Advertisers are always caught in a bind: if a product is doing well, the credit goes to the product and not the advertising while if a product is not doing well, the blame gets put on the advertising and not the product.
As an example, take Subaru. It is the only car company to have posted positive sales gains for the last two years, yet even employees at the company have said that the advertising isn’t (splashy enough to be) award worthy. That acts as both a critique on what sort of advertising wins awards and as a reminder that product always gets the credit when sales are up.
The flipside example is provided by McCann and Microsoft. It’s not the tragically pathetic nature of the Vista product that caused issues, but rather it is the advertising. So Microsoft flipped the account to a new agency, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, and they’re doing just about the same work for just about the same product.
Magic advertising words don’t drive large-scale gains.
And in the, I agree with Alan Wolk. Good advertising will not save a bad product. Great advertising will not save a bad product. “[Companies cannot rely] on the power of Magic Advertising Words to save them from doom when the real problem is a less-than-ideal product.”
A bad product, especially with the instant information available on the internet, cannot be saved by anything except for a better product. People know when a product is bad, unreliable, etc. And they know it instantly. Because you can’t hide on the internet.
That is not to say that advertising adds no value. Because it does.
But the value that it adds is at the margins.
For example, there is no real difference between Puma and Nike or Toyota and Lexus or Gap and Banana Republic or Samsonite and Kirkland Signature. The products are the same. In some cases, they are the exact same. But people pay more for one than the other, and they do so across not just the examples listed but across a vast array of examples. And they do so because of advertising.
Advertising matters, and it is at its best when the products are at or are near parity. It makes the marginal difference in consumer perception that matters – to differentiation, to sales, to profitability.
Advertising can’t save a bad product, but those magic advertising words can make a real difference.
Which is why people pay us to come up with them.