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Direct vs. Indirect Creative: Which ad is better?

April 20th, 2015 No comments

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid ads. Not me. This may make me a complete marketing nerd, but I actually enjoy reading ads. I have for some time now. I love studying the different approaches of persuasive communication. I love attempting to uncover the underlying value propositions under each ad. I love just seeing how other marketers are attempting to communicate value to their potential customers.

Recently, I was on a Delta flight to San Diego, and I began to sift through the different ads in the Delta Sky Magazine. The first ad that caught my attention was an ad from Little Caesars. Now, I am no Little Caesars expert by any means, but its brand real estate in my brain up to that point was simply this: We do cheap pizza.

This ad was trying to combat that perception in a decently creative way.

 

Ad #1: The creative (indirect) type

The ad was mostly made up of white space (or perhaps orange space). The first positive thing about this ad was that it stood out from the other pages. It also had one bold image in the middle — an industrial mixer. A single line of ALL CAPS text centered beneath the mixer simply stated, “Saving the commercial mixer from becoming extinct.”

 

Now, there are very few elements to this ad. Its creative is simple and elegant. Its creative also takes an indirect communication approach. David Ogilvy (widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”) would be proud.

What are they trying to say by putting a big picture of a commercial mixer? What do you think the implied value proposition is? What is the message underneath the creative approach?

 

Ad #2: The bold (direct) type

OK, so now flip a few pages, and you’re hit by a completely different ad that takes a more direct communication approach. It is an ad for a watch — G-SHOCK. I personally have no familiarity with the brand, but I am familiar with similar watch ads.

 

Like the first ad, there is one main image. However, the image is of the actual watch. It is not, like the previous ad, an image of something responsible for the building of the watch. This is already more “in your face.”

The image is also significantly larger; there is very little open space.

There is a larger headline that states, “The world’s first GPS atomic solar hybrid,” and then below,  in small print, the ad presents all of the details associated with both the “toughness” and the “accuracy” of the watch itself.

Again, what are they trying to say? What is the implied value proposition? What is the message underneath this direct approach?

 

Direct creative vs. indirect creative

Now, here’s my question: Which ad is better? We have two completely different approaches. One is direct, in your face, not nuanced and has very little “creativity.”  The other is indirect, simple, elegant and very creative.

So, which approach is better?

Many of us have our preferences. The inner-Ogilvy in me would esteem Little Caesars’ elegance. The inner-Rosser Reeves in me would celebrate the directness of the G-SHOCK.

However, the answer to this question does not lie in the actual creative itself. It is found in our ability to see underneath the creative. It transcends the two approaches. It touches what we call the “value proposition.” This is also what Rosser Reeves called the Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) or what David Ogilvy called the Basic Selling Proposition (B.S.P.). It is that fundamental, essential proposition you are trying to imply with your creative.

 

Seeing through the creative

Forget the approach (direct vs. indirect) for a moment. What is it that the Little Caesars ad is implying about its pizza? What is Little Caesars’ value proposition?

Ultimately, they are trying to say something along the lines of, “This pizza is fresh and good.”

Now, look at the other ad, and decide what the G-SHOCK is trying to say about its watch. What is this watch’s value proposition?

Ultimately, G-SHOCK is trying to state that its watch is tough and accurate.

Putting creative approaches aside and focusing on the value proposition, which of these ads is more powerful now?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s the point: You don’t evaluate an ad’s effectiveness primarily by its creative approach. You evaluate an ad by its value proposition and the effectiveness by which it clearly communicates (through whatever creative approach) its value proposition.

At the end of the day, it is less about “how” they are saying it and more about “what” they are saying. This “what” will be the true force behind the success (or failure) of either of these two ads. As marketers, we have to be as good at the “what” as we are at the “how.”  We have to learn to transcend the approach and find the essence that has the greatest customer force.

And for what it’s worth, the G-SHOCK ad is 10 times better.

 

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Marketing Classics: Four principles from the book that changed David Ogilvy’s life

January 26th, 2015 2 comments

Have you ever read an advertising or marketing book more than once? How about more than twice?

David Ogilvy once insisted about a book,

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

What book was he referring to?

Marketer, meet Claude Hopkins, one of the original 1920s ad men who could masterfully blend both art and the rigor of science to marketing campaigns. He is known for many iconic ads of the past, including Pepsodent Toothpaste, which some credit with getting Americans in the habit of brushing their teeth.

