When we talk about media efficiency, the focus is usually around cost and reach. While these are important, a third crucial topic to consider is the creative message. The ability to grab attention and retain awareness is key in both branding and tactical advertising. Without harnessing this attention, you’re wasting money – and with the rapid creation and dissemination of content, this is nowhere more evident than in digital channels.

You might have heard that a brand’s role in the modern world is to entertain and inform with good content, but without being too pushy in the commercial messaging. Yet by it’s very nature there is always a commercial target behind marketing communication, and the content should aim to drive that target in the best way it can. For example, an awareness building campaign should be well branded, both visually and aurally. This might sound obvious, but too often you will encounter ads that could perform much better just by making this simple change.

Research suggests that when it comes to consumer packaged goods, about 50% of purchase decisions are made in the store. What this means for advertisers is that memories and patterns should be firmly established in order to remind and help shoppers when they get to the store (read more about this in Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow, 2010.) The aim is for your advertising to be fully processed by the consumer, otherwise it’s hard for the brand to remain in someone’s memory. The same goes for digital branding; when a potential consumer performs a search on Google, the winners are usually the brands that the person can immediately recognize in the results. When advertising on YouTube, a brand can use a skippable ad to tell the brand’s story, but the branding should be made clear from the start. That way a message is communicated even to those viewers who decide to skip.

Another essential element in advertising communication is to keep things simple. Usually the difference to an award-winning ad and an ad that brings in the results is simplicity. Great stories and amazing executions win gold in competitions; straightforward messages deliver results. In digital advertising, simplicity also gives back. The simpler the message, the easier to make conclusions about the data.

But being simple isn’t the same as always doing the expected thing. Delivering what’s unexpected – while still being consistent – is key to great brand communication. We’ve seen good examples of both, but too rarely are these factors combined. Long-standing brands often display great examples of consistency, but their communication seldom takes risks or ventures into the unexpected. Newer up-and-coming brands offer the unexpected, but not always in ways that enable consistency.

The important considerations for advertisers evaluating their creative messaging include:

  • Attention: Does the ad stand out or not?
  • Memory: Does the ad build or refresh a memory? Is the ad made in a way that means it has to be processed?
  • Simplicity: Is the ad easy to understand or not? If there’s a benefit communicated, is that easy to absorb?
  • Consistent: Is the ad clearly in line with your brand and with your previous ads? Are the visual and audio elements in place to support the message?

By implementing these simple yet key points, brands can ensure their marketing is both efficient and results-driven.