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Time to grow up

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by James Breeze

Marketing departments need to Grow Up and spend shareholders' money more wisely!

Having recently expanded my Customer Experience business, Objective Digital, to Singapore, I am shocked at how advertising $$ are being wasted in Australia.



When I was back in Australia last week, I watched Despicable me on the TV. In the ad breaks I counted the number of ads that were played. It went 10, 9, 8, 9. What? TV stations are making the ad break so long that people are most certainly turning to their tablet, phone, kitchen, partner, toilet and not looking at the screen. So why are brands continuing to spend money on TVCs? Do they not know what their customers area doing? In fact, why are they spending money on advertising at all?

Advertising dollars are squandered in all sorts of ways.  

Data is not king

Data gurus go on spruiking how their fantastically smart statisticians ensure online ads are shown to people at the right price, but customers are never asked about whether the ad is good or not? A crappy ad in one spot is still going to be a crappy ad in a cheaper or more targeted spot.  

Politics sucks

Businesses spend more and more time arguing internally or with their agencies about how an ad campaign should be run or how an ad spot should be designed. In the creative process they forget about basic Design 101. What ends up going out is terrible.

A bank recently spent a significant amount of money with me, so that I could eye track their newspaper ads and find out exactly where people were looking at. I could easily see that the ads were poorly designed and the result of political battles. Here’s what my findings revealed about the components of a successful ad:

  • State one strong benefit/offer that would attract the interest of the target audience.
  • Use a clear and direct headline about the product or services (limit to two lines).
  • Have one call-to-acton (e.g. URL/name of the product etc).
  • Use an image that is easy to understand and is relevant to the service/product you are selling.
  • Use a layout that is simple, with a clear focus point.
  • Font size of the content should not be too small.
  • Information should be simple, clear and complete.
  • Consider the visual hierarchy of the ad. In what order do people read the ad?

I know the designers knew this, they told me! So why were the designs so poor? Politics meant that product owners are vying for space and executives with no marketing experience are calling the shots.

Research must improve

Marketing departments continue to spend unbelievable amounts of money on useless retail research that says nothing about why people are doing particular things. They are constantly asking people what they do with surveys or interviews and other data that is a by-product of a consumer's behaviour. This research tells us nothing about how people actually make decisions. After all, 90% of the decisions that we make are unconscious so how could they ever be able to self-report on it.

At Objective Digital we work with any brand touch point, using eye tracking, to uncover unconscious insights that ensure advertising is effective, and can distract people away from their mobile phone and politicking is kept to a minimum. Businesses need to step up and do some useful research with their customers to understand what, how and why they do the things they do.

James Breeze is co-founder and CEO of Objective Digital.  A customer experience research agency, specialising in eye tracking, usability, user interface design and shopper insights in online and offline environments, with offices in Sydney and Singapore. 

Published on: Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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