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
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.’