What's the best way to waste an advertising budget? Perhaps hiring Wayne Rooney would do the trick. Maybe booking loads of space in the breaks in '72 Degrees North' would squander that cash pretty effectively. How about a 48 sheet poster campaign at the South Pole? These options would certainly see your client's expenditure go the way of mortal flesh, but there's a better way and it's happening all the time. I'll call it 'fulfilment failure'.
Let me explain. A well-known high street clothing retailer has recently splurged a handsome sum promoting their winter collection. As you'd imagine, it features lovely models of both genders in stunningly chilly locations, bedecked in the latest styles, urging us all to drop everything and trot along to the nearest outlet to go spending crazy. For at least one member of my household, this was effective. On a trip to town, she called into the relevant store and indeed, found an item attractive enough to be worth buying. Bingo! Marketing success on a stick.
Or not. When she went to pay there was a substantial queue. Not necessarily a problem, but after about ten minutes it became clear there was only one person serving customers, while half a dozen other staff restocked shelves and made telephone calls. Needless to say, the item was returned to the rail and the purchase abandoned.
Now just imagine how much time, effort and money it requires to drive one customer to one store, select an item and produce the readies. In the fashion sector, it could be as much as £25.00 per customer. So obviously, having persuaded the punter into your shop, it is nothing short of a catastrophe to turn them away before reaching the till. And yet every day, businesses fail to deliver on advertised promises, wasting goodwill, marketing spend and cash customers in the process.
Here's another example. In a current campaign, a budget airline of some note is offering tickets to sunny climes at a price that wouldn't buy you a swanky blouse from the high street. The deals are genuinely tempting, but on closer inspection it becomes obvious they are merely quoting for a one-way journey. Now, one may return from holiday with a heavy heart, but returning is rather key to the whole experience and with this particular carrier, that could cost you quite a pocketful. Think you're going to the Canaries and back for less than £30? Think again.
Once again, a substantial investment has been made in the advertising, only for the reality to disappoint. The advertiser has fallen at the last hurdle and failed to fulfil.
But hang on. We're creatives. What on earth has this got to do with us? Well, unless you're very fortunate, your efforts are likely to be judged on the performance of the work. Granted, you are not directly responsible for the customer management or service delivery of your clients, but when you look in that bit on the brief that says 'What is the key proposition?' (or something similar), it's always worth questioning whether the message is actually accurate. If the claims don't stand up, then the basis of your work is flawed. Customers will soon rumble selling points which don't reflect reality and not only will the client's business suffer, but your creativity will attract undeserved derision and cynicism.
There is a prevalent belief that all advertisements are lies, but this really isn't so. When Kelloggs say Coco Pops turn the milk brown, it's true. When M & S say their food tastes a bit special, they're right. It's just bad advertising that is dishonest and that's always a mistake, because it's counterproductive, actually drawing negative connotations to the brand name.
So the next time a client's brief demands you promote a message which is of dubious validity, it is well worth challenging the claim. By avoiding fulfilment failure, you won't just be ensuring your work has integrity; you could well be saving a large chunk of the client's hard earned budget.
Magnus Shaw - copywriter & blogger