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The Power of “Bad” Advertising

Author: Amanda DiSilvestro   |   September 19th, 2011

By now, most people are aware that Burger King has stopped using the plastic-looking, creepy King to advertise their burgers and fries.

If this is news to you, then I completely understand if you need to stop reading this article so you can take a moment to reflect on how much you are going to miss the King surprising teenagers with a burger in completely normal, not at all creepy ways.If, however, you’re still reading, then I can only assume you hated having to watch the Burger King mascot as much as I did, and instead of taking a moment to remember him, you took a split second to forget him.

What I find most interesting about this story is that the reason the King is no longer is not because that marketing tactic didn’t work—Burger King simply wants to focus on creating healthier options for their consumers.

While I am completely on board with salads and sliced apples, this left me wondering: Is It worth It to Create Ridiculous Advertisements? These so-called “bad” advertisements can be explained by the company’s want for the shock factor—this can mean something so stupid, or something so out of the norm that viewers cannot look away (take for example Abercrombie & Fitch advertisements, they are not depicting something you see every day).

Speaking strictly from a marketing perspective, I can see the appeal. You want consumers to watch your advertisements, and in today’s world it is extremely difficult to get consumers’ attention and keep it. Speaking from a consumer perspective and someone who is guilty of paying attention to such shocking advertisements, there is no need to fill my head with such campaigns.

Why Clever Campaigns Can Still Be a Part of Advertising in the 21st Century

1. Consider your target audience
If your product or service appeals to an older crowd, knowing to stay away from ridiculous advertising should be a no-brainer. Shock factor advertising is a recent development, and even though it may get the attention of viewers, those who are older and have seen normal persuasive marketing may actually become hostile toward your company (this idea coming straight from my parents who are now boycotting GEICO until the Cavemen disappear). If you are dealing with a younger crowd, you may be able to get away with something a little more “out there,” but if you stick with a clever campaign, you ensure that many more will appreciate your work.

2. Consider the underlying effects of marketing for shock value
The media’s influence over future generations has been an ongoing debate. The general consensus is that the media does have a responsibility to consider the content they are putting out there for the public. When you do something shocking, people will look, but ask yourself if you really think it is better that your community see something mindless, when in reality it is just as easy to make a campaign clever, witty, and give viewers something to think about on their way to work.

3. Myth: Ridiculous advertisements are cheaper
In many ways, advertisements that capitalize on bizarre behavior and situations are easier to create. Thinking of an idea that is completely out-of-the-box is generally easier than coming up with something interesting with different levels and clever material. However, thinking of an idea costs the same amount of money. The actual advertisement completely depends on the number of people and the sorts of materials needed, but in the end coming up with an idea costs the same. If you have a good creative department, coming up with something clever can be expected and will in the end allow your campaign to appeal to more audiences with less criticism.

4. If it’s about attention, try combining the two approaches
A good creative department can come up with a way to grab people’s attention without creating an entire campaign based around something ridiculous. If you need to do something crazy at first to get that initial eye-catch, that is understandable! In fact, a good commercial will grab a viewer’s attention and will be simple to understand. Move into something creative after you have the attention of your viewers—this will allow you to bypass offending those like me who hate watching dumb commercials.

The important thing to remember is that silly commercials can be clever.

For example, consider the Old Spice commercials. They are certainly ridiculous, but what the man is saying is clever, unique, and makes you think—something the King and others like him failed to do.

About Amanda DiSilvestro
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