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McDonald’s Director of Marketing: creative trumps media in driving results; so why are so many brands getting it wrong?

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

13 October 2020 5min read

Monkey business: The panel is not convinced Darrell Lea's drumming orangutan, George Michael's "Freedom" track and palm oil-destroying rainforests makes for effective advertising.

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

13 October 2020 5min read

What makes effective advertising? In the second of Mi3’s Fourcast 2021 series, McDonald’s Director of Marketing Jo Feeney, Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Anthony Gregorio, Brand Traction Director Jon Bradshaw and Nine Director of Effectiveness Jonathan Fox debate the good – Aldi - and the not so good, which in their opinion, includes  Darrell Lea. Plus they discuss where brand marketers go for 2021. The Fourcast series is supported by Nine.

Check out the second episode of Mi3's Fourcast 2021 series below on creative effectiveness - it's packed with "applied thinking". And - do the punters really care?   

 

“If I was to be in a different a business, Aldi is a brand I would like to be working with. They've done a really great job of both the short and long term effectiveness.”

- Jo Feeney, Director of Marketing, McDonald's

What makes effective advertising: A human truth?

According to McDonald’s Director of Marketing, Jo Feeney, the fast food giant’s econometric work indicates that 50% of the effectiveness of a media channel comes from creative - and she thinks that could be conservative.

“It could even be a little bit more on the creative side,” she says. “Creative plays a far bigger part, dare I say, than even the media component, which I think is a new level of understanding for a lot of people.”

Feeney, who sits on McDonald’s global creative council, says creative excellence is therefore a “critical topic” for McDonald’s marketers. “How do we make sure our work is more creatively excellent so that is actually gives us a much better return more broadly?”

But what makes great, effective advertising? Feeney, in recent weeks busy judging the Advertising Council Australia’s Effectiveness Awards, suggests it is a keen grasp of the fundamentals and the ability to execute.

Judging the Effies “was a reminder for me personally that you don’t need shiny new things to be able to shape and shift a brand and drive growth,” says Feeney.

“What we do need is great advertising, a great insight and things that really resonate and connect with consumers. The best work was that which was born out of a real human truth, and then executed in a really great way to drive that impact, relevance and emotion.”

While Feeney can’t divulge much from the Effies prior to winners being announced later this month, in general she’s a big fan of Aldi’s work.

“If I was to be in a different a business, Aldi is a brand I would like to be working with. They've done a really great job of both the short and long term effectiveness,” says Feeney.

“Toyota is increasing share in a market that's slightly declining. That is an incredible result and they're doing it off the back of a bunch of things, but in part though clever marketing and a strong commitment to creative work.”

- Anthony Gregorio, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi

What makes effective advertising: Winning awards?

Ads that win awards – for effectiveness or otherwise – tend to drive stronger results for brands, according to Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, Anthony Gregorio.

“When you get creative right it has much more than just half the [overall] impact; it can have a huge multiplier effect,” says Gregorio.

He cites “a ream of evidence” from the likes of Peter Field and Les Binet that suggests highly awarded work “is eight times more likely to drive a general business result over less awarded campaigns and 16 times more likely to drive greater profitability for a brand. That's data you can't afford to ignore as a marketer.”

However, Field and the IPA warned last year that “the trend to short-term, disposable and ultimately inefficient creativity” had eroded that advantage as brands focused too heavily on short-term activation-led activity.

Gregorio says Saatchi & Saatchi’s clients, such as Toyota, Arnott’s and Westpac-owned St.George Bank are now “in a recovery mindset” and are focusing long and short in order to underpin sustainable growth.

“They're all investing. Arnott's is in a growing category and spending across a number of sub brands; St.George and all of the regional banks that we do work for on behalf of Westpac are investing and performing incredibly well; and Toyota is increasing share in a market that's slightly declining. That is an incredible result for them - and they're doing it off the back of a bunch of things, but in part though clever marketing and a strong commitment to creative work.”

He cites a quote attributed to PepsiCo CFO, Hugh Johnston, that “any idiot can do short term, any idiot can do long term. The trick is doing both.”

