How to successfully capture attention with your advertising

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

The best way to earn the attention of consumers within the cluttered media world is to take a risk. Do something creatively different from what consumers expect, which entertains, takes advantage of the media, and is shareable for consumers to influence others.

When judging advertising, the most important thing I look for is to ensure the creative idea within the ad that drives the attention, tells the brand story, communicates the main benefit and sticks in the consumer’s mind. When you see a story, device, copy, or a visual that does not fit with the delivery, then you have a red flag. You run the risk that the creativity of the ad works against your objectives. 


The ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • Is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then ask, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand involvement?
  • Is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

1. Be incongruent with what consumers expect

This technique is an excellent choice to help brands stand out from the clutter. Consumers notice when you are so different from what they expect or so different from what they are watching at the moment. Many brand leaders are afraid of this technique because it is a higher risk, less certain type of creative.

A great example of being incongruent is the Hathaway Shirt “Man in the eye patch” print ad. The eye patch is a simple addition to a very dull visual of a man in a shirt. David Ogilvy picked up a few eye patches on the way to the photo shoot. This unorthodox visual made the ad stand out and the brand famous. It was a lasting brand visual for decades.


Another fantastic ad is the “Think small” campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle. When every other car was going big, the VW Bug went small. The ad does two things to capture our minds. First, it plays on the commonly known phrase, “Think big.” Second, the extreme use of white space, with a barely visible car, is equally arresting. It delivers a message of simplicity and minimalism, with the advantages of a small car down below. AdAge magazine ranked this ad as the best ad of the twentieth century. 


The common link is the use of incongruent visuals and copy to draw our attention. We can learn a lot from historical ads. With the modern-day clutter of digital media, this is a recommended technique to use to gain the consumer’s attention.

How comfortable are you with polarizing advertising? Below is an incongruent ad with message is a perfect fit for the L’Oréal brand. The main headline of “This is an ad for men.” attracts our eye because it doesn’t match what we see in the main visual. It draws our eye into the body copy, “Hire more women in leadership roles. We are all worth it.” 

Oh, and sorry men, the message is meant for you, but this is actually an ad for women.  

While we can debate whether K-Mart’s delivery strategy will make any difference, the ad itself does an amazing job using incongruent creative that makes your brain think they are swearing on TV. 

2. Entertain consumers

Another technique to gain attention is to make viewers laugh, cry, or dance. People engage media to be entertained. Make your ad part of the entertainment. Be aware of the evolution of the art of creativity to make sure you match the latest type of entertainment. As much as movies, TV, or music evolve, so should your ads. 

The Old Spice “Smell like a man” campaign’s quirky, over-the-top humor is so different, it captured immense attention and helped P&G reinvigorate the Old Spice brand. The ad uses a series of quick cuts, putting the actor in crazy circumstances. His dry, over-the-top delivery adds to the humor.

I love Budweiser’s “Wassup” campaign because it just makes you laugh. The ad offers zero message, but everyone knows Budweiser, so it is a great way to stay top of mind. The ad is highly entertaining and easily breaks through the clutter of other beer ads. The “Wassup” phrase became part of pop culture, especially among Budweiser’s 20-something core target. 

3. Use media choice to your brand’s full advantage

Put your ads where your consumers are willing to see, listen, and engage, matched with creativity to take advantage of the media choice.  

For the last decade, John Lewis, the UK department store retailer, has owned the most beloved Christmas ad of the season. It has become such fan favorites the media has leaked the launch date and song choice. These ads generate 50 million views online per year. While retailers struggle around the world, John Lewis used its emotional bond to fuel continuous growth.

With such an impulse product, McDonald’s has become the master of outdoor ads, with a playful spirit, designed to trigger your hunger for McDonald’s products. 

Brands are using social media to the full advantage. When the lights went out in the 2013 Super  Bowl, Oreo was quick to tweet this out, capturing the right humour of consumers. When KFC ran out of chicken, they got a bit creative with their apology making fun of themselves. 

4. Create shareable content

Over the last decade, everything has become about creating content that is so engaging consumers want to share it on social media. The key is to use high impact storytelling ads that are highly entertaining, deeply emotional, or inspiring enough to engage and captivate consumers.  

One of the best viral ads is for Dollar Shave. The brand created a hilarious, edgy, low-budget YouTube-driven video, which has generated millions of hits. The tagline for the ad is “Our blades are f**king great,” which will undoubtedly alienate many people. However, it will inevitably make the younger male audience quickly love them. The ad tells a quirky story of why the brand doesn’t waste money like Gillette does, setting up the idea its razors are much cheaper than Gillette’s. The ad helped launch the brand, which Unilever bought five years later for $1 billion.

One of the more modern approaches was Red Bull’s live coverage and subsequent viral videos of Felix Baumgartner jumping out of a rocket ship 24 miles above the earth. The video fits very nicely with the target market and the brand. Red Bull is a brand sponsor of many extreme sports, with this being the most extreme sport possible. While, legally, Red Bull is no longer allowed to say, “Red Bull gives you wings,” this event positively screams the brand idea, loud and clear. With millions watching the live streaming video online and over 100 million watching videos on YouTube, this stunt was a huge attention getter for Red Bull.

Read about how to advertising that sticks in the minds of consumers

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