For years, I’ve admired the Ad Council. The council has created campaigns to end youth vaping, step up to fatherhood, prevent suicide, and remind us through Smokey Bear that “only you can prevent forest fires.” Recently, I had the honor of being invited to be a board member of the Ad Council as a representative of the global ad tech company where I work. The mission of the Ad Council is to use the power of communications to tackle the most pressing issues facing the country by converging creativity with causes. I couldn’t wait to help.
Conversely, as consumers, we tend to have a love-hate relationship with advertising. I understand that for the free and open internet to survive, online ads need to fund the publishers so they’re able to create content. What we tend to dislike, though, are the ads that are irrelevant, that take over our web viewing, or are just plain annoying. We as an industry can and should do better by finding the right audience at the right moment.
On the other hand, many of us make a point to watch the Super Bowl just to see the ads. I personally love watching the Super Bowl ads and seeing the creativity and ingenuity of the advertising industry. I think Apple’s 1984 ad was arguably the most profound ad ever run during the Super Bowl; it had a deep and long-lasting impact that still spurs conversations today.
But my all-time favorite commercial, as my family will tell you, is the Oreo commercial from Super Bowl 2013. I still laugh like crazy when I see it–plus, who doesn’t love Oreo’s “cookie or cream?” theme? I also love the Hyundai ad from 2020 that was set in Boston with the “smaht pahk”: hilarious.
Then there are the ads that just touch our hearts and our souls. I believe that the Ad Council has completely accomplished that with this ad featuring a grandma after getting the Covid-19 vaccine, as it reminded me how the pandemic has touched so many of us personally.
When I think about advertising, I smile about the funny and humorous ads that deliver their messages with wit, and I feel great about the good in advertising when public service announcements (PSA) touch my heart and are memorable.
So how does an advertiser engage consumers and get the reaction, and more importantly, the business, that they intended to get? Here are a couple of pieces of advice and questions advertisers and brands should ask themselves:
1. Understand your audience. Have you thought about their reaction to the creative? Sometimes what one thinks is funny or witty is not, or worse: it’s offensive. Test and experiment with this. Remember the controversial Peloton ad? Many people believed it completely missed the mark, and the company got skewered.
2. Be true to the brand. Don’t try to convey a message that is not in line with the brand, product, or consumer. Don’t be what you are not. It always gets a reaction from people: “Huh? That’s different for [name of the brand].” Different isn’t always better.
3. Are there other or new audiences you want to reach with a new product or offer? If so, will the message appeal to them? Have you done message or creative testing? It’s easy to do digitally, but not so much with an old-school billboard.
These are just some ideas for brands or advertisers to think through as they’re working on new campaigns. I’m sure there are a lot more–so many that I might just write another post about them. And please do share your ideas with me–I’d love to learn more.
At the end of the day, I believe what we consumers all really want is advertising that is relevant and resonant–and that potentially includes a great offer. So whether you are a brand, an agency, or a publisher, the right ads at the right moment will not only benefit your business but also all of us as consumers. By benefiting everyone, advertising can continue to fund and sustain the abundance of content and access that we all take for granted on the free and open internet.
For another perspective on the perks of relevant advertising, read this blog post: “What Would the Internet Look Like Without Advertising?” And to view exemplary ads that contribute to a better and more positive user experience on the open internet, check out the winners of Quantcast’s inaugural Digital Ad Awards competition.