Martin MacGregor says it is time to strategise around just how shareable our ads can be.
In our industry, the overriding obsession is around work. How good is it? How creative is it? Is it well shot? But the one question I never hear asked is, “What is its sharing potential?”
Don’t get me wrong. The moment an ad is shared, we hear all about it and an ad that ‘takes off’ virally is shouted about as a huge success, and that it had been planned that way. But we all know it wasn’t.
Strangely, there is very little faith put into the expected human reaction to an ad and anything as positive as a share is seen as a bonus.
This brings me to media strategy. Media’s traditional role is to take an ad and maximise its potential exposure across a selected target market within a limited budget. But that is often done in isolation to any real understanding of the nature of the message and its potential impact.
This situation was fine until recently when the best that could be hoped for was that your ad was mentioned at the water cooler the next morning. But what sits at the core of almost every single one of the dizzying number of digital innovations in the last seven years? A consumer tool that enables sharing.
So what does this mean?
Let’s put it in a simple formula: Campaign Reach = Broadcast Reach + Shared Reach.
Easy, but what this does is force equal thought to be applied to both elements. The first one we as media strategists know and understand very well, while the second requires a very different filter, but should be a necessary part of the media strategist’s remit.
Most broadcast reach decisions revolve around the Aggressivity Index. What would the right level of invesment and weighting be for this brand in this market, in the context of competitor spend and market share?
Equally, we should now also consider the Sharing Index. How is this comprised?
Let’s start with two very recent local examples where shared reach was significant.
Firstly, the Bells Whisky ad [with the old man who learns to read so he can read his son’s book] that was viewed over two million times over a three-month period. And secondly, the Democratic Alliance’s recent election Ayisafani ad, which cracked 500 000 views in one week. What made these ads so shareable and added hugely to their overall reach?
They were both off the charts in terms of relevance. By relevance, I mean brand messaging that is relevant to the mindset, time or place of the audience.
For the Bell’s ad, a highly recognisable insight taps directly into a broad consumer mindset, and the emotional reaction is so strong that sharing happens spontaneously. Globally, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches did this on a grand scale.
The DA ad is all about time. Released two weeks before the elections, it captured perfectly a certain voter segment’s concerns in a controversial way. The DA understoood this and the expected media storm around its banning maxed its sharing potential.
Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull-fuelled jump from space is still the benchmark. It was an idea where the execution was designed to appeal to as broad a mindset as possible – who is not interested in watching someone do a spectacular supersonic live freefall? – at a time (Sunday evening) and place (accessible across most media platforms) where relevance was heightened.
So why should brands be interested in shared reach and developing a Shared Index for their work? Well, as always, it’s money. Once shared reach becomes part of the planning equation, investment spent on broadcast reach can be saved or shifted elsewhere.
As importantly, it changes the creative and media dynamic. If clients are serious about achieving shared reach, their filter for briefing and assessing creative work changes. If there is no sharing potential, then don’t do it.
For media strategists, it forces them out of their ideas-free numbers world, into one where their opinion on the relevance of a message (and by default its sharing potential) becomes vital. How else can they build a Sharing Index? Unfortunately, the persistent obsession of media agencies on paid media, instead of looking at all touchpoints, and their disinterest in messaging means there is very little skill being developed in this area.
Maybe the age of sharing will finally drive the shake-up that is needed for frustratingly siloed creative and media agencies? And the utopia of integration, something which clients are craving, will happen a little faster.
Martin MacGregor is managing director of M&C Saatchi Connect
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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