Effective Advertising Part 1: The Greatest Challenge

Part 1: The Greatest Challenge

In the introduction to this blog series, it clarified a few highlights to what the entire series is expected to entail when it comes to effective advertising. Within those highlights, it mentioned what a marketer or advertiser’s greatest challenge is, ultimately creating something in which the concept is already disliked by the general population.

It’s an advertiser’s job to create a concept that the general public already condemns before it ever reaches the public.

It’s by far the biggest challenge and toughest obstacle in terms of formulating any kind of marketing, but the brands/companies that find a way to get over this steep hill, will find the greatest audience response.

“Well, how do you create something that people will respond to if they’e already turned off before it’s even created?”

Ahh, that my friend, is the million dollar question advertisers & marketers work countless hours to address. Going from a broad standpoint (no specific demographics identified), brands use innovative, creative, & idealistic elements that will lure an audience to what is being sold (product, service, organization, etc.).

Now some might be wondering how to apply the proper elements without even identifying an audience first, and truth be told, you can’t. The targeted audience should always be identified before even moving forward with any potential concept, but let’s pretend you’re the director of marketing for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or even global phenomena such as the Olympics or World Cup. This would entail a need to target pretty much the entire global population, so how would one go about it?

Based off my past experience from various sides of the spectrum, an enormously broad task such as this requires three starting components. These vital components can be vaguely identified as discretion, emotional connection, and relatability.

If a marketer is able to properly execute all three of these elements within an advertisement… Bingo, they’ve just created an ad that is almost guaranteed to find success in some way, shape, or form.

There’s that ole’ saying though, what was it again… Oh yeah, “easier said than done”; but I’d like to briefly elaborate on how careful consideration of each of these elements can be implemented, as well as provide a few recent successful examples.

First and foremost, targeting the world’s entire population simultaneously is an almost impossible task, which is why global companies/events have regional divisions to target a specific audience, which I will get more into in the next edition of the series, but for now, we’re about to attempt to conquer the ALMOST impossible; target every individual on this planet. So buckle up…


Marketing and public relations go hand & hand. I have previously stated that the success to any PR campaign relies on discretion more often than not. You can check out my blog post, Carefully Crafted Public Relations, in which it discusses the delicacy & discrete tactics PR firms take to execute a proper PR campaign.

Marketing is similar, and because the greatest obstacle is trying to create something people tend to hate to begin with, it’s usually an obstacle that takes center stage. The reason the two can be closely related is the particular aspect in trying to make your audience think it really isn’t an ad at all, discretion.

“What? That’s impossible! How can you create an advertisement in which people won’t necessarily be bothered by it being an ad?!”

This is where attempting to turn an advertisement (a message attempting to sell a product or service) needs to be crafted into a piece of entertainment. Let’s take the FIFA World Cup, they obviously have the difficult task to capture the entire world’s attention, and while regional coverage & assistance always plays a factor, FIFA ads are the perfect example of discretion.

They take a message, and rather than just relay, “The World Cup begins in June, and will air on these networks”, they make it a piece of entertainment. Let’s take a look at a 2018 ad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup below.

First, notice the title of the song, Coca-Cola Anthem. Do you think when creating this, FIFA & Jason Derulo decided to name the song, Coca-Cola Anthem? Of course not, Coca-Cola plays a brilliant discrete role in this ad by simply putting their name on it.

Now skip to 1:40, and notice the line in the song, “can’t you taste the feeling”? For those of you who don’t know, Coca-Cola’s current slogan, “Taste the Feeling”; coincidence? No.

This is one of the greatest examples of creating an ad that’s completely disguised as a form of entertainment. There are two forms of discretion being utilized here:

  1. FIFA creating a theme song & anthem to provide an enjoyable piece of entertainment
  2. Coca-Cola simply putting their name, slogan, and logo surrounding & within the video content.

FIFA took the message they were trying to relay to it’s audience, and created a produced music video. Did they mention the world cup itself? No. FIFA is relying on you to see the video as a fun piece of entertainment, and they only imply the World Cup is related. They actually utilize music to prime the audience to feel a specific emotion (which is personally one of my favorite media terms in existence, but that’s a separate in-depth discussion altogether).

Coke on the other hand, understands the audience will be focused on the music, the video, the flags, the soccer theme, and purposefully adds subtlety, as they only want your brief attention, as the hope is a viewer subconsciously relates Coke to the happy, fun, and exciting feelings you get when you watch the video.

Ladies & gentlemen, that is what can be known as ad discretion, and when executed perfectly as seen above, marketers achieve results that exceed all expectations.

Emotional Connection & Relatability

This is exactly how it sounds, when attempting to put out an intrapersonal message to the masses, you have to be able to connect with your audience. It may seem obvious, but so many advertisers fail at this, and there’s a reason for that.

You’re creating an intrapersonal message. Intrapersonal communication is curating and distributing a message for a large group of people. Examples, TV commercials, email newsletters, online ads, and billboards. These are formatted so that a single message can reach a massive amount of people simultaneously. Seems simple, right?

