Relationships & Revenue

DC Metro Ad Test Answers

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Being important is not the same as conveying importance.
  • When dealing with ads all organizations must operate under the same rules of human attention and interest as everyone else.
  • Developing a clear and consistent history of experience can provide organizations certain benefits, almost rights, in the marketplace as they move forward.

How’d you do? Here are the actual ads from the DC Metro. I would prefer that the Metro not be lit by candle light, but this is what we have.

During my normal walks past these ad, the only ones that I really remember knowing were T-Mobile and Apple. Most of you were probably the same in getting those right. T-Mobile with its use of hot pink and black has created a brand presence, so that just seeing these colors with a mobile phone basically triggers T-Mobile.

With Apple, there is not much to say. They do, have done, this stuff really well. They’ve also being placing most of the ads I’ve seen on the Metro in diptych form, which creates an additional layer of visual cue.

In my opinion, all of the other ads could have all had their copy and stock photography switched out and it wouldn’t have made any difference. They were simply unoriginal in visual approach and offered no interesting experience for the viewer. Add on the fact that most people are either rushing to work or rushing to get back home and you can see why these ads are extremely ineffective. They simply aren’t unique enough to trigger attention.

One of the reasons why T-Mobile and Apple work is that they understand the context of the ad experience. It’s going to be quick and people aren’t really going to care. The best you can hope for is that just one small thing will remembered.

For T-Mobile, their goal is to make sure that when you are in the market for new phone, you remember to use the word “Unlimited.” The hope is that  the word will trigger a follow up question: “Could you tell me about the T-Mobile unlimited data package? (again the point-of-purchase displays will use similar colors to trigger recall)”

For Apple, they realize that they don’t need to convey details. The want to convey a feeling of inspiration and let the user carry on the story for themselves. Feast for the eyes? Art and creativity. Fine tuned? Music and technology. All of these things are about connecting on an emotional level and, here is the big thing, by simplifying everything down, and not getting in the way of the emotional connection over time, they get to own that association. Cool art or design? Apple. Cool music and tech? Apple.

One of the less than positive takeaways is that the two “best” ads, have nothing to do with human life - that is in saving it. Khojaly and the Suicide Hotline are important in their own right. )I feel there is a whole discussion that we could have around this, but that will have to wait.) The simple fact is that being important is not the same as conveying importance and unfortunately when dealing with ads, both of these organizations must operate under the same rules of human attention and interest as everyone else.

The lesson here is that attention is earned.

Regardless of whether you like their products, T-Mobile and Apple have created a clear and consistent history of experience that gives them certain benefits, almost rights, in the marketplace as they move forward.

The great thing, though, is that these benefits, or rights, are open to your organization as much as they are to anyone else’s. It’s just a matter of how clear your voice is and how diligent you can be in your consistency.

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to look at brand alignment, so I pulled the sites as well. Here they are. Which ones are doing a good job?

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