Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wrong Question?

As I was watching tv last night I saw a few of the Superbowl ads have continued to live after the game.

Most of the questions we asked about the Superbowl ads were not the right question according to Jeff Sexton:

Are You Asking The Wrong Question?

Posted: 09 Feb 2011 09:44 PM PST

2011-02-10_0019Did it work — or would it work — is always the wrong question to ask around advertising.

And that holds double for Super Bowl Ads. So while I hardly relish the annual jawboning of the chattering classes in their predictable disdain for Go Daddy’s commercials, and equally predictable love for things like VW’s commercials, there are things to learn from those discussions.

Specifically, whenever you’re in the middle of such a yammer session, it’s always worth asking:

  • How do people frame the debate?
  • How do they (fail to) define their terms?
  • What assumptions go unexamined?
  • Which bias holds strongest amongst the public?

Because one thing almost everyone does is ask, “did it work?” But almost no one stops to ask whether ”did it work” is the right question to focus on. Honestly, anything can be made to “work” given ever increasing resources and ever diminishing definitions of “work.” If that sounds cynical, you should know that I used to be in both the military and high school education; I’ve seen that dynamic first hand.

The right question is: did that ad represent the wisest and best use of the company’s resources?

Or hell, I’d even settle for a wise use of company resources. But still, that question changes the discussion rather profoundly doesn’t it?

Let’s take the Chrysler ad as an example: did that ad work? Well, if you mean did it’s emotional message touch the hearts of most viewers, then yeah, it “worked.” Mostly because people wanted to believe it. But in the larger sense of “did it represent a wise use of Chrysler’s resources,” I think most people would be hard pressed to say that two minute spot was a wise investment.

Why? Because, as my colleague Tim Miles said, “I love the concept. I love the copy. I love everything about it. It made me want to check out the car. I just wish the Chrysler Eminem Detroit Love Story had been for Ford.”

And what I believe he meant by that was, “As much as I want to believe that message about Chrysler, I can’t and I don’t. But I would (and I do) believe it about Ford.” Which brings to mind a few questions:

  • Why wasn’t Ford advertising in the Super Bowl?
  • What makes Ford a more credible protagonist for the comeback kid story Chrysler was trying to weave?


1) Ford’s main advertising goal has been to spotlight and reinforce the growing REALITY that it’s cars and trucks are superior to (or at least equal to) the best that Toyota and Honda have to offer. Better build quality, resale value, feature sets, style, etc. They aren’t spending money on a Super Bowl Ad because they’re too busy trumpeting the fact that this or that car has a higher projected resale value than a competing Toyota model. Or showing how this or that prospective customer likes the Ford model better than the Honda model. It’s pretty much the Pepsi challenge with cars: you take a prospective Toyota customer, have them drive around in a Ford, and “Oh my gosh, I actually like the Ford better!”

2) Both Ford’s better reality and more consistent advertising of that reality prior to the Super Bowl made us all more willing to believe a Ford-based comeback story. And yeah, the fact that Ford didn’t take any bailout money also helps, but I’d bet that if Cadillac had made that Chrysler ad, we’d all have had a much different reaction. Cadillac’s been pumping out world class vehicles for awhile now, and they also have a very consistent advertising message.

So did the Chrysler Super Bowl Ad represent the best and wisest use of their ad budget? Remains to be seen, and I don’t really have enough info to answer that, quite frankly. I can say that it’s not only possible but likely that tons of people will give the Chrysler 200 a look who never would have without the big splash that ad made. And it’s also possible, though far less probable, that just maybe that car is good enough to convert those “looks” into sales. With that last part the make or break factor.

But this post isn’t really about Chrysler and it’s ad; it’s about you and your advertising. The same questions I’ve been applying to Chrysler are even more important for your marketing. So let me ask you:

  • Are you going to ask “would it work?” Or are you going to do the hard work to determine, “does this represent the highest and best uses of my resources?”
  • Are you going to attempt to entrance people with a false narrative that’s directly countermanded by what people see with their own two eyes? Or are you going to tell your own authentic story, complete with strong proof elements, easily seen and confirmed by your target audience?
  • Are you going to spend an outsized portion of your budget on a stunt? Or are you going to put your faith in a consistently repeated and reinforced message that’s relevant to your prospects buying motivations?

P.S. It was also interesting to see how this old school ad medium was driving the oh-so-new-school Social Media “conversation.” Don’t tell me offline advertising is dead…

P.P.S. On the other side of the coin, is it just a coincidence that Ford has opted to invest their marketing resources in launching a massive Social Media campaign around the launch of their new Ford Explorer? Me thinks not.

P.P.P.S. Bitch about Go Daddy ads all you want, but those ads not only have proven, dramatic ROI, they’ve also made Go Daddy THE household name for domain registration — even amongst the Church groups who have petitioned against his advertising practices.

Are You Asking The Wrong Question? is a post from: Jeff Sexton Writes

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