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The other High Street battle // Mutilating effectiveness

25 Nov 2019  |  Dominic Mills 
The other High Street battle // Mutilating effectiveness

An example of genuine brand purpose that is serving the High Street this Christmas has Dominic Mills eating his own hat. Plus: Why Kantar's latest effectiveness study is a joke

There’s currently two battles going on for the High Street. The big one involves the major chains and retailers spending millions to tout their remarkably similar Christmas wares.

The other is for the smaller independents on your local High Street — the florists, off-licences, gift shops and specialist clothing outfits. It is, you could say, about the soul of our local communities. They are what gives the High Street a distinctive identity.

Survival of both types of occupant is at stake, but if your local independents pull up the shutters it arguably is worse for the community than if the chains do: another piece of local soul gone.

Luckily, the independents have two allies on their side — at least as Christmas looms.

Regular readers of this column will know that I am not big on purpose, or at least purpose with a capital P.

But every now and then I am prepared to eat my hat, and last week’s launch of Amex’s Shop Small initiative is one such case.

It dovetails with a similar one from Visa, launched about the same time and called Love Your High Street.

Not that I care massively, but to the best of my knowledge this is a shameless copy by Visa of the original by Amex, Small Business Saturday launched in the US in 2010 and in 2013 here.

You could also argue that Amex and Visa are only compensating for the damage the online shopping boom has wrought on the High Street facilitated by their credit cards.

But the toothpaste is never going back into that particular tube so I’m a big supporter of both of these initiatives. It’s not always easy, but given the choice and all things being equal I’d rather spend my Christmas pound locally — as I’m sure many would.

Both initiatives are, in short, good examples of purpose.

As for who wins, I don’t care about that either, as long as the High Street does.

But I suspect it will be Visa. One reason is that, compared to Amex, Visa has a much larger user base than Amex (how many times do you see a sign saying ‘Amex not accepted here’?). Running the Amex postcode check for my local High Street, take-up of Amex cards was low — restaurants and bars, not the bookshop or clothes shops.

The second is that the only promotion I’ve seen for Amex was a Metro cover wrap. Visa, by contrast, is throwing big money at TV, OOH and newsbrands print and digital via a multi-platform arrangement with the Guardian.

And you can’t miss Visa on the Waterloo monster (or whatever they call the installation by the destination boards). There was a nice example of contextualisation/localisation with one scroll recommending somewhere called Parmiters, an antiques shop in Portsmouth and therefore accessible from Waterloo.

There is a fun TV ad (below) with a cast of local traders singing along to Queen’s Somebody to Love.

All together and give it your best Freddie impression... 'Can anybody find me... somebody to love...’

Effectiveness mutilation

The dictionary defines ‘effectiveness’ as the “ability to be successful and produce the intended results”. That’s pretty clear, I’d say.

Moving over to adland, and thinking of the IPA Effectiveness awards, that definition narrows down to what we might call business effects — sales, margin, share, price inelasticity ...maybe consideration and NPS at a stretch.

I don’t think the IPA version of effectiveness includes such things as enjoyability, memorability, attention, recall, motivation and so on. They are the buttons you need to push on the way to effectiveness, but they do not constitute effectiveness in and of itself.

So I am, first, utterly gobsmacked by a report published by Kantar last week into a crop of Christmas ads (Aldi is its winner, by the way). You can read Marketing Week’s take on it here. And second, I’m thinking ‘so what?’.

These are Kantar’s measures:

• Is the ad enjoyable?
• How emotional does it make people?
• Does it grab people’s attention?
• Will people remember the brand?
• Will it be immediately motivating in the short-term?
• Will it create branded memories?
• Does it create warmth and love for the brand?
• Does it make the brand feel different to alternatives?
• Does it celebrate the joy of Christmas?

Not a single hard business metric among them.

FFS, these are this year’s ads, and it’s still November. How can it be possible to pronounce on their effectiveness now?

For retailers especially, and most certainly at Christmas, there’s only one effectiveness measure they will be fixed on and it is sales. Everything else is irrelevant, and for some retailers Christmas is a matter of survival or oblivion. The true effectiveness of their Christmas ads, therefore, won’t be clear for some time.

I can just about understand Kantar’s motives for this study: it needs to be seen to be on the case, but by jumping so shamelessly on the Christmas bandwagon it does itself a disservice. Kantar is, or so I thought, a serious entity. But this is a joke.

But worse, studies like this bring the industry into disrepute. Effectiveness is the way the industry can engage with CEOs, CFOs and the like (i.e. the people who sign the cheques). But when this sort of research output is passed off as a study into effectiveness, it makes it so much harder for the people the industry wishes to influence to take it seriously.

Kantar has a justly deserved reputation for thoughtfulness and rigour. Unfortunately it’s just blown a hole in that.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 27 Nov 2019
“Your Kantar Christmas "ad effectiveness" comments couldn't be better-judged. Unfortunately few in the industry focus on and highlight what, precisely, reports like this are supposed to add to brands' understanding of what works and what doesn't - so kudos for calling it out!”



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