Why the world is getting flatter, and other things we learnt from ENGINE Eff Week Day 1

Speakers: Orlando Wood and Dr. Grace Kite

  1. You probably can’t answer these 3 questions about the last ad you watched.

Who was involved? Where was it set? What happened? Fewer and fewer ads in any AV format have answers to those three questions.

It’s almost a rarity to find ads that comprise one scene unfolding with progression. Instead, abstracted products tend to appear in flat, abstract words. Dialogue has made way for voiceovers. Real characters have been replaced by singular body parts reaching for pizza or holding the wheel. Every brand logo seems to have been flattened into two-dimensions.

Analysis of the IPA databank suggests all of those elements are, empirically, on the rise.

  1. ‘Whole brain’ advertising works a whole lot better.

The left brain and right brain do things differently. The left is goal-orientated, categorised and focussed. It tends to produce simple, abstracted representations of things. The right brain is more open to novelty and interaction.

Many of those emerging attributes of advertising – flatness, abstractness, direct voiceovers – are symptoms of a dominance of a left brain thinking. Meanwhile, many of the attributes that are in decline – a sense of place, character, dialogue – are associated with right brain thinking.

The left brain has become the prevailing mode in modern creative culture, and it’s having a negative impact on effectiveness. Whilst left brain campaigns drive short-term effects like web traffic, sustained attention and emotional engagement is reliant on those increasingly rare right brain creative attributes.

If we’re to bring about a renaissance in creative effectiveness, we need to re-discover ‘whole brain’ advertising.

  1. Ask yourself: ‘is it incremental though’?

In the face of slower growth and declining ROI, any business would want to re-evaluate where they spend their marketing pounds. But the ‘headline’ efficiency of a media channel can be deceiving.

Many forms of paid search advertising will often have high conversion attributed to them. But to what extent is it just helping people who were already on their way to your brand anyway? Sustained growth will nearly always lie in using marketing to get people who wouldn’t have otherwise come to you, to walk through your door.

Ranking a brand’s PPC tactics by which are least incremental and most expensive can be particularly revealing. For some brands, experimenting with this has allowed them to turn off some PPC lines with very little detrimental effect on sales at all.

  1. Keywords could be the key to less risky brand building.

If you’re an advertiser that’s grown via activation marketing, an internal culture invariably builds up around that. So moving away from reassuringly real-time dashboards into the less immediately trackable world of brand building is a scary step for many businesses.

Using search data to really understand demand can help ease that transition. Some brands have benefited from performing an analysis of all search keywords in the category, and grouping them into clusters of similar types of searches.

Each of those clusters effectively represents a ‘pool of demand’. Some of those pools may be winnable; others may not be. Some may be growing; others shrinking. But they can help brands determine where the most fertile area to fish is. What’s more, the keywords themselves will often give clues about how to frame brand propositions.

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ENGINE Transformation CEO Emma Robertson sat down with Ruby Wax to talk about her career to date, the work she has done to break down mental health taboos and how the future holds plenty of opportunities for optimism.


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