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This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.
In the pursuit of profitable brand growth, being original, distinctive — and of course ‘creative’ — is often cited as the only true differentiator available to brands in mature and heavily commoditized categories. This has certainly been the philosophy of one the most revered figures in Australian marketing circles, Brent Smart. Having had an esteemed career largely on the agency side (including as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi New York), he recently stepped into the top marketing gig at Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra.
“When I look at big brands in this country, I think a lot of them look and feel the same. I’m always trying to find a distinctive way of going to market so that we can really stand apart from other big brands in this country […]”
Coupled with the goal of cementing Telstra’s position as Australia’s leading telecommunications provider and bringing a little personality to a much-derided category, the thinking is grounded in solid empirical evidence. While the concept of distinctiveness is most often talked about in the marketing and communications sphere from a branding perspective (thanks Ehrenberg-Bass!), the term is equally relevant to the pursuit of bold, memorable, and transformational creative work.
So, while there’s no doubting that brands need to look like themselves to succeed, advertising doesn’t stand a chance of being remembered if it’s unable to cut through the clutter in the first place. Unique and original creative work is therefore paramount, with emotion, storytelling, characters, and music some of the key tools at an advertiser’s disposal for achieving this.
Two recent campaigns in Brent Smart’s tenure have seen him attempt to define a new creative direction for Telstra while broadly infusing the seminal work of Les Binet and Peter Field (of The Long and the Short of It fame). “Deals You Didn’t See Coming” involves a series of amusing stories where people spot promotional offers in the most innocuous of places, focusing on a key functional benefit (value) to elicit a short-term behavioral response.
“Welcome to Footy Country” on the other hand tells the light-hearted story of a country football coach rounding up a group of local misfits to avoid having to forfeit a match. The focus on storytelling and emotion (with comparatively little emphasis on the brand and message) reflective of the campaign’s longer-term intent and goal of building mental availability.
However, despite their contrasting objectives, the two campaigns demonstrate that creativity needn’t be limited to advertising which is geared toward the long-term. In other words, leveraging humor, emotion, storytelling, etc. can be equally effective mechanisms for ensuring short-term advertising also delivers a longer-term payoff. In this respect both campaigns excelled, being highly distinctive and eliciting strong emotional appeal. However, where “Welcome to Footy Country” fell down in comparison was its lack of a meaningful brand connection. While people were enthralled with the amusing narrative, community spirit, and various quintessential Aussie stereotypes, the link to Telstra was tenuous at best. Essentially, Telstra and football aren’t intrinsically linked, leaving many surprised to learn that the brand was the ad’s sponsor at the 2-minute spot’s conclusion.
While the general celebration of the ‘mutual love of footy’ (a key campaign objective) isn’t currently something second nature to people when they think of Telstra, commitment to the cause and continual reinforcement of the brand’s involvement in grassroots initiatives will help strengthen this connection over time. (However, it’s going to be an uphill battle to wrestle away these associations from the likes of Toyota and NAB.) More broadly, describing “Deals You Didn’t See Coming” as a short-term play doesn’t do it adequate justice. What it’s a reminder of is that the most effective advertising can and does deliver on both. By addressing a key category ‘job to be done’ in a credible, relevant, and different way versus competitors, advertising can deliver the “double whammy” of an immediate sales uplift while also strengthening future predisposition.
It’s true that Creativity is Always the Answer. However, this comes with a big caveat: to qualify as ‘advertising’ it must have a commercial purpose. Therefore, while producing highly Captivating content (one of the 3Cs for advertising success) is a guaranteed way to delight judges at a creative awards show, without Connecting and Compelling it won’t translate into the desired brand effects — and that’s the only thing that will ultimately delight shareholders.