Clarity Over Cleverness

The number of marketing messages we are exposed to daily keeps going up. From talking gas pumps to vehicle wraps, the level of noise keeps growing. To break through the clutter, advertisers are increasingly raising the bar on cleverness.

It’s commonly believed that ads need to be clever to be effective. But is that always the case? 

The answer is, “no”.

Do clever ads work? 

Researchers profiled in a Harvard Business Review article studied five dimensions of creativity used in ad campaigns and discovered an important distinction.

When products are functional and oriented toward clear consumer goals (cleaning garments with detergents, protecting skin with body lotion), unorthodox approaches are less preferred.

In contrast, when products are easily understood, similar, and tied to personal preferences (quenching thirst with a soda, for instance, or enjoying a cup of coffee), an out-of-the-ordinary approach can be more effective in stimulating sales.

But, regardless of the creative approach, it is critical that the ad end with a clear CTA (call to action). This is where we see a lot of campaigns really drop the ball. Advertising is expensive. Even if the medium you are using to deliver the message is relatively inexpensive (e-mail for example), the money you spend on developing creative concepts isn’t.

A cautionary warning

In the nearly three decades we’ve been writing ads and testing results, we can say with absolute certainty that if you don’t explicitly ask for the sale and make it easy for the customer to buy, you will sacrifice the effectiveness of your ad.

It’s alarming how many advertisers make it almost impossible for consumers to get their collective minds around how their offers work. (If you make people work to figure out what their potential savings will be, you will lose them.)

If you do nothing else before your ad gets posted, aired or mailed, make absolutely sure your offer is clear and actionable.