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Advertising Effectiveness - A Consumer Perspective.

A 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 context.

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:

  • Connecting – some form of emotional engagement is the priority for any effective communication to take place
  • Understanding – they comprehend advertising and know what it’s trying to do
  • Filtering – they know what they like and want and consciously filter out irrelevant messages
  • Controlling – 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.

  • Communication connection – where they connect with the execution and the message of the ad
  • Building brand relationship – where the ad helps to facilitate an early relationship with the brand
  • Maintaining emotional closeness – where the ad reaffirms their choice of brand and inherent brand relationship
  • Retaining brand loyalty – where the ad enhances confidence in the brand and consequent purchase loyalty

Whilst acknowledging 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.

mixing bowl

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 follow it.


To surprise, advertising must break formulas and the norm, innovate, challenge convention and conventional wisdom, lead and don’t follow.

As one industry expert commented,

‘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 lives.

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.

Unsurprisingly, this 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.

film roll

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 appropriate personalities.


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.

beer tap

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.

Advertising continues to embrace sexuality through the promise of sex, showing fit men and women and illustrating a certain aspiration for the target.

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’ it’).

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 executions.

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 lives.

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