanese teenager, a man dancing or a kid biting a fingers works… the list goes on. And then you have pop videos to compete with as well, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance video clocked up almost 500m hits, while Justine Bieber clocked up over 808m with Baby!

To apply the theory of monkeys on typewriters, if millions of people are creating things daily, statistically one or two will rise to the top – random acts of videoing is your competition. And with easy to use technology, anyone can be an entertainer.

And because they don’t have to ram in a sales message, 5 seconds of pack shot and all the rest (including endless middle management signing off the film believing that unless they change something they aren’t doing their job) of course their video will be more entertaining.

By contrast, the likely hood of a brand creating a successful viral on a low budget is the same likelihood they’ll write a number one hit single. Slim. There are a few examples, but only a few compared to the many thousands produced every year.

And every time someone cites an example of something that went viral they often leave out the fact it’d been on TV, in the press or had a massive TV spend behind it.

Of course if you have a really big budget to promote it via Big Media (paid or earned TV, press, outdoor) then getting noticed is easier. The evidence suggests that PR (or paid media) often creates the viral effect more than the viral effect happening on it’s own.

So the advice is don’t stick all you money just into the viral and hope for the best, you need to support it, so  put as much budget into PR and if that works, social media will take care of it’s self. But here I need to add a note of caution, you can’t sell rubbish no matter how big the budget.

Research (by Keller Fay) in the US suggests that TV ads are the most likely thing a brand can do to get talked about, just look at the John Lewis ad. But only the good ones generate chatter.  So further evidence why you should invest in really good entertaining ideas.

To quote Keller Fay: “Yes, trillion with a “T.”  That’s the number of times per year US consumers engage in conversations about brands.  Fully 90% of these conversations happen offline, and nearly a quarter are motivated by advertising.” I recommend everyone reads ‘The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace’.

David Ogilvy said, “No one buys from a clown,” well he was actually wrong, funny ads are very popular, along with emotional, clever and dramatic ones. But, to be fair to him, I think he was really using the word as a polite alternative to” idiot”. He also said, “No one buys from a dull salesman,” this I agree 100% with.

Ogilvy’s philosophy on advertising was formed through selling door to door and through face to face contact and as anyone who has done this knows (I have), consumers are sold through emotion not facts. All good salesmen know that you need the 80:20 balance.

A culture of Fear and Blanding of the Brand.

In today’s fear ridden, over cautious, risk averse corporate culture (I recommend you read ‘Culture of Fear‘ by Barry Glassner), it takes a brave person to do brave and entertaining ads.

Plus, too many brands take themselves too seriously and don’t understands that consumer do not want them to de dull and po-faced. Who do we form relationships with? People we like, people who smile, laugh and show emotions. If you want your brand to be loved, give some love back, be human.

And while I’ll got your attention, consumers don’t care about corporate guidelines, about your colour scheme or your typeface. Your logo is 80% of all they need to see. On social media you probably won’t see any of it anyway, and certainly not in conversations around the water cooler. The myth that making everything the same is good marketing is not founded in fact, it’s a marketing myth and often make all you work look like wallpaper. Worse, guidelines that are written by designers (who are not marketers) that make all the ads bland is marketing suicide. Read my ‘Blanding of the Brand’ article coming soon. Top of the list for terrible corporate identities is EE – what were they thinking? Orange was brilliant, T-Mobile naff, but EE?!

So for the brave (who want to make it into the hall of marketing fame), if you want your brand to be the talk of Twitter, the yell of YouTube, the word around the water cooler and raved about on radio, think advertainment.

The 3 key elements of advertainment:

  1. CONSUMERS ARE EMOTIONAL NOT RATIONAL. Entertainment is more important than messaging. Consumers respond to emotions more than rational propositions. Follow the 80:20 rule, 80% engagement, 20% message/brand. So make it funny, emotive, clever, dramatic – anything but dull. Once engaged they’ll be more receptive to the brand and message and you’ll be the one ad they recall tomorrow.

  1. THE X FACTOR. You have 30 seconds – well actually 3, that’s the extent of most people’s attention span. If you had a spot on X Factor you’d do the very best you can. You’d try and impress the judges, knowing they can buzz you off in seconds (remember, consumers have remotes with mute on). This is even more important when doing pre-roll video ads.  I’d adopt this simple motto, “It’ll do, won’t do”.

  1. THINK GREAT. Don’t accept less than brilliant form your agency. “Average won’t do,” is a slogan I hang over my creatives desks. Be brave and demand great, and then run with great.  We’ve all seen the show reels of agencies with the idea that should have run, and the idea that actually run – diluted through compromise. Consumers don’t care why you compromised a great idea, they just ignore it because now it’s just another mediocre ad. And that’s a waste of valuable budget and lost business. If no one’s listening it doesn’t matter how good the message is (think Bill Bernbach first said that).

And here’s a final thought to ponder for the doubters.

We are happy to pay for entertainment – cinema, theatre, theme parks, books videos, computer games, music, and concerts, even TV. But how many of us would pay to see an ad? No one. But what if you briefed your agency to create an ad people would pay to see? It’d make them think differently.

Surely we can learn something from a creative industry that’s many times bigger and more profitable than the ad industry. Be honest, if Hollywood made films like we make most ads, they’d be out of business. So maybe we should make more ads like the films.

That’s Advertainment folks!




Unruly Media – Top Viral Ads:  http://viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com/chart_keyword/Top_Ads_of_2012?interval=all_time

Interesting college article on advertainment: Fusing Advertising & Entertainment (Yaffe Centre fro Persuasive Communications).