We know the feeling – being always on the hunt for the next big thing, trying to break new ground by creating fresh work, ditching the old… Especially when we talk about creatives in advertising, the vigorous competition feeds marketers’ urge to offer something new in order to stay on top of their game. The result? Additional efforts and pressure on your marketing budget, difficulty in reaching your commercial targets and more often than not – missing ROI.
Research reveals that when it comes to creatives, the “shiny and new” is not necessarily better than the tried and tested old. As Andrew Tindall, Global Partnerships Director at System1, points out: Coke’s Christmas truck ad is the same every year. Kantar studies reveal that “wear-out is not some unavoidable destiny for ads” – in fact, it’s absent. Everyone’s favourite marketing professor Mark Ritson adds that marketers are advised to save their new ads budget and spend it on making their current ads effective.
Want to dig deeper into the new ad syndrome and the absence of advertising wear-out? Here are some valuable insights that we have selected on the subject:
- Wear-out rarely occurs for target consumers. It turns out that more is not always more and new is not always good. Kantar’s tracking data shows that there is no evident impact of how long the ad has been running on ads’ performance. Comparing the second burst of TV tests to the first, approximately a third of ads show no change in performance, while around a third has decrease, and a third increase. In other words, ads have staying power that can deliver over time. Now, thanks to data from Kantar, System1 and Analytic Partners it appears the general advice for most marketers is that wear-out – at least in the real world – really does not exist. Analytic Partners looked across more than 50,000 ads in 2020 and found that only 14 of these campaigns had run their full course and were exhibiting wear-out when they were replaced. The other 51,232 were pulled despite the fact they were demonstrating no signs of wear-out at that time. That finding not only demonstrates that wear-out rarely occurs for target consumers. It also signals the contrasting reality that wear-out for marketers, who grow impatient with their existing tactics and seek the green-grass smell of new creative, is a very real issue. According to research from System1, the average rating for an ad on its database during the first month it airs is 2.2 stars out of 5. The average rating for an ad that has been continuously shown for more than two years is 2.2 stars. And that performance, give or take the variance inherent in the sample size, remains constant right across the thousands of ads System1 measures.
If you are interested in further details on this research, you can revisit our previous post on the subject.
- “Wear-out is a problem of the marketer, not the market”. As Georgia Phillips, COO, Luma Research, says: Is your ad REALLY worn out or are you just bored with it? Does your measurement show that it is really worn out? Or are you just sick of it? Her advice to marketers is to stop changing ads so often. According to Mark Ritson, marketers must learn the patience of the market. They look at their ads with such focus and passion that – inevitably – they grow tired of the work long before most of their target market has even become accustomed to it. This results in campaigns being pulled long before they have had time to develop and impact the market fully and leads marketers to replace these high-potential ads with new campaigns – likely to be less effective four times out of five. As Ritson adds, more often than not, the existing campaign is likely still working and the new marketer has bigger, more important boulders to move first as they start their tenure. He goes even further by encouraging us to celebrate the brand manager who walks into a new role and does not launch a new campaign, rather than the one who automatically comes up with something new and cool.
As this analysis explains, the study from System1 – which holds a database of over 100,000 TV ads – says that marketers might fear that consumers will get bored of seeing the same execution, but evidence has emerged that this constant tinkering is actually damaging, with effective ads staying effective no matter how long they air. According to the research, repeated exposure to an ad is important for building mental availability and positive impressions.
- Overestimating wear-out means not maximising ROI. The above study suggests that consumers are happy to see good advertising more frequently than they do and therefore the effectiveness of the ad can grow over time. So is it time to finally acknowledge that (good) ads have much more life in them than marketers allow for and what does this mean when it comes to creating ads and leveraging their impact?
According to a case study from Cubery in partnership with Snack Brands Australia, while living and breathing, the brand may lead marketers to believe that a creative asset has reached the end of its useful shelf life, it ignores the fact that most consumers are largely indifferent to brands. This means they don’t think about them very much (if at all) and their experiences are often only very shallow and fleeting. A wrong decision would mean sunk time and cost of developing a new campaign (which risks not working as hard as its predecessor), but more importantly the opportunity cost of not funnelling these resources instead into something that’s proven to work. The study concludes that while marketers might get fed up with seeing the “same old, same old” day-in, day-out, the average consumer likely only catches a glimpse of your ad every so often and processes its content in a largely uninvolved and unconscious way. As such, their experience is often very different to that of the brand team.
- Decay – what we should actually be concerned about. According to Georgia Phillips, the bigger issue for brands is actually the decay of brand memories. Decay is the ‘fading memory of an ad’ and it can set it within weeks of people being exposed to your advertising. This means that associations and feelings triggered by your ad are not long working to impact on your viewers. Your brand can start to be forgotten, your assets fade. So, this is why giving your ad a little rest can work so well – people have had a chance to forget it a little and even a rest of a few weeks can help. Furthermore, she points out that some brands return to familiar brand constructs from previous campaigns. Leveraging nostalgic references is a smart approach. Not only are we able to tap into positive brand memories, but also continue to reinforce our brand assets. This works best for the ads that people originally loved and that were true to the brand personality.
- A chance to create and charge for work that lasts. According to Andrew Tindall, the above is good news for creative agencies that can start charging what they should be charging for work that lasts. Of course, what is needed is a really good campaign so it can last. As Georgia Phillips puts it, it is only the ads which really annoy, offend or bore people that they will actively tire of. And generally, it is these ads which don’t really work in the first place. So it is not a question of whether the ads are worn out, but whether they are effective to begin with. Or, in the words of System1’s CCO and host of the UncensoredCMO podcast Jon Evans: “a shitty ad to begin with won’t get better over time”.
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