At one point this particular thread took an interesting turn. Most of the responses were television commercials. This started a little sub-topic which wondered if “ad” meant something in print. (TV ads being referred to as spots or commercials) Interesting that even as so many want to announce the death of tv advertising that this group of advertising professionals didn’t mention an internet ad, interactive ad, print ad or billboard as their “best”. But perhaps that’s something better discussed another day.
The person in charge of the group sent me a private message inviting me to give my thoughts. That’s what got me to look at the thread to begin with, which was only about 5 or 6 deep with posts at the time. Did she ask me because of my particular brand of irreverence or had she decided to invite a whole bunch of people, indiscriminately? I suppose it didn’t matter, as I put pen to paper and with no uncertainty said “HeadOn, apply directly to the Forehead, was the best ad I ever saw.” I knew this would leave my friends and associates a combination of puzzled and pissed-off, but the question wasn’t “What ad I liked best?” or “What ad I found most entertaining?” or “What ad had the best acting?”. The question was clearly “What was the best ad I had ever seen?” And so I gave my reasons why I thought this was the best ad I had ever seen.
HeadOn is an over-the-counter pain reliever. Not only is that an extremely crowded category, but it is filled with strong brands, as well as many “house” brands that spend huge sums to get put on the shelves and subsequently to get people to put them in their shopping baskets. HeadOn was completely unknown in 2006. It obviously spent next to nothing on its ad and its media buy consisted mostly of the absolutely least expensive time it could find on any stations, anywhere. It was ugly and anoying, and it single handedly built a brand valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. HeadOn and additional products from its manufacturer, including anti-itch and arthritis formulas are sold at major retailers including WalMart and Walgreens. And even as many in this category have been holding their prices or even reducing them, HeadOn has increased its prices over the past 6 years.
Whether by accident or design there is no denying that if the word “best” as it applies to advertising would mean the overall efficacy of the ad, it would be hard to historically point to another use of the advertising media that was this cheap and provided this level of results for its client.
There are hundreds of advertisements and campaigns across many forms of medium, that have been witty, funny, moving, compelling, beautiful, sad, engaging, etc., but are the criteria for any advertisement being considered “best”, the fact that people liked it, or even that it may have launched a new genre in advertising? Does “best” mean that the advertisement won a buttload of awards? Or should the proof of best be left to how well the ad actually did in terms of delivering upon the needs, wants and desires of its clients?
While there are some variations with regards to the actual definition of advertising, they are all rather similar. I grabbed this from Dictionary.com
the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.: to get more customers by advertising.
paid announcements; advertisements.
the profession of planning, designing, and writing advertisements.
I think then that we, in advertising might be best served by taking a step back and thinking a bit more of ourselves as salesmen and a little less as artists.
After all, even StarKist wants advertisements that taste good, rather than those that exhibit good taste.
Please let me know what you think. Think of your favorite 10 commercials and see whether any of them caused you personally to take any kind of action. Look at your own purchasing habits and the brands, products and services you align yourself with. Is any of this the result of advertising you may have been exposed to, perhaps years or even decades ago.
What do you think “best” should mean when it comes to advertising?