Hopkins was studied and admired by both David Ogilvy (who most of us know) and Rosser Reeves (who many of us know as Don Draper).

Hopkins summarized his theory of advertising in a short, easy-to-digest, book called Scientific Advertising. This was Ogilvy’s go-to book. I remember the first time I read through it. What really struck me about it was its relevance to what we were discovering (or I guess is should say rediscovering) almost a century later here at MarketingExperiments.com.

Now, I confess, I am only on my third round through this book, so I know I am not quite yet fit to work for Ogilvy, but I thought it would be fitting to share with you a few of Hopkins principles that seem relevant for us to remember nearly 100 years later.

 

PRINCIPLE #1: People are selfish

First, Hopkins warns the reader, “The people you address are selfish, as we all are They care nothing about you interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”

Much of the advertising in Hopkins day had turned inward and focused primarily on what the business wanted the customer to do — mainly buy a product or service. They had forgotten that before you can move someone to action, you have to help them understand what is in it for them.

It’s humorous sometimes how we can fall into the same trap today as advertisers. You can see it in something as simple as our call-to-action copy. We use phrases like, “Buy now,” “Add to Cart,” “Register” or, even worse, “Submit.”

All these display the symptom that Hopkins was getting at — we are too focused on what we want from the customer, rather than what the customer wants from us.

We run simple A/B experiments (like this series) all the time in which changing emphasis from something like “Buy Product X” to “Get Product X” has a significant impact on customer response.

And it does not simply come down to using a word like “get.” It’s about the mindset behind the word “get.” As Hopkins pointed out, people are interested in what they “get,” not what the business “gets.”

This is as true today as it was then, and the most effective marketers today know how to empathize with the customer.

Read more…

Hidden Friction: The 7 Silent Killers of Conversion

August 15th, 2011 25 comments

Friction is one of the greatest obstacles to your conversion process, and though most marketers currently have some idea of what Friction is, many are only seeing half the picture.

When asking marketers to identify the Friction associated with a conversion process, the response is often very confident. Usually, the number of form fields on a page will be pointed out first, the number of steps in a process next, and occasionally a third comment might focus on the length of the individual pages themselves. The overall consensus from marketers is that if you can eliminate these simple elements, then you can eliminate Friction.

However, our research suggests that most of the Friction in a conversion process goes undetected. Further, this “hidden” Friction often is the most lethal to conversion. So, in this post I wanted to lay out 7 of the most undetected ways that Friction might be threatening your conversion rates. I have dubbed these The 7 Silent Killers of Conversion.

Read more…

Live Experiment (Part 2): Real testing is messy

June 10th, 2011 3 comments

As discussed in my last blog post, we reviewed how the marketing force of 200 marketers at Optimization Summit was utilized to design the following test:

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Control (click to zoom)                              Treatment (click to zoom)

You can read the experiment details, how we got 200 marketers to agree, and few insightful reader comments in Wednesday’s post. In this second post now, as promised, we will look at the results and what insights might be gained from them. Read more…

Live Experiment (Part 1): How many marketers does it take to optimize a webpage?

June 8th, 2011 9 comments

Last week I had the privilege of being in the world’s tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere, joined by over 200 other “nerdy” marketers, for what was the first-ever conference hosted by MECLABS on the topic of optimization and testing. Overall, it was a value-packed week.

But what I found most uniquely valuable about the Optimization Summit was a surprise live experiment in which the audience was asked to optimize and test a marketing campaign during the course of the conference. I had a backstage pass to what would become a thriller of an experiment, with many ups and downs, bends and turns. The only thing I could compare it to while in Atlanta was trying to hold two suitcases while free-standing on MARTA (which I successfully did by the way).

All in all, I learned a lot about testing in the process, and in the next two blog posts, I’d like to break out some of the key insights I walked away with. Read more…

This Just Tested: Stock images or real people?

April 8th, 2011 26 comments

In our most recent Web clinic on optimizing leads, we quickly reviewed a recent case study in which two banner images were tested – a generic stock image vs. an image of a real person. This experiment led to more insights than we had time to cover last week; so, I thought I’d give it a little more room to breathe here on the blog.

CONTROL: Who doesn’t love a generic smiling lady?

If you haven’t yet watched the Web clinic replay, the company (blurred intentionally) we were working with in this experiment was a consumer credit counseling service offering free debt consultation. Their homepage had been the focus of many previous radical redesign tests, but for the scope of this research project, we were focusing on one particular issue: The main banner image. Read more…