significant amount of time, energy and money is spent focusing
on the development of youth advertising in research. Determinants
of a ‘successful’ ad usually include factors such
as overall appeal and relevance, its perceived impact on the
brand and engagement with the executional detail.
Whilst these indicators
are intrinsic to the understanding and consequent development
of any ad, a relatively small amount of time and energy is
spent asking consumers what they want from advertising and
placing these drivers of successful advertising within a cultural
As a way of exploring
this more we conducted a project that augments the knowledge
that we have gathered over the last few years whilst conducting
advertising development projects.
We conducted a series
of group discussions amongst 15-30 year olds using both some
advertising that we had pre-selected as well as their spontaneous
suggestions of “good“ (and bad) advertising. We
supplemented these with a number of in-depth interviews with
industry experts such as advertising planners, creatives and
film makers to discuss what makes great advertising for consumers,
rather than what makes great advertising for them; although
sometimes these things are not mutually exclusive.
There is little doubt
that young people of today are a media savvy bunch
When presented with
advertising most illustrate an ability to deconstruct both
the ad and the message. Four key factors are apparent:
– some form of emotional engagement is the priority
for any effective communication to take place
– they comprehend advertising and know what it’s
trying to do
– they know what they like and want and consciously
filter out irrelevant messages
– they are taking control of the process, it is no
longer a one way think
Nearly all appear to have an innate
understanding of a theory behind advertising, and it is possible
to develop a process that consumers acknowledge as important
to successful advertising.
connection – where they connect with the
execution and the message of the ad
brand relationship – where the ad helps to
facilitate an early relationship with the brand
emotional closeness – where the ad reaffirms
their choice of brand and inherent brand relationship
brand loyalty – where the ad enhances confidence
in the brand and consequent purchase loyalty
the levels of understanding evident in this audience, eleven
key ingredients for successful advertising can be identified.
Although a successful recipe is not dependent on a representation
of all ingredients, the better ads typically boast more.
Young people are always
looking for originality and seeking new experiences, be they
in their travel, with friends, through drugs or even in the
brands they choose.
Advertising is often
an extension or interpretation of popular culture and for
this reason originality and creativity is paramount to the
success of an ad. Consumers respect brands that do things
differently and are proud to stand out from the crowd.
This is often achieved
through showing imagination and commitment to the idea, being
inventive and thinking outside the category, being comfortable
with difference, or simply providing something not seen before.
This is best exemplified by advertising such as adidas, Stella
Artois and Guinness.
This target audience
are part of an accelerated culture where fashion and trends
mainstream faster than ever. It is indeed a bulimic society
in which trends are eaten and spat out at the same sitting.
For this reason it is important to keep surprising these consumers.
Advertising should have the right to lead culture rather than
To surprise, advertising
must break formulas and the norm, innovate, challenge convention
and conventional wisdom, lead and don’t follow.
As one industry expert
‘Cool changes so often and their needs change so often,
you can’t guess, you have to surprise’
This is exemplified
by advertising such as Honda (‘Cog’) and Rustlers.
Young people are always
looking for avenues through which they can define themselves,
be it brands, music, sports teams or political issues. Consumers
engage with and appreciate advertising that they can relate
and aspire to, and that illustrates genuine insight into their
Insight can be displayed
in many ways such as reflecting the zeitgeist, showing a real
understanding of their world or offering a clever take on
a simple insight. Just don’t take yourselves too seriously.
Good examples of this are Budweiser (‘True’) and
Carlsberg (‘If Carlsberg Did’) campaigns.
audience love to laugh and be entertained. Having grown up
with Sky TV and an endless archive of classic and contemporary
comedy, they are however a demanding lot. Advertising that
demonstrates new, fresh, relevant humour is embraced by nearly
everyone. Most are looking for funny situations that they
can identify with, or whacky and escapist scenarios that subvert
conventions. This can be seen in John Smiths (‘No Nonsense’)
and Rustlers (‘0-Tasty in 70 Seconds’) to name
but a few.
In a world of MTV and
highly polished music video clips, movie special effects once
not thought possible and gaming graphics that look almost
more real than reality, the bar for production values in advertising
is extremely high. Whilst production values (or lack of them)
do not often make or destroy an idea, high quality production
values in advertising ensure the brand is interacting on a
level that can be easily understood. This is illustrated in
the Stella Artois (‘Reassuringly Expensive’) and
Nike (‘Portugal vs Brazil’) campaigns.
British youth exist
in a celebrity culture that is like no other. It is a culture
that celebrates celebrity of any type. Most believe it is
easy to become famous and that they have the right to it and
to all its trappings. Celebrity is enjoyed and as such nearly
all appreciate the use of celebrity in advertising. There
must, however, exist a perception that advertising is using
This is achieved through
ensuring a brand fit or synergy with the personality or using
a celebrity ‘of the now’, and ultimately by ensuring
the celebrity is popular amongst the target audience. This
is exemplified through adidas (‘Impossible is Nothing’)
and John Smiths (‘No Nonsense’).
Consumers are quick
to smell a rat if advertising does not reflect the brand personality.
Advertising style and genre should be appropriate for the
brand and it is important not to jump on the bandwagon without
a relevant fit or an unwavering commitment. For instance,
hip-hop lifestyle or slapstick humour do not fit with all
youth brands. There is no doubt that brand campaigns such
as Stella Artois’s (‘Reassuringly Expensive’)
achieve this, whereas campaigns such as McDonald’s (‘I’m
Lovin’ it’) do not.
Sex sells is as much
a truism for the hormone ravaged youth of today now as it
ever was. Brands continue to exploit any plausible association.
However, increasingly beautiful faces and bodies are not enough,
and must be accompanied with surprise, humour and originality.
to embrace sexuality through the promise of sex, showing fit
men and women and illustrating a certain aspiration for the
This is clearly represented
in both Lynx (‘Touch’) and Bacardi (‘welcome
to the Latin Quarter’).
Whilst British youth
still look to the US for influence when it comes to music,
fashion and brands, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-American
feeling, with the US becoming ever more insular and consequently
irrelevant. This audience are looking for traditionally American
or global brands to show a sense of British-ness in any advertising
rather than glorifying an outdated sense of American-ness.
This is accomplished through showing local sensitivity, insight,
relevance and above all a humour in interpretation of cultural
anomalies. This is shown in Budweiser (‘True’)
and lacking in McDonald’s (‘I’m Lovin’
Brands act as signposts
for this audience and are important facilitators of identity
in their lives. As such, consumers call for fresh and coherent
communication to ensure the brand they form a relationship
with is not merely reflected in one or two advertising executions.
It is important to build a strong campaign. This is best achieved
through staying surprising and original, providing a fresh
take on brand communication and providing a series of memorable
This is illustrated
successfully through Carlsberg (‘If Carlsberg Did’)
and Virgin (‘Devil Makes Work…’)
This group are constantly
on the lookout for anything that gives them social currency,
be it information on the latest mobile phone or the rumour
regarding the new football manager at Liverpool. Advertising
allows these consumers to show their peers they are ‘in
the know’. The best advertising will always achieve
talkability, and in some cases, will be culturally adopted
(eg. Whassup/ ‘Ave it)
Being talked about
does not result from any one particular ingredient, but can
be a combination of any of them. Successful advertising will
find a way out of the lounge room and into their everyday