Posted by: | 23rd Mar, 2011

What Makes a Great Ad?

I love watching ads. For the past few decades, the word “advertising” have been associated with negative connotations of images of smooth talking snake-oil salesmen, manipulating corporate schemes, and self-esteem damaging beauty/fashion ads. How many times have you watched commercials with a model with flawless skin promoting acne cream or a laundry detergent that cleans 3 times better than the leading competitor (how do they measure that anyways?) and groaned at its blatantly exaggerated claims?

But every once in a while, when I see a great ad that I identify with, that I relate to, and feels authentic – it really sticks with me, and form lasting positive connotations for the brand it is advertising. The truth is, we don’t want to merely see perfection in ads – it only pulls us in on an artificial level, rather than creating brand loyalty. Furthermore, companies that run ads that strive for images of perfection in advertising their products may risk being perceived as not trustworthy or believable. Ads that create scenes/images that embrace what’s real, authentic, believable and relatable have the most long-term impact on consumers.

Martin Lindstrom (2009 recipient of TIME Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People) writes in his article Why Brands Should Strive for Imperfection about a study that a European cosmetic company conducted, where they wanted to cut a 90-second ad to 30-seconds, and tested consumers on which segments were the most emotionally engaging (using a neuro-science tool). Surprisingly, it was the scene of two women crying and comforting each other that was the most powerful (and the scene executives originally wanted to cut out). They ended up running that 30-second segment. Afterwards, “when asked to pick a product in a simulated retail store, they ended up ‘buying’ 35 percent more of the brand”.

I’d like to share one of my favourite ads of all time – a touching Pantene ad that ran in Thailand that is completely different from the usual Pantene-style ad (beautiful model, unrealistically perfect shiny long hair, product-focused, voice-over, etc). This ad, unlike the usual Pantene ads, is simple, authentic, evokes emotions, with a storyline that we can all relate to. It has no pretentions of glorifying its product by showing off its benefits, but merely introduces an integrated core concept – that with Pantene – you, too, can shine.

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