A view from Sue Unerman

Making good advertising requires delicate balance

Havas Media's Tom Goodwin misses expensive advertising: "The very act of investing in TV, buying a premium billboard, taking an ad in Vogue became brand-building......

Expensive advertising versus cheap advertising – this is not, of course, a measure of effectiveness, quality or return on investment. I believe there are only two kinds of "good" advertising: advertising that creates desire and advertising that harvests the demand created by desire.

Brand advertising and response advertising must work together. Media planning must balance the two with some overlap (think Venn diagram: some desire-building ads also drive short-term sales, and some ads that harvest demand create long-term desire). 

The two kinds of advertising require different creative and media approaches, have different measurement challenges and drive different expectations. If you see a long film in the cinema advertising a prestigious car, you have different expectations of it than from a banner ad from the same brand that sends you to a site to book a test drive, request a brochure or configure model specifications. The two must be measured and judged differently. As Les Binet and Peter Field state in The Long And The Short Of It, one set of success metrics does not necessarily define or predict the other: "Brands should pursue a balance scorecard of metrics capable of monitoring both long-term and short-term effects, and be aware that it is not always immediately clear whether a leading indicator is a more reliable predictor of success."

In targeting terms, it is a mistake to apply the discipline of advertising that harvests demand to the discipline of advertising that creates desire, and vice versa. A few years ago, I chaired a panel at a conference that debated which new development in media should supplant heritage practices. Mark Howe of Google focused on the "zero moment of truth" and elimination of wastage that the company could offer. Jeremy Bullmore explained that if the marketing team at a luxury car eliminated all wastage and only targeted people who were about to buy a BMW in the next three months, then eventually nobody would want to buy a BMW in the next three months – because part of the motivation for owning a new luxury marque is the prestige it carries in the minds of those who cannot afford one. Eliminate waste at your peril. Short-term or long-term? Actual prospective purchasers or those in their peer group who will endorse their purchase? 

The balance will change by sector, audience and brand strategy. But the balance between building desire and harvesting demand is a necessary consideration for every brand.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom