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.