Effectiveness and the power of the ampersand

Ampersands!

This morning the IPA is launching the 21st edition of Advertising Works – comprising the winners from the 2012 Effectiveness Awards. I was very kindly invited by the IPA to provide a few paragraphs to this latest volume on what we have to learn from these cases. These are they.

While some might have predicted (and perhaps even wished for) its death, for many good reasons – most notably, that it works – TV advertising isn’t going away. So it is not entirely surprising to see TV dominate these stories of effectiveness.

That said, while the ‘traditional’ and the ‘digital’ have at least in some quarters regarded each with suspicion (and occasionally outright hostility), in this latest collection of effectiveness stories, we’re seeing smart agencies and clients harnessing what happens when TV and digital come together. Crucially, for demonstrable commercial gain.

John Lewis for example, led its unlocking of the nation’s tear ducts with TV. However what might have been deemed a good ol’ fashioned campaign plan (and there’s nothing wrong with that) was deliberately orchestrated with an eye on social channels, with the advertising running in highly social programmes, i.e. those that generated a high amount of twitter conversation.

In contrast, Walkers led its bid to get us to eat more crisps at lunchtime with live events designed to produce on- and offline news content and conversation. Judicious use of TV both fueled the intrigue around these stories and joined the dots, revealing the story behind the news reports.

Examples such as these should encourage us to explore the whole spectrum and variety of TV/digital combinations.

Moreover, instead of the tired, clumsy, unhelpful blanket labels of ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’, they encourage us to be much more imaginative and specific in defining the role of different campaign elements in shaping people’s attitudes and behaviours.

Rather than just think of TV as being the primary vehicle that we ‘blow out’ in secondary channels, we can for example, think about TV:

as SIGNPOSTING… directing people to other destinations and interactions.

as IGNITION… for a longer experience or programme.

as FUEL… intensifying interest in content experienced elsewhere

as EXPLAINER… elaborating the purpose or motivations behind other interactions.

etc.

And we can get more specific about the contribution and role of digital interactions:

as PROPAGATING… giving people things to SHARE.

as INVOLVING… giving people things to DO.

as INFORMING… giving people resources that answer QUESTIONS.

as AMPLIFYING… giving people things to further EXPLORE.

as FULFILLING… giving people the means to turn their interest into PURCHASE.

etc.

‘TV’ and ‘digital’ are quite clearly not mutually exclusive opposites. The IPA’s own DataBANK has already demonstrated that campaigns that utilize both online and TV achieved a 10 per cent increase in effectiveness success rate. And with these cases we have yet more evidence for the  power and (crucially) the effectiveness of ‘and’.

This feels like progress. Though as the ancient Sufi wisdom advises, “You think that because you understand ‘one’ you understand ‘two because one and one make two. But you must also understand ‘two’ ”.

Nonetheless, whichever end one starts at, the fact of the matter is that we’re still starting with channel bias. It is still a perspective that asks – what can digital add to TV? Or vice versa.

So perhaps it is time to erase the increasingly unhelpful distinction between ‘TV’ and ‘digital’ and focus on what really travels across platforms, channels and touchpoints – ideas.

These winners remind us that while they by no means have the monopoly on the outcome, digital interactions can help make our ideas properly three-dimensional ideas. That is, they can extend the physical and mental real estate an idea occupies in people’s lives, they can extend the life of that idea across time, as well as the depth it has:

three dimensional ideas.001

And perhaps that’s the question we should be asking not of channels and touchpoints, but of our ideas.  In other words what – in the light of the business challenge and audience – can we do to give our ideas more relevant Time, more Space and more Depth?

7 comments

  1. Nancy Upper

    Martin, you begin your post extolling the ampersand. What are your personal thoughts about the symbol? May I quote your thoughts in the book I am writing about the ampersand?

    The book will include contributions — images, poems, one-liners, short essays — from prominent people in a variety of professions worldwide. You are the kind of person I want in it.

    Also, what is the origin of the ampersand parade at the top of your post? Is that image public domain?

    Thanks, Martin. At https://martinweigel.org/about/, what matters to you matters to me, as will your contribution.

    Nancy Upper

    • Martin Weigel

      Nancy,

      If you cite the source, you can quote all you like!

      My thoughts on the symbol?

      Simple.

      All creativity is born of an ampersand. ‘And’ is the essence of creativity.

      The image comes via a Google search. I have no idea about the usage rights.

      • Nancy Upper

        Thanks, Martin. You’re in the book, properly credited. Book will be published in 2014. Will keep you posted.

      • Nancy Upper

        Martin, please send the link to your post about cooking. I want to study it for the cuisine chapter of my book. Yes, the ampersand figures into food and drink. The Sydney, Australia, Ampersand Cafe & Bookstore in is in the book.

        What is your proudest use of the ampersand in advertising? Will you send a jpeg of that to include, and a credit?

        “Great work, above all else,” friend.

      • Nancy Upper

        Martin, thank you for “Why Creativity is like cooking.” Fine ideas, composition, and writing.

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