Advertising, Branding

Effective Advertising. How to make one (and not throw money away).

No disrespect to the good chaps at Honeywell, but there was a particular Honeywell Wheat Meal commercial that made me want to slash my wrist every time it came on. Not least because it always seemed to come on when Manchester United was losing.

You know the spot. It is a child dedication ceremony. Father of child mandates boring band to play something jauntier. Band has an inspiration. They perform a Honeywell Wheat Meal song Guests become animated. (“Honeywell Wheat Meal oooooh! Na Honeywell Wheat Meal eeeeeeh!”)

Yea, that spot.

I thought it was poor advertising indeed. It didn’t articulate a clear benefit, lacked resonance and was not distinctive. I also didn’t think it stood for any value above and beyond the product. And jeez, that infernal song!

Until I found myself singing along one day.

Of course, I cut myself short and rebuked me for my tastelessness. But the spot had found a way past my armour of disdain. As it turns out, Honeywell Wheat Meal is the only wheat meal that I know.

But does this make the commercial an ‘effective’ one? Indeed, what is effective advertising?

One way of looking at advertising effectiveness is to see if it leads to sales, for instance.

But from the way advertising works, this is very hard thing to do and a narrow view of advertising. Advertising does work and impact sales, but in a very different way from the way a direct-response advertising or sales promotion does.

Unlike the sales effect of a sales promotion – which you see in a few days and weeks – the sales effect of advertising is spread thinly over several months. This is because we do not buy from a category or a brand immediately we are exposed to the brand’s advertising. We usually buy at a later date. This later date can vary from a few weeks to several months depending on the category. This holds true for most of the categories. Think of when and how you buy electronics, appliances, clothing, groceries, plane tickets and other goods.

Second, every brand’s customer base is composed of few heavy buyers (loyal) and many light buyers (not loyal). To grow, a brand needs to get its many light buyers to buy just a little bit more and get new buyers in. The decision of light buyers to make just one more purchase, or new buyers to give the brand a shot, usually arise after some time processing the brand. This ‘processing time’ also vary from a few weeks to several months. So the sales effect of the advertising for these group of people can only occur at a future date.

The job of advertising is, therefore, to ensure that we have good memories of the brand and buy it when this future date comes.

That is if the advertising is any good.

But most advertising around is mediocre. They are not effective and have limited chances of growing the brand.

The good news about effective advertising is that you don’t have to wait till airing the ad before you know if it is effective. You can usually plan for effectiveness at the campaign conceptualisation and execution stage.

So how do you make good/great/effective advertising?

One exceedingly useful way is to study and learn from what other brands have done. When you study what other brands have done, you will see certain patterns emerge. Having created several advertising campaigns (both good and poor!), I have found these patterns to be true and helpful. So, here goes.


Well, if it isn’t obvious, your advertising has to engage the audience. It’s intuitive really. We think a gazillion thoughts every day. We are exposed to hundreds of advertising daily. But we filter almost all of it out. Our brains are too busy thinking important thoughts. School fees, house rents, jobs, the future, the good life, sex.

One rule of thumb in grabbing attention or being memorable is to execute a common idea in an uncommon way. When everyone zags, zig.




A lot of advertising do not connect with us because they do not mirror our realities. A secret fear. A desire. Longing. Or belief.

This happens because we create a lot of advertising without applying a consumer insight. That penetrative discovery about the consumer that can unlock growth. Human beings, by nature, tend to relate more to people who understand us.

Two great examples of insight-led advertising are the Nike Find Your GreatnessCampaign and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.



Sometimes we fail to communicate how the product fits into the consumers’ lives. How it addresses the need, fear, wish, longing or aspiration that insight has dug up. Always articulate a strong benefit, both physical and emotional:

You: “So, why should I visit a Dentist?”

Dentist: “So your gorilla dentition can be fixed and you can finally get a girlfriend.”

You: “Shut up and take all my money.”



Cue Johnnie Walker, Harley Davidson and Nike. These brands excel at selling an ideal, a value that is relevant and meaningful to the audience.

When a product is on par with the competition, values-based messages can help achieve distinctiveness. There’s not much to choose between Nike and Adidas, but Nike inspires and motivates us. Johnnie Walker says we should never give in, the sun will eventually break through the darkness. Harley-Davidson supports you to not be like everyone else.



To be effective, the advertising must have strong linkage to the brand. Meaning the message could only have come from the brand. It must tie to the brand’s promise, brand voice and style. This differentiates the brand from the competition.

One great example is the MasterCard Priceless campaign. You pretty much can’t use the word ‘priceless’ without thinking MasterCard.


I also find the ADPLAN framework developed by Professor Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker of the Kellogg’s School of Management useful. It was developed to evaluate Super Bowl ads but I have found it practical to guide the production of effective advertising.

A – ATTENTION – Does the advertising engage the audience?

D – DISTINCTION – Is the execution unique in delivery?

P – POSITIONING – Is the appropriate category represented and a strong benefit featured?

L – LINKAGE – Will the brand benefit be remembered?

A – AMPLIFICATION – Are viewers thoughts favourable?

N – NET EQUITY – Is the ad consistent with the brand’s history and reputation.

It is a big waste spending so much money buying media when the advertising itself is poor. I’ll argue that when you create great/effective advertising, it reduces your media costs because you then don’t have buy so much frequency. All the telcos talked porting to their network, but the only porting message most of us remember is Saka porting to MTN. That spot didn’t have to be flogged a hundred times for us to remember it.

It is also a shame to spend so much money buying media but not earmark a budget to measure campaign effectiveness. This does not have to be a huge budget, but one that is necessary for taking learnings and enhancing future effectiveness.

Right. What are your thoughts on effective advertising? Seen any lately?


2 thoughts on “Effective Advertising. How to make one (and not throw money away).

  1. Gbemi says:

    Brilliant exposition Jide…enjoyed every bit of it. I also think ads don’t have to be expensive and fancy, they are effective when the audience can relate and when the advert convinces them about the value added experience they will have upon purchase.

    • Spot on, Gbemi. I have produced TV ads that were in tens of millions that were just ‘OK’, and I have produced ads that were just a few millions that were winners. For advertising, the idea, insight and execution will always be key.

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