Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why

By Max Sutherland | Go to book overview

22 MAXIMIZING AD EFFECTIVENESS: DEVELOP
A UNIQUE AND CONSISTENT STYLE

Category conformity

Sameness, sameness everywhere! You can't see the forest for the trees. Too many product categories gravitate towards a single style of 'look-alike' advertising. The style becomes 'generic' to the category and we end up with entrenched category conformity.

For many years analgesics (aspirin, paracetamol) was one of these categories. Almost every brand's ad showed a glass with a tablet being dropped into it while the voiceover advised: 'If pain persists, see your doctor.' This is what I call the chameleon commercials syndrome. Instead of standing out from their environment, ads like this blend in with and virtually disappear into the background. The problem is that the ads are not distinctive enough to break through the clutter in the category and deliver the brand and the message.

In one dramatic case, before the commercial went to air I showed several still shots from it to respondents and they were asked if they had seen this ad recently. The ad was for a brand of pain reliever. Forty-three per cent of the group claimed to have seen the ad on TV recently—before the ad went to air. Not surprisingly, most of these people said they had no idea who the advertiser was, or thought the ad was for some other advertiser.

How can people claim to have seen a commercial that has never been aired? What does this mean? It means that the visuals (and the audio) in the commercial were generic. They were similar to those used by other brands in the category. They could belong to anybody. If the brand were changed, it would do no violence to this commercial. One brand name could have fitted this ad just as well as any other.

Beware of generic elements in commercials, whether these are visual

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