Sit up straight: Q’s & cocktails with…

When you watch TV, do you sit up straight and offer the small screen the same attention you would your boss? Or do you flop out on the couch and relax? If you're normal, it's the latter.

When you watch TV, do you sit up straight and offer the small screen the same attention you would your boss? Or do you flop out on the couch and relax? If you’re normal, it’s the latter.

Most people go into a state of ‘low attention processing,’ according to Robert Heath, the keynote at the Association of Canadian Advertisers’ recent AGM.

This is why consumers can’t grasp rational

advertising messages, he explains. But a spot that evokes emotion – that’s a different story. ‘Processing of emotions is independent of working memory and attention.’

You know what this means. Testing metrics are also flawed. Recall doesn’t work, says Heath, because it’s facilitated by attention. Instead, recognition among consumers who have seen the TV commercial should be compared to those who haven’t.

In the new year, Heath may even start a research company to supply those metrics.

His advice on creative? Be distinctive. Be consistent. ‘Make sure there’s something to take out of the ad and don’t worry about wear out. People don’t have the ability to decode advertising or get bored with it.’

He shared more insight with strategy, over some Chardonnay.

You mentioned how several brands declined after they changed long-running campaigns. (Like Michelin dropping the familiar baby in the tire, because there wasn’t enough product info.) How much of that is a failure on the consumer’s part to absorb the new campaign?

People get used to a certain range of advertising elements. And if you change that advertising, you have to ask yourself, why are you changing it? Have you taken a new direction? Of course they haven’t. But they’ve changed their outward personality. With Michelin, most of the damage was done by moving away from the emotional to ‘value for your money.’ It’s almost like they didn’t understand what was successful about it.

How can an advertiser be distinct in a way that is true?

The emotional value doesn’t have to be distinct. For instance with the successful U.K. Renault Clio ad [starring a wealthy French man and his daughter], it was a sexy, stylish execution. The idea of the car wasn’t unique but the execution was.

You mentioned that a lot of the Canadian ads you saw were very similar. Are any getting it right?

Bud Light because it conspires with the consumer. The CIBC advertising had nice vignettes. There was one where a mother spoke to her daughter in college. Through the whole ad they had a bar at the bottom with the CIBC logo visible. That’s a good idea – it’s better to be unsubtle. If you have your brand logo at the end, by the time it comes along, the attention is gone.