What the hell makes a good ad?

A crazy number of ads that people choose to ignore

Somewhere down the line we have either stopped analysing or forgotten how successful ad campaigns are made.

Successful Ads are those which tell more customers that “this” will make you happy. Making “this” choice is what will make life better. Heck anyone who has watched Mad Men knows I am quoting Draper. This is fairly and established fact.

So then the question that every ad man must address is how do we influence or change the choice the customer makes? Psychology of free will says “Choice is an illusion. You see there is only one constant. It is the only real truth: Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect.” This has been used in one of IMDB’s top rated movies- Matrix Reloaded as a dialogue by Merovingian.

This means that ad men need to understand the underlying causes that lead to the choice.

What causes happiness? The answer is that when our senses are pleased, the brain releases hormones. Each “happiness” hormone has a different effect.

Dopamine = motivates you to take action toward your goals, desires, and needs, and gives you a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them.
Serotonin = flows when you feel significant or important.
Oxytocin = creates intimacy, trust, and strengthens relationships.
Endorphins = are released in response to pain and stress, and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression.

Whoever said “Sex sells” — wrote the true axiom of advertising. He/she only failed to explain that sex is the effect while the underlying cause for these ads being a success is the slight climb in dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain that they caused. This in turn delivers happiness.

Inference: Ads need to cause a milligram of any one of these hormones to be secreted into the blood stream and you have the desired result — happiness.

So here is the corollary to “sex sells”- appeal to customers happiness centres and your ad will build recall and in turn will boosts sales.

Irony, sarcasm, funny don’t often hit the mark when advertising. The customers could miss the point if you haven’t been clear enough in your ad. Sometimes you have to spend extra to drill in the sarcasm by repeatedly showing the ad on telly.

Seem confusing? Lets simplify it with a few examples. We all know there are two schools of advertising — 1. Advertise the Brand & 2. Advertise the product/service/thought

Advertising an Insurance product — The real reason anyone would buy insurance at all is for the fear of not getting compensated in case of a loss. All ads that say “what happens to your family when you die?” work well for the insurance companies. The feeling of security is titillating.

Moving people from one brand to another- you can try and tell the customer how your version is better than that of the competition, but hell, who wants to know why you are better. Customers want to know how much better their lives will be given they use your product. Enter Mac guy vs PC guy. It is a showdown of 50 odd features that ridicule the Microsoft PC vs the Apple Macintosh computer. While doing these ads, the technical specifics are communicated too but the bottom line is — “we make life simpler. Don’t you want a simpler life?”

And you just cracked wide open the basis for most tech advertising in today’s day and age. Saying you can get better photos with the 13 MP cam doesn’t kick it. It is about the admiration that your photos will get once you’ve clicked them with an X brand phone.

Make up ads speak of how using X brand got hair to look more dramatic or make the user look more glamorous. Apparently make up isn’t for the married else they are just promoting infidelity. Instead an ad that shows a husband getting drawn to his wife who has flowing hair and asking her out on a date again or behaving like a newly wed –not in Bollywood style will surely work better. Married women are the greater majority in India and we have the most abstinent couples in our country. — possibly even the least libidinous. You get the general idea.

Now we know what makes a good ad.