Understanding an Ad’s Impact

The Cannes Lions 55th International Advertising Festival was held in Cannes, France last month. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but a few coworkers who did reported a huge conversation shift. Digital was all the rage. As this is an old-guard advertising festival, it’s usually all about the big idea, huge mass market campaign, and unknown performance. The old guard is generally slower to embrace the Web. But this year was different. Everything had a Web component, and in many cases the Web was the core of many of the ideas.

While these types of events are fun and everyone loves to win an award to tell their clients and peers about, many awards are based on people’s perceptions rather than how the campaign actually performed against its goals and what impact it had on the business. All this does is continue to push people to create work that pleases other advertisers rather than work that performs, thrills the target audience, and drives the business. At our company, we’d rather have an incredible impact on our clients’ business than win an award. Of course, it’s great when you’re able to do both. In many cases, a great visual design and delivery go hand in hand with a site or idea that performs well. You really can’t have the second without the first, but there are all sorts of examples where you have the first without the second.

This year, one of the Grand Prix winners was given to the Cadbury ad created by Fallon London. If you haven’t seen it, take two minutes to view it. Here are a few comments on YouTube:

  • “Good but nothing special, not a grand prix for sure”
  • “and this commercial got grand prix?!!!!”
  • “what is this about ??????????????????”

Granted, a number of comments that said people liked it as well. But this comes back to what makes this great and why it would win a top advertising award. It doesn’t matter if one person likes it. It matters how it performed. Did it have an impact on the Cadbury business? If not, it shouldn’t have won. And that goes for any ad. It could be the most creative, well-produced piece in the world, but if it doesn’t impact the business in a positive way (as defined by the campaign goals), it shouldn’t be considered a success.

So did the ad perform? Yes, it did. Here are some highlights of the campaign’s impact:

  • It was voted the most popular and most debated ad in the U.K. in 2007; people were seeing it and talking about it.
  • Comments on the Cadbury Web site suggest that the name Cadbury hadn’t been discussed more among people in its almost-200-year history.
  • Cadbury reported increased sales of 5 percent during the campaign and viral follow-up. While that might not seem huge, it is for a large company in a mature market.

So was it the most creative of the year? Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t think that really matters. The ad got the target audience to discuss and engage with the brand and ultimately sell more products.

It’s important to balance the performance of impact and creativity when valuating what’s worth focusing on and what’s a success within your organization. In doing so, you can really begin to focus on what matters. The debate on YouTube happens all the time within Web teams all over the world. They put what they like it ahead of what will speak to their audience and impact the business.

This is another great reason to test and try different things on your site to see what moves the bar and resonates. Don’t fall celebrate that you and your team just launched something on time and on budget that you think is cool. Celebrate that you drive engagement with your brand and company and that your work truly impacts your business.

Remember, you can have outstanding creative that doesn’t perform, but it’s nearly impossible to have something that performs without outstanding creative. The judges of that outstanding creative aren’t ad execs from around the world but are your target audience.

Long live Phil Collins!

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