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I have written about ineffective TV commercials here and here. Today I found one that is just the opposite. It is very effective because it fits several criteria mentioned in Made to Stick by the brothers Heath. The book, by the way, is highly educational, entertaining and practical. I strongly recommend it to anybody who is interested in marketing (viral or otherwise) and/or psychology/sociology.

In the book, the authors discussed six key principles that helps ideas spread: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out “SUCCESs” for easy remembering). Briefly, here are the abridged version of the principles:

  • Simplicity refers to an idea that is core and compact
  • Unexpectedness refers to breaking of pattern to attract attention
  • Concreteness refers to creating concrete images to convey your message
  • Credibility refers to using credentials to support your idea
  • Emotions refers to making people feel something with your idea
  • Stories refers to tying your idea to a story

What made the commercial I have embedded below so memorable is that it incorporated many of these principles. In particular, I think it is simple, unexpected, concrete and emotional. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean.

I was watching TV yesterday and noticed a pharmaceutical commercial. I don’t remember what the commercial was advertising (just goes to show you how ineffective the commercial was), but I noticed something quite peculiar about the ad. In the lower left corner of the TV spot, it reads: See our ad in Health magazine.

Magazine?? First, let me just say I have nothing against magazines — I subscribe to and read several of them. But pointing your TV audience to a magazine to get more information about your drug is just wrong on so many levels:

  1. Does the drug company seriously expect me to remember which magazine their ad is located, get up from my couch, go to the nearest bookstore, find the magazine on the rack, flip through the entire magazine JUST to find the ad to get more information? Do they know how much work that is? More importantly, do they realize the amount of work required to find the information is inversely proportional to somebody actually locating that information?
  2. Just how much information can the print ad contain? What happens if, after seeing and reading the ads, people still have more questions that need answers? What next?

I have a better solution. Instead of pointing people to a magazine ad, point them to the drug’s website! Not only will there be more space to display the information that potential customer may be looking for, the pharmaceutical company can also get information and feedback from these potential customers via questionnaires or some other interactive vehicle on the site. And if the drug company is smart, it would also use web analytics to understand the who, what, why and tie them altogether in calculating the ROI or whatever metrics may be in use by the drug company. Last but not least, not only is this the easiest solution, it is also a practical one — surveys after surveys have shown people are increasingly watching TV while simultaneously surfing the web. The number for these “double-dippers” is shown to be as high as 62% of all adults.

What do you think? Have you ever gone out of your way to find a drug ad in a magazine after a TV ad prompting? Do leave your comments below.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I tuned into the morning news on TV to catch up on yesterday’s or sometimes breaking news. In this particular instance, my TV served more as a radio since I was never in front of the TV during the morning hour. Nothing particularly exciting was reported today. However, one commercial caught my attention.

Why did the commercial catch my attention? Because the music came on as the commercial was rolling, and the commercial ended when the music stopped. There was no voice over, no dialogue during the entire time the commercial was on air.

Now, I am going to assume that most people who tune into the early morning news are not literally watching the news in front of the TV. They are most likely listening to the news while they rush to get ready for work, school, etc. In that case, a commercial with only visual and music completely fails to convey whatever message they intended because of all our senses, only our ears are engaged and tuned into the TV during this time. I am not saying that it was a bad commercial — I won’t know if it was a bad commercial because I didn’t see it. Rather, I am saying the commercial (due to the nature of the commercial) was aired during the wrong time of the day.

This really goes back to knowing your audience. If the media buyer had known a bit more of the audience behavior during the morning news hours, he/she would not have made the mistake of buying a slot for that particular commercial when literally nobody is watching.

How about you? Have you ever encountered any commercial or advertisement so ineffective you just had to scratch your head and say, “What were they thinking?”

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August 2020