“I think there needs to be more of a focus on some of the fundamentals, [ensuring ads are] simple, emotional, well branded; making sure that the quality of creative improves over time.”

- Jonathan Fox, Director of Effectiveness, Nine

What makes effective advertising: Basics or bravery?

Nine Director of Effectiveness, Jonathan Fox, provides a consultancy role both internally at the network and to its client brands specifically around ad effectiveness. Distilling a decade of econometrics and specialist effectiveness consulting into a sentence, the former Ebiquity AUNZ head of effectiveness says the key for advertisers is to return to basic principles. 

“I think there needs to be more of a focus on some of the fundamentals, [ensuring ads are] simple, emotional, well branded; making sure that the quality of creative improves over time.”

But effective creative also requires some bravery on the part of brands. Nine is trying to incentivise a bit of boldness with its ‘State of Originality’ initiative. The network hopes to “create Australia’s own version of the Super Bowl” by dangling $1 million in free media to brands behind the most creative ads aired during the State of Origin series.

Fox describes it as a “call to arms amongst the creative community to make sure that people are willing to take a bit more risk”.

Brand Traction Director, Jon Bradshaw, applauds that kind of approach. But he says marketers have good reason to be cautious – and does not expect huge strides being made over the next 12 months.

“For most marketers, advertising is such a small amount of their job. Yet when you come to it, it is a huge amount of the budget that you are then playing with – and the fear of mucking that up is enormous. So the market is hyper cautious,” says Bradshaw.

In his experience, creative agencies are more focused on the emotive elements, less so on messaging and branding aspects. “But clients are the reverse. They’re obsessing about whether the message is exactly right and getting the brand in the right place - and missing the fact that if the thing isn’t interesting and engaging, then it's not going to work in the first place,” he says.

“So I'm seeing improvement, but I think it's a long road.”

“For most marketers, advertising is such a small amount of their job. Yet when you come to it, it is a huge amount of the budget that you are then playing with – and the fear of mucking that up is enormous. So the market is hyper cautious.”

- Jon Bradshaw, Director, Brand Traction

What doesn’t make effective advertising: Darrell Lea?

Australian chocolatier Darrell Lea divided opinion with its most recent campaign, a parody of Cadbury’s 2007 ‘Gorilla’ ad.

Whereas Cadbury’s ad featured a gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins, Darrell Lea’s tribute uses an orangutan playing to George Michael’s Freedom to promote its decision to no longer use palm oil, an industry contributing to the destruction of orangutan habitats.

While some of the panel like the creative concept – they are united in the belief that it will not be an effective ad.

“They have a really important message that they were trying to get across, but it was almost overshadowed by the fact that it is a parody of a super iconic piece of creative,” says McDonald’s Jo Feeney.

“I think the branding wasn't strong and I think they could have done a much better job of actually landing the message if they'd done it in their own way and not being a follower of a very different brand strategy.”

Brand Traction’s Jon Bradshaw gives the ad a “slightly reluctant thumbs down …
because I really like the work.” But enjoying the creative does not make it an effective ad, he says.

“I think the branding is really late in quite a long ad, and that's a real problem.” Bradshaw also reckons the message is “overly complicated” for the average punter slouched on the couch with one eye on their phone.

Moreover, he says, chocolate is the most impulsive of the FMCG categories. “Really, all you're trying to do is get those kind of distinctive brand assets in the head of someone when they walk into a store. It’s just working too hard unfortunately, as much as I like the creative.”

Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Anthony Gregorio says that while the ad “delivered the message in an engaging way” he would advise Darrell Lea “not to spend money recreating a competitive ad. Spend the money on building your own assets and differentiation”.

Nine’s Jonathan Fox agrees that the ad’s late branding and lack of broader brand cues presents “a danger of misattribution.” He warns: “Cadbury’s is likely to benefit from this.”

Time will tell if the panel has called it right, or whether Darrell Lea and its agency Akkomplice have created an effective ad that delivers business impacts.

Mi3  has approached Akkomplice and Darrell Lea to follow up with the case study when they're ready to share results.

 

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