The Advertising Effectiveness Matrix

This ad is awesome, right?

I mean, it’s a viral sensation that’s been viewed millions of times. And in a world where people skip 30-second TV spots and click on YouTube’s “Skip Ad” after 3 interminable seconds, it’s impressive to find yourself watching a 3-minute commercial to the end. But I find myself asking, was it a good commercial?

In a post on product design, Andrew Chen talks about the tradeoff between virality and alignment with your value proposition.

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It might be useful to plot ad creatives on a similar chart, but with the horizontal axis renamed “brand alignment.” So I had my infographics guy whip this up:

The Advertising Effectiveness Matrix

The Advertising Effectiveness Matrix

Every now and then a brand creates a commercial that tells its story and everyone is talking about it: Awesome. Examples might be Coke’s Mean Joe Green commercial from my youth (and I’m still talking about it, thirstily), or anything from Apple. They create emotional experiences we want to share with others, and they make us desire a product at the same time.

Most commercials fall short of that magic but they’re good enough to watch, and with some frequency they can do their job of luring us into the mouth of the purchase funnel. Car and cosmetics commercials generally land here; nothing much to talk about, but we’d all like to look like those handsome happy people on TV. It’s been working for decades, and it still works.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a 2-by-2 matrix that doesn’t have a lower left quadrant. To steal from Andrew Chen, it’s the land of WTF. When I see a commercial that I don’t want to talk about and I can’t remember who made it, I sort of feel bad. All that money and marketing-department optimism gone to waste. Look, it’s hard to make a great film, let alone a great one that can be told in half a minute and also highlights a product. Perhaps we should admire the brands that depart from the traditional promotional formula and flap their waxy wings toward a higher ambition, even if the heat of the sun sends them crashing down in the end.

But back to the Thai cellphone commercial above. The vertical axis is hardly tall enough to capture its viral success. But does the story make you want to switch your cellphone service to True Move H? Did you know it was a commercial from a cellphone company called True Move H? In my case, I was dabbing tears from my eyes for the few seconds during which their logo appeared on screen. No doubt True Move made a great short film, but if I consider it a marketing tool, I’d place in the upper left quadrant: (Un)Branded Entertainment that fails as an advertisement.

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