OPINION: Ads with public appeal can also be the award-winners

Chris Powell says public appeal, effectiveness and creativity are the key factors in successful ad campaigns and agencies must strive for balance between them

Chris Powell says public appeal, effectiveness and creativity are the

key factors in successful ad campaigns and agencies must strive for

balance between them

Sexism, ageism, but what about alphabetism? Ever since school I’ve been

aggrieved at my lowly place in the alphabet. All the good stuff went to

the Finches and the Hatfields; the poor old Powells had no chance.

I thought I’d solved the problem by joining Boase Massimi Pollitt. But

no, it’s happened again, with Campaign’s first survey of the nation’s

favourite ads (Campaign, 15 March).

Although BMP DDB had numbers one, two and three, the number one spot was

shared with Bates Dorland (Ba before Bo), with Safeway (S before W)

seeming to have topped Walkers, when really they were joint tops. So the

glory went to them and the chip on my shoulder got even worse.

Slightly more seriously, in his piece announcing the results of

Campaign’s first survey, Dominic Mills took the line that the ads the

public liked weren’t the ones the industry awarded.

But look at the list - Walkers, Barclaycard, PG, Levi’s, Pepsi, Tesco,

Smirnoff, Sainsbury’s, Nike, Coca-Cola, Halifax, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk,

Carling, Volvo, Woolies - all pretty regular walkers.

Unlike Mills, I believe the public, creative awards and effectiveness

are all in pretty much the same territory. There are exceptions, but,

overall, the ads the public seem to like, the agencies seem to like, and

they are often notably effective. This isn’t coincidence; it’s

confirmation that agencies are quite skilled at knowing a good ad, and

that likeability is an important part of effectiveness.

I don’t know about Safeway, but Walkers has been a famously effective

campaign, and so have Barclaycard, PG and Levi’s (both IPA winners),

Pepsi Max and Tesco and so on down the table, including seven IPA


It’s commonsense to anyone involved in selling to try to get yourself

liked. A trip down Petticoat Lane would confirm that the patter of the

best stallholder is witty and engaging, not boorish.

If street markets aren’t your milieu then the pages of Admap from time

to time contain learned articles demonstrating the correlation between

likeability and ‘cut through’.

In fact, in the interests of adding a little academic gravitas to this

piece, I will quote P. Leather, S. McKechnie and M. Amirkhanian, from

their article in the International Journal of Advertising: ‘The

importance of likeability as a measure of television advertising

effectiveness’ where they write: ‘According to the Advertising Research

Foundation’s copy research validation study (Haley, 1990), the overall

reaction to an ad [i.e. whether it was liked or not] was the single

biggest predictor of its effectiveness’. So there.

Those who dismiss the importance of likeability have a point. Fire

prevention or drink-drive advertising don’t give much scope for

likeability, although it can still be engaging. As always in

advertising, there aren’t any universal laws but, in general, for TV

advertising in most product fields, likeability is a commercial


We do need to guard against the idea that likeability is simply being

funny. Likeability on its own is not enough, but originality or sound

strategy also aren’t enough on their own to make a really strong ad - it

is all these things together.

It was always a nonsense that good management and good work were

enemies. Before overwhelming ambition and the recession got the better

of some agency groups, it was clear that the best creative shops and the

most profitable outfits were one and the same. So it is with advertising

itself. There isn’t a conflict between public appeal, creativity and

effectiveness. In the right hands, they are all part of the whole.