Continuing my recent defense of the “traditional” mass media advertising by Old Spice, I want to take a moment to speak to the difference between – and importance of – awareness and activation.
Let’s define awareness as the “extent to which the intended audience or targeted customers are aware of an advertising message” [BusinessDictionary.com].
When you watch a TV commercial that spends most of the time eliciting your emotional response to a story, then flashes the logo, you can be sure they’re going for awareness. Here’s an example. You can probably tell what brand this is without seeing their name, which is, of course, the point.
Activation is the extent to which the intended audience or targeted customers take action on an advertising message. Campaigns focused on activation are usually some form of direct response ad; the advertising message suggests some immediate, measurable action (as a counterpoint to just making you aware of a brand or product).
Digital advertising usually has a focus on activation. Click here. Buy now. Become our fan on Facebook. Do something.
I’ve heard digital advertisers shunning awareness campaigns as prehistoric remnants of a Madmen-style advertising world. When it comes to awareness or activation, they choose the latter.
I’d like to suggest this doesn’t always have to be the case.
A lot of fuss has been made about the declining efficacy of banner ads. I don’t dispute this, from personal experience or reviewing the research, but banner ads are always approached from the point of view that success is a click, and only a click. Yes, a click is a success – and a conversion is better – but how much do we value the awareness benefit to the users that “ignore” the ad?
I recently watched a tech startup’s investor presentation on the Do’s and Don’ts they had learned from their first year of advertising. [Update: here is the presentation from Dropbox].
From the start, they were convinced – not entirely without reason – that search advertising was the way to go. If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know I’m all about search. Since you can measure the actual impact of search on your bottom line, there’s nothing not to like.
But search wasn’t working for them. At least, not really.
See, they had the activation part down just fine, but not enough people were searching for the right things in the first place. Their customers didn’t even know what they should be looking for.
Pairing this search strategy with a general awareness campaign, they generated astronomical results. Their awareness campaign created the searches, and the search campaign turned those warm leads into sales.
I believe this should be the model brands follow. This is the argument for “cross channel integration,” to use the obnoxious insider lingo for a moment. Or better, this is the argument for approaching your audience holistically.
Look at how each of the parts fit into the whole. Define your audience’s culture – all the way from emotional triggers to media habits.
Just because things like social media create unprecedented ways to activate your audience, and the fragmentation of our media culture makes broad awareness more difficult to generate, doesn’t mean there isn’t a good argument to be made for both.
When you carry a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so make sure your toolkit is full.