Why read this? : We look at different ways to review advertising. Learn how to have better client-agency conversations as you develop your advertising ideas. Read this to learn how to improve your advertising review process.
When clients and agencies align on how to review advertising, it’s like a marriage made in heaven. Which inspired us to to use a wedding related rhyming structure for our look at the different ways to do that.
Something old - What would Kotler do?
We’ll do the marketing equivalent of “what would Jesus Do?” by asking “what would Kotler do?”.
Philip Kotler’s Marketing Management* has been a long-time mainstay of marketing students. Our copy dates all the way back to 1988.
That’s before the internet and everything else it spawned was even invented. When digital marketing, at best, was Sega and Nintendo.
And yes, that book has been republished many times since. But it’s still a useful reference to see how “traditional” marketing would review advertising.
And you know what? Unlike other parts of the book, the advertising review section hasn’t dated too badly. Here’s what Kotler has to say on message evaluation and selection under the section on Designing Effective Advertising Programs.
“A good advertisement normally focusses on one central selling proposition without trying to give too much product information, which dilutes the ad’s impact. Messages should be rated on desirability, exclusiveness and believability based on the Twedt, 1969 Journal of Marketing model. These factors should be rated based on asking consumers to rate advertising for interest, distinctiveness and believability.”
He then goes on, that after defining the advertising strategy and briefing an agency, creative people must now find the style, tone, words and format to execute the message.
Sounds good so far.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t go much further than that. Only a few vague paragraphs about checking the headlines, images and copy. Not much actual detail on how to do this though.
So, what Kotler actually does here is tell us what to look out for. Great. But not how to decide if any of those things are any good.
Or even why.
There’s no mention of the psychology of colour and its impact on brand identity, for example. No mention of the psychology of typography and how different font styles can impact the readability and effectiveness of your creative.
Yes, advertising pre-testing will ultimately give you the answer. But it doesn’t help you in that meeting when the agency first present their idea.
What if they’ve used a “bold” colour to create impact? But you’re trying to build trust and credibility, and need a more sombre colour palette? Or, they’ve presented you with 29 different font options for the headline? And asked you to pick a favourite. Or, they’ve misspelled your brand name in the opening paragraph? And instantly killed any confidence you have in the rest of what they present.
All scenarios we’ve experienced in the past. (All would be fails on our marketing agency evaluation checklist by the way).
Kotler’s model would’ve been no help in any of those cases.
Something new - the “Weighty” evaluation model
Maybe it’s an age thing?
It’s a bit unfair to judge thinking that’s over 30 years old. There’s been millions of client – agency advertising reviews since then. Surely, someone will have come up with a better model?
Well, maybe. But actually in most cases, the answer is surprisingly, no.
Let’s look at an advertising evaluation model used by one of the big Australian advertising agencies with one of its big clients.
No names, it could be any of them. But let’s called it the “Weighty” model. That’s not the actual name. But the actual name is something equally serious, self-important and a bit up-itself. (Unsurprising, given many types of agency are serious, self-important and a bit up-themselves).
It suggests after an advertising creative presentation by the agency, the client team have a ‘huddle’. Without the agency creative team in the room. They review what they’ve just seen against 7 criteria.
Huddle for these 7 weighty criteria
- Does it highlight the Reason to Believe?
- Has it communicated the Unique Selling Proposition?
- Check the branding – is it unique and distinctive?
- Is it relevant to the consumer and based on an insight?
- Check that it’s distinctive versus anything else on the market
- Is it shareable on social?
- And finally, is it simple and clear?
Both of these are interesting researchers in advertising evaluation. But, we reckon 90% of marketers haven’t heard of either of them.
But here’s the thing.
But it still doesn’t help with any of those questions Kotler failed to answer. And this isn’t an especially easy list of questions to answer with the creatives waiting out in the hallway.
But unless you’re aware of everything else that’s out there, how do you know it’s distinctive?
And with this agency, distinctiveness was always a challenge. The creatives always shared the ‘inspiration sources’ used to come up with the idea. But, how can you be distinctive if your idea is inspired by something else?
So, on one hand we have adverts similar to the idea being presented. And on the other, the clients being asked to check the idea for its distinctiveness.
Something borrowed - the Gut - brief - idea model
So, have we found anything which does help improve how you review advertising?
Obviously, testing your advertising with actual customers is the gold standard.
Advertising tracking tests like the Ipsos test which uses persuasion and impact scores are helpful.
But before you reach that stage, the client still has to filter the ideas to decide which will go to pre-test.
So you could try these 3 questions used by another client team we used to work with to feed back on the advertising idea in the review meeting :-
- Do you understand the creative idea?
- Are you clear on the proposed “drama”?
- Do you know what decision the agency wants from you in this meeting?
You pause the meeting, if you can’t answer yes to all 3. It’s a warning sign the review meeting is about to turn into a car crash if you don’t stop. But if you can answer yes, they then advise you to structure your feedback around these 3 areas :-
- gut reaction?
- meets the brief?
- clear idea and execution?
What’s your gut reaction to the advertising idea? Does it feel right to you?
Advertising has a short window of time to grab the customer’s attention. The first time they see an advert is hugely important to its longer-term effectiveness. Because the next time they see the advert, their view builds from that first impression. (See our design psychology article on entry points for more on this).
So, the first time you see an advertising idea from the agency is the closest you get to seeing it in the same way a customer will. If you don’t ‘get it’ or ‘like it’ right away, customers won’t either, no matter how much you finesse it.
Does it meet the brief?
It sounds like a simple question.
But, we’ve sat in so many of these meetings where in the excitement of the idea, the brief’s forgotten.
Good marketers always go back to the brief. You put a lot of time and thought into writing the brief. Don’t waste that effort.
Make sure what the agency shows you meets the brief. Check the objectives and the deliverables. Does it do what you asked for?
Idea and execution
Once you’ve checked these, only then go on to evaluate the idea and execution. Get specific, and ask lots of questions. Look at the images, the layout and the copywriting. How does everything fit together?
Is the benefit clear? Can you see what your target audience will think and feel about what you’re saying?
What purpose does it play for the customer? Does the brand play an active role in the concept? Will customers even understand it? Does it make an impact?
Something blue - Well that was sh*t
If there was a single way to get advertising right every time, then the world would be full of amazing advertising campaigns.
And yet, turn on your TV, browse that website, listen to your car radio, and it’s clear most advertising isn’t at all amazing.
At best, average. And in many cases, mediocre. And those are the adverts which make it.
Think how many sh*t adverts die in the board rooms and meeting rooms of agencies and clients.
So if the first idea the agency pitch is terrible, be reassured it’s a very common occurrence. Sh*t advertising gets everywhere.
Conclusion - how to review advertising
So, with so many different opinions on how to review advertising, who’s right?
The answer is … there is no answer.
Because every brand, every target audience, every agency creative team bring something different to the mix. The questions and processes from Kotler and others can help. But actually, they all boil down to :-
- The customer perspective. Does this advert make their life better or easier?
- The brand perspective. Does this advert communicate why the brand’s the right choice?
If you can’t answer these questions, then sorry, creative team. Back to the drawing board.
Just remember to also deliver the benefit, the branding, be unique, talk to the insight and make it shareable. So we can use it on a 30 second TV ad, a 48 sheet poster, a 1080 x 1080 Instagram post and the CMO can put it on the back of their business card.
Oh, and above all, keep it simple, yeh?
Then of course, once you’ve done all those things, all you’ve got left to worry about is the advertising impact on sales and profits.
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