Everybody loves a good series. Books, TV programs, films - they're particularly exciting when you know there are more just like them in the pipeline. Anticipation is a powerful emotion, and it can evoke a powerful response from consumers. That's true even when the product being anticipated is a new ad.
Brands have used the series concept in many ways, with many forms of media. Taster's Choice had its 1990s TV saga in which neighbors meet over coffee and fall in love. Denny's has had great success with its "Always Open" webisode series, which - thanks in part to guest stars like Jessica Biel and Dax Shepard - is now in its second season.
These series managed to bridge the gap between advertising and legitimate entertainment, but many others have fallen flat. How can you ensure that your effort will succeed? Through references and repetition.
Referencing Pop Culture
In its effort to attract the attention of female consumers, Clorox created for its Green Works product line a branded web series that plays off of the popular Bravo TV franchise "Real Housewives." "Green Housewives" features three women who go to extreme (and sometimes obnoxious) lengths to be green. The "eco-socialites" are featured in funny web clips that tie in with the Clorox campaign tagline, "You don't have to be ridiculous to be green." The videos have been made into digital ads and are also running on YouTube, Facebook, and the Clorox brand site.
As a series, it's very clever. The pop culture references are memorable and serve to underscore the core values of the brand, and the potential for sustainability is strong. That said, marketers should be wary of tying themselves to something that might be deemed contentious. According to Clorox, the campaign "pokes fun at how ridiculous green has become, in an effort to remind people that every environmental effort counts," but those who enjoy the "Real Housewives" on TV might take offense to the ridicule, and those who don't but enjoy Clorox products might resent the association. Some consumers have already taken to social media with accusations of feeling "mocked." Whenever you reference popular culture, remember: any form of mockery will invite comparison, and that may not work in your favor.
You may have heard about a psychological phenomenon known as the mere-exposure effect. The thinking is that consumers develop a preference for things that are familiar - that they've been exposed to multiple times. While it isn't always guaranteed to work with advertising, we know that increased ad exposure can improve brand awareness and recall.
This is particularly important when dealing with a series of ads. You want consumers to recognize the ads as part of a "mother" campaign, so that each one will contribute to its overall impact. That said, consumers tire of seeing the same ad time and time again. Advertising technology company Videology has found that viewing a pre-roll video ad six to eight times elicits a favorable response, but anything more than that becomes an annoyance. Overdo it and it's all too easy to go from well-received to reviled.
PayPal did a great job of balancing repetition with multiple but consistent creative in its recent video ad campaign featuring actor Jeff Goldblum. The ads appeared on Say Media Tech properties and Dictionary.com sites among others, and each captured Goldblum talking about shopping with PayPal. The videos were all a little different, but remained recognizable in style and theme to buttress the brand. The result was effective: a product message that's reinforced through repetition, without getting old.
If you haven't considered taking a series approach to advertising, you could be missing out on a lot of fun. The strategy offers great potential for brands looking to entertain. Create a memorable series and consumers won't just endure your campaign. They'll watch and wait for what's coming next.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014