MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; PROMOTING TV ADS: Is there more to flagging ads than boosting the audience?

Does advertising your own ads make them any more effective?

Does advertising your own ads make them any more effective?

Safeway’s cherubic Harry character may well inspire feelings of warmth

among large sections of the population, but it is rather alarming to be

confronted by his disembodied features floating somewhere above your


No, this has nothing to do with strong drink. Last week, Safeway ran a

checkout promotion that was designed to alert customers to the fact that

the ‘when Harry met Molly’ commercial was about to break on TV. Harry

was also given a major presence in the press - there were ads in the

tabloid dailies and on almost every TV listings page of the ‘Culture’

supplement in the Sunday Times, for example. Then there was the

obligatory Internet site, plus teletext, merchandising and scratchcards.

PR also played a big part. A Harry and Molly photo opportunity made it

to page three of the Daily Mirror on Tuesday. And references to the TV

ad abounded.

It has become fashionable to flag TV commercials in other media,

especially when the spot involves something innovative or outrageous,

such as the Media Centre’s ‘Miller Time’ strategy.

So what’s the big idea? Is it merely a device to inflate the

commercial’s audience. If so, does it work? Or is the whole strategy

much more subtle than that?

Kathy Jones, the executive media director of Bates Dorland, says that it

is a prime example of an integrated communications approach. ‘The

campaign has been so successful that we almost felt we had a duty to

flag that something new was coming,’ she says. ‘I don’t think it’s just

about ratings at all. We will monitor the performance of the break, but

audiences are so volatile these days that I don’t think you can read too

much into that. The goal was broadly to stimulate interest - and we

knew that the interest was likely to be there. This sort of thing will

only work either when you have built something that people feel a lot of

affection for, or when you have something so new and unique that there

is bound to be lots of potential interest.’

The first agency to advertise its advertising was McCann-Erickson with

its Gold Blend couple campaign, which goes back to 1987. The Nescafe

brand now not only advertises in the TV guide pages, but also manages to

get small ads in island sites within the listings copy - right next to

the details of the programme in which the break will appear.

Trista Grant, the managing director of Universal McCann, agrees that

boosting the audience is important, but says it isn’t the whole story. A

couple of years ago, when the commercial featuring the new Gold Blend

couple broke, the audience for the break leaped 67 per cent compared

with the equivalent break the week before.

Grant explains: ‘The research showed that we had created something that

people regarded in much the same way as they do their favourite soaps.

We promoted the ad in exactly the same way as a TV programme would be

promoted - there was a big PR element as well as advertising. We wanted

to create an event. We wanted the whole country to be aware that

something exciting was happening.’

But isn’t all of this an admission that the power of TV is diminishing?

Doesn’t it work on its own any more? Grant says that isn’t the point:

‘We’re merely acknowledging the fact that the way people immerse

themselves in media has changed. TV is still a very powerful medium, but

you’ve got to get people tuned in and watching in the first place.’

Jones agrees: ‘The ‘Harry’ campaign was built using TV and, in fact,

it’s not often that we use Harry in non-TV media. The fact that he is so

widely recognised now and can be used without explanation in printed

material is a testament to the power of television.’

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