New dogs, old tricks?

Posted: 18th September, 2013. Topics:

Google played host last night as 5 of adland’s most frighteningly sharp twentysomethings came to do battle at the Advertising Association’s inaugural Last One Standing. Their challenge was to identify the ad campaign, idea, or innovation which has most changed the world. A packed audience of 200 like-minded industry folk played judge and jury – but even this wasn’t enough to put the rising stars off their game.

It was perhaps an invitation, in the style of all good A-Level students, to question the question. The Guardian’s Joanna Geary certainly put the issue in context – asking the audience how advertising compares with, among other world-changing events, the end of the Cretaceous period?

When it came down to it though, it was clear that it isn’t just Credos who recognise advertising’s contribution to the economy and society. All 5 gave some compelling examples – even Joanna.

It was particularly refreshing to see so many speakers touch on an issue which the industry as a whole sometimes doesn’t talk up enough – its role in funding the creative industries. Three-quarters of the public recognise the role advertising has in bankrolling entertainment and media. But this didn’t stop Geary from admitting that the relationship is “torrid at times.”

But she wouldn’t have it any other way. And why would she want to? In the UK alone, advertising contributes over £10bn to the media and entertainment industries every year. That’s some heavily subsidised TV-viewing, radio-listening, newspaper-reading, cinema-visiting and website-browsing for each and every one of us.

Both Geary and Elspeth Fisher went on to rubbish the idea of a barrier between advertising and content. Taking us back to the 1930s and the first soap operas, Fisher demonstrated that advertisers have always been the driving force behind content innovations. Geary went further into the archives – 1624 to be precise – to dig out one of the first ever newspaper adverts. Both demonstrating how advertising has funded crucial (world-changing, even) developments in the media and entertainment industries.

Their point was actually incredibly simple and clear – advertising in the UK has always been at the heart of a free press, a vibrant entertainment industry and a world-leading digital economy. It’s encouraging for the industry to know that one of advertising’s most important roles – funding content – isn’t lost on the up-and-comers.


Should we care about Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans?

Posted: 16th August, 2013. Topics: , ,

When you ‘Understand Advertising’ for a living, an evening in front of telly often counts as work.  But Channel 4’s Dispatches on Monday 5th August was required viewing for the Credos team as Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans promised an “expose” of celebrities being paid to endorse products on social media.

The reaction in the twitter-sphere was muted to say the least and it got us to thinking, actually, who cares about this stuff?

Well, CAP and the IAB do.  Both publish guidance for brands using endorsements on social media, and the addition of #ad or #spon is recommended where promotional activity is being paid for.  And, of course, the ASA’s remit extends to social media.

But what about the rest of us?  A quick Credos research dip last week found a whopping 59% of people just ‘not interested’ in whether celebs are being paid to tweet, even if it looks like a personal comment.  Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.  It’s a sobering fact – borne out in every group we speak to – that the overwhelming response to most advertising is … indifference.

More challenging, perhaps, is that just 12% of those we asked believe endorsements to be ‘appropriate’ on twitter.  In fact, “sales-y” updates are twitter’s second biggest turn-off after bad grammar, all of which sounds like the digital version of a well-worn gripe – that the ads get in the way of my content.

Public confidence in advertising has been in freefall for years.  Dig behind those numbers and a recurring complaint is that “it’s everywhere” and  “they treat me like I’m stupid”.  Let’s not get too carried away with a survey, but we’d suggest that while Dispatches didn’t surprise people, or make them angry, it reinforced the belief that there’s too much advertising and too often, it takes us for mugs.

The lesson?  Beware the survey that says people don’t care, there’s good reason to believe that advertising still should.



Fake fans doc shock? Two years too late, say Twitter users

Posted: 6th August, 2013. Topics:

Last night’s (Mon 5 Aug 2013) C4 Dispatches (Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans), watched live by 1 million people, provoked comment and reaction from industry, but Twitter users seem less concerned.

