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Value and Humor vs. Price and Promotion-Centered Ads
By: Anamika Pande Ved
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A Nielsen study analyzing 4,000 packaged-goods commercials from 2006 to 2011 recently concluded that humor and value proposition in advertisements attracts and enthuses the audience more than price and promotion. The study made a comparative evaluation of the effectiveness of the commercials as the economy passed through different phases: pre- (2006–2007), during (2008–2009), and post- (2011–2011) recession. ”Effectiveness” was measured in terms of the appeal and likeability of the ads, the recall value of the ads, and the purchase intent.
In common parlance, the decline in economic growth suggests that consumers focus on money — they scale back and spend less — but the study drew an inference, which is different. Price- and promotion-centered ads didn’t do well, attesting to the fact that even during hard times, ads pitching value with a slice of humor resonate more with the customers.
“While a humorous storyline was the top driver for each period, suggesting in good times and bad consumers like to laugh, the real surprise was the low scores ads focused on price and promotion received, even during the height of the recession,” declared James Russo, VP for global consumer insights at Nielsen, in a statement provided by the company. “Contrary to what many leading companies might have thought.”
The findings were presented on June 21 by Mr. Russo at a forum on Maximum Impact: The Alignment of Consumer Behavior and Advertising Effectiveness at the Cannes Lions Festival in France.
Similar findings were laid out by Shoppercentric, a London-based agency specializing in shopper research. On June 18, the agency launched a report of its research entitled “Windows on the Value Equation." The report revealed that consumers vie for “value” even in this period of austerity and, for most of the consumers, “value” is derived from a combination of quality, price, and quantity. The report said that only 25% of consumers perceive value to mean "reduced price."
In the light of the above facts, what kinds of ads and messaging are likely to motivate consumers in the future?
According to James Russo, global consumer spending over the next decade will exceed $450 trillion. This means that it's important for advertisers to find judicious ways to reach out and fulfill the demands of an increasingly diverse and connected audience.
Consumers have become savvier and will no longer be swayed by ads focused only on sales. Value-centric advertisements will earn more plaudits than those trying to woo customers solely with low prices or savings. The advertisements will have to be more slanted towards the goal of offering other benefits, such as convenience and affordability. Consumers will be more inclined towards ads that fulfill the “effectiveness” benchmarks: Ad Recall, Brand Awareness, and Purchase Intent.
In the age of social media, consumers are more likely to talk about and find value in ads that entertain them and make a connection, so a dose of humor is important to engage the audience. Instead of reminding the consumers of the pangs of the economy, it is important to let them escape to a humorous situation or to invigorating and vivid memories of better times.
In a nutshell, even in the volatile economic climate and in the midst of burgeoning social media populariry, consumers faced with multiple headwinds look for something that is witty, soulful, and entertaining. It’s about time agencies let their creative juices flow and give precedence to funny, sentimental ads over frugal ads, which are only sale- or price-focused.


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About the Author
Anamika Pande Ved is a blogger, content curator, and content writer with Global Washington, a non-profit in Seattle, Washington. She is fascinated by commercials, more so if they are used for "social good." She is an avid traveler, reader, and a singer. Find her on Twitter here anamikaved15@gmail.com
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