Ok, but to connect with your audience emotionally, intrapersonal communication (what you essentially need to create) is ineffective. Marketers need to find a way to connect on more of a personal level, aka, interpersonal communication. Interpersonal communication would be a message curated and distributed for an individual or small group of people. Studies have shown that interpersonal communication is 90% more effective than intrapersonal communication, so failed implementation, also likely leads to ineffective results. Examples of interpersonal communication would be a small business meetings, one on one conversation, catered social media messages, and customized email newsletters.

“Well wait, the two are complete opposites, how can a brand find a way to effectively utilize both forms simultaneously”?

There is a reason this edition is called, ‘The Greatest Challenge’, it’s another obstacle marketers & researchers spent countless hours trying to pin down. I personally, have found the best way to balance both of these forms harmoniously is social media.

Social media can be utilized to relay a message to a gigantic following, but that’s not where optimal traction is retained. When brands/marketers on social media go out of their way to customize content, address an individual, or reach out to an individual personally, social media is perhaps the best balancing act of both worlds, which is why it has quickly transitioned into a business tool rather than a social tool.

Let’s pretend we need to create a commercial that connects with the audience emotionally. To do that, we need to put together content that they can relate to. When trying to relate to everyone on the planet all at once, finding ideal content to portray a proper message can be overwhelming.

So let’s take a look at a few examples of how a few major brands successfully accomplish this difficult task. We’ll start with corporate giant Walmart

A Great Example

This ad perfectly communicates an intrapersonal message of holiday shopping can be easier and less stressful when you shop at Walmart. The interpersonal message caters to those who celebrate Hanukkah, and while it’s catered for a specific interpersonal message, I think we can all relate to the stress holiday shopping can bring no matter what we celebrate. This 90 second ad portrays perfect connection to not only a specific audience the message is tailored for, but still provides that general connection all holiday shoppers can absolutely relate to.

Now, without a certain element, this ad could have backfired. Walmart wants it’s audience to relate to the stressful feeling to providing a perfect holiday, in this case, Hanukkah for their family. How do they pull this off? They take the stressful emotion the ad originally identifies & turns it into light-hearted humor. By the end of the ad, the idea is the audience will relate to the potential stress, but remember the enjoyable humor, and obviously the happiness on the kids faces when they receive their gifts.

Excels In One, Not The Other

In the above video, Walmart is attempting to relay the message that gifts for under $5 are available. Ok, so the idea behind this message is to spread holiday cheer to your local mailman, pizza delivery guy, and cable guy.

Why is this ad likely not going to garnish the response it was set out to make? Yes, Walmart does a great job using music to prime the audience into a happy, holiday feeling. So in terms of emotional connection, they’ve achieve that.

Where Walmart fails with this ad is audience relatability. Example, is anyone rushing out to give a gift to their pizza delivery guy? Didn’t think so (although, they’re awesome). Is going out of their way to give the garbage man a gift? Maybe, but probably not. And do any of us get that sudden urge to give the guy who’s cleaning the ice on a Zamboni a little holiday cheer? No, likely not (perhaps take a joyride on the Zamboni when he isn’t looking, but not personally seek out the specific driver to say thanks).

What would have made this ad more relatable? Well, how about if the kid gave it to a teacher, much more likely real-life scenario. Perhaps the mailman, as it’s one of the few public workers you see on your street often, also much more likely. Or what about a neighbor? You’re telling me this 6/7 year old preferred to give these gifts to people that they might see once every couple of months over the people that live across the street?

This is why in real-life scenarios, mothers would not allow their 7 year old to decide who gets a gift. So as you can see, the ad does portray the holiday spirit, but it does so without any kind of interpersonal relatability. If I had to guess, the message they were originally trying to portray (cheap $5 gifts) likely didn’t see the response they were hoping for.

Excels In Neither

This is one of those ads you’ll probably find people saying, “I can’t stand this ad”, or, “this ad is beyond annoying.” Thinking about the toughest challenge for a marketer, why does this ad fail in proper execution?

First, they fail to connect with the audience on an emotional level.There is nothing in this 30 second clip that would propel the audience to feel something. Perhaps it tries, but it doesn’t offer any type of emotional substance. So that’s strike 1.

The ad is also the opposite of relatable. So you see a father and son sitting down on the couch, with an NBA game on TV. All of a sudden they get a text from ‘the Andersons’, who are already at the game. The kid tells his father, “you can get great tickets at nbatickets.com”, the father jumps off the couch stating, “grab your coat, we’re going to the game!”

Huh? Isn’t the game about to start? Do they live down the street from the arena? Not to mention, that entire 20-25 second interaction is just so unbelievable. So it also fails to relate to the audience in any way, shape, or form. That is, unless you are one of the very few people that live within 5 minutes of an NBA arena.

It’s a perfect example of how not to connect or relate to an audience. FYI, the ad no longer airs after being released for just a month or two, so that should tell you how well it went.

Hopefully next time you’re watching a commercial, you’ll be able to spot a few of these vital elements that can make or break any specific ad, or marketing campaign. Bare in mind, most marketing tasks aren’t this daunting, as identifying a specific audience usually helps establishing effective methods as seen here. Part 2 of the Effective Advertising Series will attempt to address exactly that, as it goes into the greater detail of understanding an audience.