Credos looked at a selection of the 12,000 tweets in response to the programme, many saying that the themes weren’t that surprising. Here’s a selection that sum the mood:


I wondering if anyone anywhere is actually shocked by anything on#fakefans and what the point of this programme is. Feels old and obvious.


We all know that celebs get free stuff to tweet about it! #fakefans
So what was the point of #fakefans? Was I supposed to be raging with anger? Nothing in it surprised me in the least.




Drink-driving deaths rise by 26%

Posted: 2nd August, 2013. Topics: ,

Deaths from drink-driving related accidents are expected to rise by over a quarter in 2013, according to figures released by the Department for Transport.

The news comes as the impact of government cuts to its advertising budget come under increasing scrutiny. In 2011 the Government Procurement Service (successor to the Centre of Information) spent nearly £3m on drink and drug driving campaigns alone, but in 2011 this was slashed by nearly 90%.

Tim Lefroy, Chief Executive of the Advertising Association responded to the news, stating, “regrettably, this evidence points to tragic cause and effect. The THINK! campaign turned the tide on drink and drug driving in the UK, it was slashed in 2009 and we may now be seeing the consequences. THINK! is a case-study in effective behaviour change and reflects the UK’s global leadership in social marketing. These stats are a stark reminder to policy-makers that advertising can improve – and even save – lives, not just sales figures.”

Almost immediately after the government announced the drastic cuts in 2010 it came under fierce criticism from advocates of public awareness campaigns. In 2011 Andrew Lansley, then Health Secretary was faced with damning reports from his own department which blamed the rise in flu deaths on the government stopping its winter flu jab campaign.

With this latest news the government have again come under criticism for cutting a campaign which demonstrably saved lives while redirecting funds into campaigns such as Visit England and Ministry of Defence Recruitment. The Department for Transport spent just £1.6m on advertising in 2012, just over 10% of its total spend in 2009.

The government have recently increased their spending, with spend in 2012 nearly double that in 2011. Additionally, first-quarter 2013 spend is up 17% on the same period in 2012. Later this year creative agencies from a 10-strong roster will pitch for many of the government’s multi-million pound campaigns in further signs that the government is rethinking its advertising strategy.

However, the damage may have already been done as many long-term campaigns such as Change4Life have been heavily disrupted. Furthermore, the total projected spend for 2013 is a long way off the levels invested by Labour governments of the 2000s.

Credos, the advertising industry’s think tank, is conducting ongoing research into the impact of these cuts and headlines such as these demonstrate the fundamental importance of public awareness campaigns.

Opinion polling by Credos in 2012 showed that over three-quarters of the British public believed taxpayers’ money should be invested in drink driving campaigns. Furthermore, 7 in 10 MPs thought advertising was the crucial determinant of the success of public campaigns. These facts raise the obvious question as to why the government cut spending in the first place.

News of the rise in drink-driving deaths was reported in all the national newspapers, with many linking the rise to cuts in the advertising budget.



Jeremy Bullmore’s recommended reads

Posted: 1st August, 2013. Topics:

In his weekly column for Campaign, WPP’s Jeremy Bullmore was asked what he thought the must-read books about advertising were.

Curiously, Credos had been wondering the same thing  and last year asked Paul Feldwick to come up with a list of just 12. JB clearly approved of the Credos ‘reading list’ and offered some of his own thoughts on a few of Paul’s choices in this week’s issue (02.08.2013).

Here’s what Paul had to say back in December 2012 about some of the most spine-broken collections in his personal library.

“It seems a simple question: if you were to recommend around a dozen key books about advertising and advertising research, what would they be? Yet trying to answer it makes us see how many different discourses about advertising there are, and how rarely they pay attention to each other.

