Did someone say ‘useful advertising’? Although not quite an oxymoron these two words certainly are not easy bedfellows. Like many, I think I would prefer the term ‘irritating advertising’.
In this technological age advertising comes at us from every angle and we are absorbing it subconsciously until our minds are cluttered with jingles and straplines and logos for companies we know nothing about. It is instinctual now to filter traditional advertising out of our consciousness, to never click on those banner ads and to fast forward through TV ads whenever possible.
Adverts as entertainment
Advertising can however, still be enjoyable. Decades of iconic Guinness adverts, the BT family everyone loved to follow, and Coca-Cola’s annual Christmas ad have been taken a step further with the proliferation of online viral videos. 3 Mobile’s cliff-dancing Shetland pony and Evian’s ‘baby and me’ campaign popularised by their interactive app are perfect examples of the modernisation of entertaining advertising.
These online adverts are linked and shared on Facebook, re-tweeted on Twitter and discovered and passed on via laptops, iPads and smart phones amongst friends all over the world. Adverts focused on entertaining and amusing us on our commute to work, therefore, still have value for companies. But can adverts actually be useful?
Utility through innovation and cultural experience
Educational adverts clearly can be useful. Safety adverts such as the government’s ‘kill your speed’ campaign with the haunting images of the small girl slumped against a tree, or the pizza splattered on the windscreen, are effective at pricking our consciousness and encouraging a change in behavior. But even adverts made to fleetingly entertain us while boosting company profits can serve a purpose. With the population reaching advertising saturation-point companies need to push the boundaries and really focus on what they can give the customer that adds value.
Innovations such as Red Bull’s ‘Media House’ which bought Felix Baumgartner’s space jump, and Nike+ which brings customers apps and devices by which to track performance and input their data, show clearly how companies can deliver value to their customers. This more innovative approach can enrich our cultural experience of brands and products and like Nike’s apps, make routine activities more enjoyable.
Give audiences value
This concept of added value enhances our associations with brands beyond that of the conventional consumer-supplier relationship. Through doing this brands create a shift in the way they position themselves in the daily lives of their customers, enriching the experiences they have with the products being consumed.
So ‘useful advertising’ does exist, and it’s as simple as creating something that adds value for the consumer. If an ad puts a smile on someone's face, that's great. If it enables someone to do something easier or better than they could before, like an intuitive app, or just a more direct route to whatever the user was going to look at next, even better. How useful advertising is, determines its success by cutting through the noise of everything else that's out there. And in the end, value for the user ultimately means value for the advertiser.