Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Archive for November, 2008

Clever, yes… but keep it relevant.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 20, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke – Lately I’ve been seeing a television ad for British Airways. Sea life fluidly swimming throughout what appears to be an airport terminal. A sea lion swims by, then a giant whale, and a school of fish dart about. No narration, just pleasant music and visuals. And at the end the advertiser’s name flashes across the screen with a reminder “Upgrade, to British Airways.” 

What does this TV ad mean? OK, I’ve worked in the marketing communications field for years and I am also a relatively frequent business traveler so I thought I could figure this one out. After stretching my brain to agonizing lengths, I finally gave up… I was completely stumped. So I turned to my Facebook network which contains a significant group of “creatives” from the realms of writing, design, strategy and interactive. They finally clued me in to the campaign… but only after THEY researched the campaign online to try and solve the puzzle (they couldn’t figure out the TV ad by itself either). The ad is meant to convey how efficient it is to move throughout the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, England. What lost me was the fact that an airline was advertising an airport – in a country on another continent. Sorry, I just wasn’t connecting the dots right! I guess I am not used to airlines advertising about airports. I though airlines advertised about, well… airlines.

Apparently the campaign is quite progressive in execution with multiple communications touch points that are triggered by a myriad of tracking tools and metrics, all designed to keep the campaign fresh. Wonderful! But it doesn’t do me any good – the ad executive business traveler guy who keeps seeing these ads on TV.

So where did the the “communication” falter? Simply put, it was clever but not relevant. In order to be relevant the TV ad relies on the audience being exposed to other communications from within the campaign. Trouble is, the campaign is really about an airport terminal in London, England and the other touch points from the campaign are directed at people who fly OUT of London, England. The problem? I am watching the TV commercial in the U.S. and I am not flying out of London, and I am not receiving ANY of the other communications, so the “cleverness” of the TV ad is almost completely lost on an American audience.

What should they have done differently? For the purpose of the U.S. audience which does not have access to the supporting communications, British Airways should have worked harder to tell the story as to why people will notice an “Upgrade, to British Airways.” In this case some narrative or some visual contrast more clearly describing the point of differentiation was needed in order for the TV spot to be relevant to U.S. audiences. The advertiser was extremely clever in execution, but the ad lacked relevance. The result being a very extensive U.S. media buy ($$ millions) carrying a message that few understand.

The lesson illustrated here, in straight-forward marketing sense, is clear. Develop communications means and tools that have impact, break through the clutter and have stopping power with your audiences. Just be careful that your clever communications also carry enough of a message to be relevant to your audience too.

[Want to learn more about the British Airways campaign? Go to British Airways at Terminal 5 or British Airways North America. ]

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