The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. -- Albert Einstein
Advertising has always been a creative endeavor. Back in the days of J. Walter Thompson, advertising was shaped by a client's communication objectives and budget, but was always molded into effective communication by someone charged with the creative execution.
Times have changed in the past 130+ years. There are many more ways to advertise (than the religious magazines J. Walter ran ads in), many more formats (radio, video, Flash), and precision for ad placement has vastly improved (from sandwich boards on a sidewalk to the behavioral, contextual and geographic targeting we see today).
No doubt technology has played a significant role as a driver of change for advertising (the first television ad was broadcast in 1941).
Online video advertising is poised to be the next driver of change in advertising. The ability to run high quality video online, target them to the right audience, measure the ads' effectiveness in more meaningful ways (beyond the click), and make changes on the fly in response to performance data is an amazing leap forward.
Change in whatever technology form it comes in, however, is not the source of creativity; nor is it what ultimately drives video ad effectiveness -- it's just an enabler.
We're often asked what makes for an effective online video ad. We analyze and measure impacts on engagement rate and exposure based on play mode, length of video, initial thumbnails, actionable overlays -- but time and time again, it comes down to what's the message, how well the "story" is told, and what the offer is.
We have seen repurposed 30-second commercials drive high engagement rates (views, clicks, lead requests, replays, etc.) and high brand exposure. We've also seen 100% custom video ads perform poorly on those same measures. The reasons are driven not by the length or video format but by the message: when the value proposition and the "ask" are clear, the video ad performs better.
If an advertiser wants to drive more clicks to their site, just being in video won't do it. When advertisers add promotional overlays and call to actions that give the viewer a reason to click, the likelihood of the desired action goes up dramatically. In short, online video advertising or any technology, for that matter, can't solve the problems of ill-defined communication objectives or poor creative.
J. Walter Thompson was THE enabler for changing the publishing world back in 1877. He executed on an idea to convince reluctant magazine publishers to diversify their revenue models from subscription and newsstand and start selling advertising in their magazines. The publishing world has never been the same.
But J Walter Thompson and JWT are known more for their work with Lux Soap, Maxwell House, Nestle or Ford and for pioneering the creative strategy around "hard-sell" advertising that focused on the "reason-why" approach with a clear value proposition and, often, promotion that connected with the consumer. In short, they innovated how to get the message right.
And at the end of the day, effective advertising is really all about the message.