Effective ad is about consumers

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 01 Apr 2003


FEELING that most advertising is ineffective and a waste of money, advertisers are now waking up and returning to the heart of the consumer. 

Effective advertising can work small miracles for any business but so much advertising is bad today. 

The irony is that a good part of the blame falls squarely on the advertisers themselves. It may sound strange but many advertisers lack awareness of what makes effective advertising or they rely on advertising resources that are simply incapable of creating effective advertising. 

Logically, advertising must sell the product and that must be the primary goal. More often now we encounter advertisers who fail to even communicate the brand but continue to strive to get more inventive ways to reach the consumer through award winning, arty commercials. 

A US-based advertising agency, Beekstreet, cites five things advertisers should understand if they want their investment in advertising to pay off big dividends. 

First, believe in advertising. Second, identify one core benefit which you must communicate effectively and compellingly, and third, understand and respect the power of a superior creative execution of your core benefit. 

Once these have been established, hire the best creative talent to effectively convey the message. 

Finally, after having hired the creator of your advertising, believe in them. Much bad advertising is driven by clients who think they know better than their agencies when it comes to what resonates well with their target audience. 

Because the modern consumer is bombarded by information and overwhelmed by choices, advertisers must acquire knowledge on the consumer and plan their advertising for the consumer as opposed to “at the consumer” or “for the client”. 

The advertiser has to be aware that there is only one target audience that matters and it is the consumer. 

Understanding the consumer means getting back to their core. Fundamental information, such as what excites consumers, how they spend their leisure time and their spending habits must be clear before the planning begins. 

Marketing guru and former chief marketing officer at the Coca-Cola Co, Sergio Zyman, claims that advertising is not effective because it is dominated by overly creative television ads that entertain and win awards but do not generate sales. 

His book, The End of Marketing as We Know It, criticises TV commercial producers who think they are creating high art but have forgotten the purpose of ads. And that is, to sell the product. 

In Malaysia, most of us can remember quite a number of award winning ads that we saw in print, on TV and the cinemas because they were memorable, gave us a feel-good rush, or were simply catchy. But the truth is that if one were to measure the return on every ringgit invested in these ads, questions can be raised as to whether the connection with the customer was ever made. 

Would you flock to your nearest car dealer and demand to buy a car after watching those heart-warming ads on balik kampung or would you switch telco companies or dash to the telephone to call your loved one after seeing a teary TV ad which promotes goodwill, forgiveness and love? Or would you buy a particular’s oil company’s products after your sense of patriotism has been re-energised? 

Advertising must show a clear measurable return and ultimately answer to the bottom line. Every ringgit spent must drive increased sales. The strategic goal of advertising is to get the consumer to buy the product and it would have been a big waste of money to have continued buying airtime for something that was not getting people to do just that. 

Advertisers are getting overly involved in the processes and go all out to win popularity and generate virtual consumption when they should be driving real consumption. 

Advertising as seen by the consumer has already broken away from stereotype images and it is now for the institutionalised ideas to correspondingly change and evolve in line with consumer perception. 

Some bolder advertisers are now breaking away from stereotype images of traditional advertising media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboards and leaflets, and are reaching the consumer through product placements, sponsorships, charity work, educational scholarship awards and community exercises. 

For instance, Zyman, who earned himself the nickname, The Aya Cola, for his brutal bluntness, does not introduce many new ideas but advocates that CEOs and marketing managers take a more active role to reinforce the brand and value proposition. 

Zyman suggests that truly effective advertising also involves branding, packaging, celebrity spokespeople, sponsorships, publicity, and customer service. 

Simply put, a company which wants to design a truly effective ad campaign that drive business must think through its advertising strategies up front while also welcoming change and the best place to start, essentially, is at the heart of the consumer.  


·A.L. Lim is a consultant with Media Specialist Sdn Bhd 

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