Lunar landing: A giant leap for reach, but a small step for brand I.D.

Ever wonder what consumers think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 people to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the message...

Ever wonder what consumers think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 people to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the message and whether, after seeing the spot, they’d be more likely to buy the brand advertised. The survey is carried out by Impact Research on a spot of Strategy’s choice. Kathleen Deslauriers, Impact’s general manager in Toronto, provides the analysis.

Advertiser: Ford Motor Company of Canada

Product: Ford Escape

Commercial: ‘Lunar Landing’

Description: The commercial opens on the surface of the moon, where a spacecraft has landed. We hear a voice over an intercom state, ‘Shuttle shut down for a couple of hours, why don’t you get some rest?’ Upon hearing this, three astronauts look at one another and begin to smile. A sports utility vehicle drives into view, travelling along the moon’s terrain. It manoeuvres over the rocks and crevices of the bumpy lunar landscape. The viewer can see that the astronauts are inside the vehicle. The SUV next approaches the edge of a huge crater, and the astronauts drive into it, continuing through to the other side. It then comes to a halt, and an announcer gives product information. The viewer can see that the astronauts have parked the SUV to get a view of planet Earth on the horizon. Then, the commercial closes with the advertiser’s name and slogan.

How the test commercial fared:

In its bid to avoid using the cliched outdoorsy images found in SUV advertising, the approach taken for the Ford Escape appears to have paid off in many respects.

The unusual scenario for an SUV commercial and the Fly Me to the Moon song made for an intrusive combination: 64% of the sample claims to have seen the execution as described. Had Lunar Landing been supported by 1,000 GRPs during the period of measurement, it would largely surpass the 40% norm for that media weight in Toronto. It would even outpace the 45% norm at 1,500 GRPs.

The departure from traditional SUV advertising was also appreciated. The majority, 86%, of those ‘reached,’ liked the commercial very much or somewhat, which compares very favourably to our standard for appreciation of 74% in Toronto. Not surprisingly, the music played a role in the appreciation. As well, there were comments supportive of the original scenario in general and the moonscape setting in particular.

In our view, Lunar Landing also appears to be very successful at conveying its intended messages. At 60%, the ‘astute’ comprehension scores handily beat our 45-50% rule of thumb. In fact, an amazing 43% of the comprehension responses obtained refer to the ‘go everywhere/all-terrain’ quality of the Ford Escape. As with the media plan, the reader must keep in mind that the advertiser has not shared with us the specific communications objectives. Thus, we could have been too stringent (or, conversely, too accommodating) in assessing what messages are ‘astute.’

Considering the short time that the Ford Escape has been on the market, it is not surprising that it only captured 1% of top-of-mind brand awareness in the SUV category. In comparison, the Ford Explorer rose to the top of the list with 12%, likely due in part to the noise generated by the defective tire controversy. This brand is followed by the Nissan Pathfinder (8%), the Honda CR-V (4%), the Chevrolet Blazer (4%) and the Jeep Cherokee (4%).

However, the Ford Escape’s unique creative approach propels it to third place in advertising awareness, behind the Ford Explorer and the Nissan Pathfinder. It should be noted that the SUV category was viewed to be quite active, with 69% of the sample claiming to have recently seen a television commercial for this type of vehicle.

Among those ‘reached’ by the commercial, 16% agree totally that it would encourage them to consider the SUV being advertised. Especially considering that the product in question is an SUV, this compares very favourably to our 15-20% rule of thumb.

Not surprisingly, sponsor identification is the weak link. Indeed, only 14% of those ‘reached’ named the Ford Escape, which is substantially below our norm of 35% at the 1,000 GRP level. It should be noted that some felt that the commercial was for the Ford Explorer, while others could not specify the brand within the Ford family.

Of course, as in the case any new brand, it will take time for the Ford Escape to establish a solid identity, within and outside the Ford family of vehicles. With creative such as Lunar Landing, Ford seems to have taken a bold first step in the right direction.

Methodology: From Jan. 17 to Feb. 4, 2001, 301 Toronto CMA residents were interviewed over the telephone on ‘Lunar Landing.’ Within the sample, we had an even split according to sex and, within each gender group, there was equal representation of two age brackets: 18-34 years and 35-64 years. The maximum margin of error is +5.6% at a 95% level of confidence.

After measuring unaided brand and advertising awareness, we prompted recall by describing the visuals and playing the Fly Me to the Moon song.

If the consumer recalled seeing ‘Lunar Landing’ as described, we consider him or her ‘reached’ and continue the interview to assess other variables such as sponsor identification, message comprehension, appreciation, etc.

To accurately gauge brand linkage, we exclude the name of the sponsor in the commercial’s description. As well, we do not reveal any message cues or the tagline. This allows for the assessment of message comprehension that was formed naturally after exposure to the execution in ‘real life.’