The other side of advertising

Advertising can be described as the attempt to influence the buying behavior of customers or clients with a persuasive selling message about products and/or services. In business, the goal of advertising is to attract new customers by defining the target market and reaching out to them with an effective ad campaign.

Someone said “advertising is nothing more than inviting people to do business with you. If you want more business, invite people in.” In the process of inviting people in through adverts, a lot can happen, including hits and misses.

Can advertisement fail?
With successful and effective campaigns all over the place, there is the tendency to think that it is always a win with advertisements. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, an idea can sound great in the conference room, but when you get it out there, it fails to hit. Some times, what you thought was a great idea can go terribly wrong in so many ways. Whether it’s how it’s executed or how it’s perceived, the end result can be a complicated mess that can hurt your brand.

Reasons why advertisements fail?
1). Wrong focus. Many companies forget who they’re advertising to. A lot of blunders can be accounted by the fact that companies sometimes take their eye off the prize and focus on being “creative” or “unique” rather than reaching their target audience. Creating campaigns that stand out is an important part of the process, but an effort to be ostentatious should never come with the compromise of alienating your buyers.

2). Unrealistic campaign goals. Some organizations simply don’t have realistic goals for their campaigns or they just got the timing wrong. Admittedly, a campaign can flop by sheer bad luck. But there are still certain precautions you can take to minimize the risk.

3). Desire for instant gratification. The ad which creates sufficient urgency to cause people to respond immediately is also the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately following the “expiration” of the offer. Such ads are of little use in establishing an identity for the advertiser in the mind of the consumer.

4). Unsubstantiated claims such as, “Highest quality at the lowest price.” Advertisers will often have what the customer wants, but fail to offer any evidence. You must prove what you say in every ad. The prospect will not make a new decision about your product until you have given a new information and a new perspective.

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5). Event driven marketing. A special event should be judged only by its ability to help you more clearly define your market position and substantiate your claims. If one percent of the people who hear/see your ad for a special event actually choose to come, you will have a big problem of crowd control. Yet your real investment will be in the 99% who did not come to the event! What did your ad say to them?

7). Great production without great copy. Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive. “Slick, clever, funny, creative, and different”, are poor substitutes for, “informative, believable, memorable and persuasive.”

8). Confusing “response” with “results.” The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its Unique Selling Proposition. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear from the people around them. The slickest, clearest, funniest, most creative and most different ads are the ones most likely to generate these comments. When we confuse “response” with “results” we create “attention getting ads” which say absolutely nothing.

Examples of advertisement failures
MTN (Nigeria)
In the early days of the telecom revolution in Nigeria, MTN came up with a copy that typified Nigeria’s peculiar socio-cultural perception. A young man telephoned his mother, in the village, to announce the birth of his baby as he gleefully announced Mama Na Boy, to indicate the sex of the baby. This advert touched the wrong side of many people that remonstrated with the brand about gender discrimination. It was accused of stereotyping the girl child as unequal to the boy child. The outcry that followed the advert made MTN to pull it down, tender apologies, do a lot of image revamps and reposition itself as a brand that gives equal opportunities and recognition to everyone.

Sterling Bank (Nigeria)
Sterling Bank in its Easter celebration advert likened the resurrection of Jesus Christ to Agege bread, a popular brand of bread widely sold across southwestern Nigeria, and named after Agege, a Lagos suburb, where it sprang from. Many Christians saw the advert as not just offensive and insensitive, they also felt it was a denigration of the status of Jesus Christ, the symbol of the Christian faith. The widespread condemnation that greeted the ad forced the bank to withdraw it and apologise. In a country where religion is a sensitive matter, the bank could have saved itself the embarrassment of being caught in the murky water of religion.

Dove (Online)
The year, 2017 was not a good one for Unilever. A Dove ad posted on Facebook was a four-panel image showing a young African-American woman removing her shirt over three panels. The fourth panel shows a young white woman. Oops! The ad actually showed up in Google search results as “Dove racist ad.” Unilever said the ad was intended to show “the diversity of real beauty.” What it got was pretty ugly reviews and plenty of well-deserved heat on social media. Dove saved its face by pulling it down and apologising.
Ford (Europe)
Top carmaker, Ford’s advert for the Fido hatchback promoted the trunk’s space by fitting three women inside. Ford failed to see the issues with having three women tied up in distress being driven off by Silvio Berlusconi, who can be seen grinning and flashing the peace sign. Ford was forced to issue an apology.

Hyundai (United Kingdom)
Back in 2013, the Korean automaker released a real advert fail, in very bad taste. To promote the release of their new vehicle, the IX35 crossover, the ad depicts a failed suicide attempt in a garage thanks to the vehicle failing to produce enough harmful emissions. The offensive film quickly became viral and the backlash followed. Hyundai and the agency involved apologised for the ad and removed it from YouTube.

Nivea (Middle East)
German skincare giant, Nivea had to remove its White Purity advert after receiving backlash. The adverts had “White is Purity” printed across a woman, and was aimed at their followers in the Middle East. However, the brand was widely criticized for its racist connotations prompting Nivea to apologise and delete the advert.

Last line
While it’s important to try to stand out with your marketing, it’s easy to have a great idea going south when using new channels, and even traditional ones. Before you publish, post or print, take a close look at your message. Review your copy and take a hard look at your campaign in terms of current social context. Oh! and always get an educated second opinion before publishing or going live with any campaign.

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