15 Feb 2019 19:21 IST

The art of making ads relevant

For greater impact, brands must tell their stories through the right medium, at the right time

You work in advertising, and a friend and you are enjoying a refreshing pint at your local pub one Saturday evening. Blind to the background babble, you listen to your buddy’s latest funny anecdote. Then your ears subtly perk up as you’re sure you heard your name called out from across the room. Does this sound familiar? This is what psychologists call ‘the cocktail party effect’, and it has huge implications in marketing.

The term ‘cocktail party effect’ was coined by Edward Colin Cherry, a British cognitive scientist whose main contributions were to do with auditory attention. Cherry recognised that social bearings provided valuable insights. He also realised that while our conscious minds only register a fraction of the surrounding information, we intuitively process far more than that.

Ads and the background pub noise

We are exposed to so many ads clamouring for our attention, that, like other peoples’ pub conversations, we colour most of them out. This procedure can be understood by a simple experiment. Try to recall the ads you saw yesterday. One, two, five, ten? Even the highest number is a paltry fraction of the hundreds you were exposed to, if you were glued to your device, out on the road, had read a newspaper or watched TV. This extensive screening out means that a brand’s biggest task is to get noticed. Fortunately, the cocktail party effect shows how.

How to make ads that enthral people

The answer is simple common sense. It’s all about making ads pertinent to both the viewer and the moment. Think about that for a minute. It denotes a pretty big difference between relevant ads and average ads. And it says a lot about what relevance means for consumers today.

It’s no longer enough to merely understand your target audience. Advertisers must also grasp the context of what their audience is looking for. The right message is the key to successfully grabbing consumers’ attention. And that’s a big break for brands. There are three possible ways ads can miss the relevance mark and fail to get attention — wrong creative, wrong person and wrong moment. By tackling each of these areas, advertisers can make some headway towards creating more relevant and attention-worthy ads.

The advertising implications

To be effective in attracting and retaining customers today, many brands run high-profile, localised campaigns to great effect. The most successful brands today are platform-agnostic and focus on delivering localised and contextual content based on where, when and how customers are engaging with others. There’s an opportunity for brands to boost their effectiveness and distinctiveness by meaningful localisation.

Eventually, you want to deliver a perfect blend of content, message and experience, based on what the consumer is doing at a particular time, and where. To match the content, your brand serves customers by delivering a relevant experience.

Rise of hyperlocal titans

While digital and social ad content persist as an important parts of any brand’s marketing plan, local digital brands are investing in out-of-home (OOH) and digital OOH (DOOH) activity too. According to a new report, nearly a quarter of the top 100 OOH advertisers are major tech brands such as Apple and Google. The rationale behind the upsurge is OOH is that it is one of the best ways for brands to gain dominance in a largely mobile-driven market. With a smartphones and screens all around us, brands have to learn to tell their stories through the right mediums, with greater impact.

Today, the most efficacious brands are platform-agnostic and focus on delivering localised and contextual content based on where, when and how customers are engaging with one another. OOH provides the highest rate of online activation, and brands are building on this strength, using cross-channel campaigns that span OOH placements as also mobile ads that are often narrowed down to specific locations. Such as your local pub. So, the next time you’re quaffing a pint, you can say you’re doing some market research too!