What makes for effective tactical ads?

The Withnail & I drinking game, where viewers match the characters drink for drink, is not for the lily-livered.

Nor was last week’s royal baby game, which invited you to consume products that associated themselves with the birth. Revellers were encouraged to enjoy a bottle of fizzy drink with Coca-Cola, wines and Champagne with Co-op, a pint of lager with Carling, a bun in the oven with Warburtons and a "Royal Munchkin" with Dunkin’ Donuts.

The accumulated sugar and alcohol involved would do for Withnail, let alone the average monarchist. Wise heads usually steer clear of such binges, but may have been softened by the glut of tactical activity around Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph (Robinsons was a notable supporter), the British & Irish Lions victory in Australia (Land Rover ran a print campaign) and Chris Froome’s Tour de France win (Halfords was quick to congratulate the rider).

As the rush starts to wear off, how effective are tactical ads around major events, what are the risks involved and what do brands and advertisers need to consider before spending?

David wilding-305


David Wilding, head of planning, PHD

"First, you need to pick the right moment. The more obvious opportunities are also the more cluttered. Next, you need to have a clear angle on it and it has to come very obviously from the brand. If you’re just going to say ‘congratulations’, then you shouldn’t bother. Increasingly, thanks in no small part to Twitter, you get points for being quick-witted. For that reason, a lot of the royal baby stuff fell flat – brands had nine months to prepare and it lacked a sense of spontaneity. Finally, tactical ads are all about context, so getting the media placement right can hugely boost the overall impact."



Dan Shute, managing partner, Creature London

"Tactical advertising isn’t new, it has just got quicker. That bloody internet. And it’s the speed that’s the problem – it seems to have made people lazy. Since time immemorial, there have been two rules when it comes to tactical advertising: make it quick and make it good. Now, people are so obsessed with speed, they’ve forgotten about quality – Twitter means that ‘being first’ is measurable in a way that it wasn’t when tactical advertising had to wait for the next day’s papers and, too often, it feels as though being first is all that matters. So, ask yourself: Is it good? Is it smart? Is it funny? Is it relevant? Only then worry about getting it out there."



Andy Sandoz, creative partner, Work Club

"Most tactical ads are samey. Bleating platitudes in an effort to be liked. Some are great. Insightful social commentary adding value into a conversation. It’s the same with brands. A brand needs a point of view, which creates the opportunity to tell the story from a new perspective – your own. Not everyone will like it. So it goes. Conversations don’t last long when everyone agrees anyway. So, while social media offers the opportunity for constant chatter, it also demands more of the brand itself. That it knows what it’s talking about. Knows the value it brings to the mix. There is a big difference between wanting to say something and having something to say."



Gail Gallie, chief executive,
Fallon London

"I love a good tactical ad. I think all comms should connect with people’s lives, and so a brilliant one should be able to sing zeitgeist and make your heart flip with its cleverness and speediness. I was recently delighted with Land Rover’s ‘the Lions have been fed’ ad – simple, elegant, literally raw. I think tactical gestures are fun too: I loved Wieden & Kennedy for turning its window royal to celebrate the wedding of William and Kate. But there is the air of tragedy around a badly executed tactical ad – where the brand is shoehorned in, where the joke is just too late, or where they should have left well alone as everyone else was at it anyway."