I have several shelves of books about advertising. My collection is far from comprehensive, but it includes: academic books and text books of varying usefulness, but nearly all heavy going; some popular works by famous admen (and yes, I’m afraid these are all men), which are fascinating and important but unscientific and often self-deluding; books from every decade since the 1920’s about ‘how to advertise’; histories and biographies of the advertising business; attacks on the immorality of advertising; defences against same; and quite a long sequence of actual case histories, which however never tell the real story of how a particular campaign came to be. Some books have been hugely influential, but are in my view seriously misleading; others contain valuable insights, but are either impossible to get hold of nowadays, or are virtually unreadable. Finally, many of what I consider the best books about advertising are not about advertising at all, dealing with psychology or communications theory or even literary criticism.

With that preamble, I have however made a selection and it is as follows. If you knew nothing about advertising, and were to read these twelve books carefully and critically, cross referencing them as you go, you would have a broader understanding of advertising than most people in or out of the business. You would also have plenty of ideas for further reading if you wanted to go there.

So I have selected:

Three works about advertising’s history

Martin Mayer – Madison Avenue USA 1955

Stephen Fox – The Mirror Makers

Vance Packard – The Hidden Persuaders 1957

Perhaps the best way into an understanding of advertising is to appreciate its narrative, its larger than life characters, its energy and inventiveness.

Mayer was a brilliant journalist who studied the US advertising scene at a crucial time when much of what we now take for granted was new and controversial – when TV advertising was newer than the internet is now.

Fox covers the same ground and much more as history, and brings to life many of the great advertising men – and the  too often forgotten women – who were influential without writing books.

And I couldn’t leave out Packard. You will make up your own mind about his attack on advertising ethics when you have read the other books on this list. But his book is important partly because it was itself very influential (Reeves largely formulated his theories in response to it), and because it points to a fundamental issue about how ads work.

Three influential works by great admen of the past

Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising 1923

Rosser Reeves – Reality in Advertising 1961

David Ogilvy – Ogilvy on Advertising 1983

These are probably the most widely read books ever about advertising so they are essential to an understanding of advertising’s history and culture.

They are each highly readable, make advertising seem simple, and give some idea of how their authors inspired confidence in their clients. Just don’t mistake them for science, or even for an accurate depiction of what their authors actually did. Read critically in the light of the history books and the modern theories, you can learn a lot from them as long as you don’t swallow them whole.

Three contemporary  books about advertising theory, which I think are soundly based and also readable.

Byron Sharp – How Brands Grow

Les Binet and Peter Field – Marketing in the Era of Accountability

Stephen King -  A Master Class on Brand Planning

Sharp sums up decades of empirical studies by Andrew Ehrenberg and his followers which challenge most conventional wisdom about marketing and set up a theory of advertising which is very simple and yet probably more right than wrong.

Binet and Field have analysed thirty years of effectiveness studies and produce conclusions which partly support and partly complement Sharp.

King’s collected papers, with contemporary comments, together develop a view of advertising which balances the ‘informational/ propositional’ theories of Hopkins or Reeves.

Three books about advertising that aren’t about advertising (and will lead you to others if you’re interested)

Timothy Wilson – Strangers to Ourselves

Daniel Kahnemann – Thinking Fast and Slow

Watzlawick et al. – Pragmatics of Human Communication

The past twenty-five years have seen many new developments in psychology and neuroscience which are now also widely accessible in highly readable books like Wilson and Kahnemann (I could add several others, but these are a good place to start). They provide evidence that our decisions are not, as Hopkins and Reeves pretended, conscious weighings-up of factual evidence, but are largely driven by emotions, subconscious processes and non verbal communication.

Watzlawick’s work shifts our attention away from the content of communication to the role it plays in relationships: a radical thought which can be applied to advertising with profound consequences.

I am conscious of  many other books hammering at my door and demanding, with good reason, to be included in the list. I’m also anticipating (with some interest) the opinions of others who cannot believe I could omit ———.

But if I were to allow a thirteenth, I should add More Bullmore by Jeremy Bullmore. Not only will it probably tell you everything really important in the other dozen books, but it will introduce you to someone who has worked his whole life in advertising and remains both witty and wise – factors that transcend any amount of academic theory or dogmatic bluster.”