In an extract from a David Ogilvy ad "How to create advertising that sells." David outlines that Ogilvy & Mather at the time had created $1,480,000,000 dollars in advertising and spent $4.9 million tracking the results. He stated in this ad that:
"We have been unable to establish any correlation whatever between awards and sales."
Awards these days are often seen as a testament to good advertising. However, I would like to suggest another measure that has far more utility for the agency, the client, and the consumer.
In the 1940s, a man by the name of Louis Engel wrote an ad on behalf of Merrill Lynch that was 6,450 words long. This is what we call "long form content" today.
The ad was titled “What Everybody Ought to Know about This Stock and Bond Business.”
It was published in The New York Times on October 19, 1948.
The very the next day there were 800 inquiries, and over the next few weeks over 5000 people had expressed interest.
The length of this ad being equal to reading a chapter in a book. Expressing interest meant writing a letter or calling Merrill Lynch directly.
Imagine going to that much effort today because of an ad.
Merrill Lynch went on to run this ad nationally for years thereafter. The total number of responses exceeded three million. The returns generated millions of prospective customers, and many see it as the ad that built their business.
I realise the GFC had a significant impact on their business. However, this article is about the ad and Louis Engel.
It is also true that many do not like advertising. However, in this example, Merrill Lynch received hundreds of long letters saying things like. “God bless Merrill Lynch - I’ve wanted to know this my whole life.”
When Louis Engel wrote this ad, it was because he knew little about the stock and bond business. His next line of thinking was I wonder if others would also be interested in understanding more about this industry?
You could convincingly argue that since the 1940’s advertising has fundamentally changed.
The cost of running ads through traditional media rising dramatically. Typically companies with the deepest media budgets have been able to outperform their competitors.
Companies have even gambled their entire future on a 30-second super bowl ad.
Our attention span has changed, and we now choose the content, marketing or advertising that we are interested in. Content is also now being co-created between the brand and consumer, or just by the consumers.
Although a brand should never assume that consumers understand their industry, company, product or service. Or for that matter, they would not care too.
Social media enables brands to educate and build meaningful relationships with customers. This can be achieved through long-form or short form content.
Both can work very well.
As an example of long-form content, the Dollar Shave Club started a brand and created a market with a $5k YouTube video that ran for 1.34 minutes. Goldieblox launched a worldwide brand with a 3.38-minute video on Kickstarter.
More recently Ryan Grepper Coolest Cooler became the most successfully funded project on Kickstarter at $13.2 million. He did this with a 3.21-minute video.
I use those examples because the barrier to entry was not high, and the content was long. Social media is changing the very foundation of how we communicate, and what we choose to give meaning too.
In a lot of ways, this is putting meaning back into advertising and content, and this is advertising that sells. For some, this will be a real concern.
For others, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.