Grabbing your attention

Advertising is a ubiquitous aspect of urban life. In a crowded city like Singapore, advertisements invade every facet of life, every one of them competing fiercely to catch your fickle attention.

By Daphne Ong

You hear them when you turn on the radio in the morning. They greet you on the sides of buses. They are omnipresent in your daily newspaper. With so many advertisements saturating consumers’ senses, what is it that makes an advertisement effective?

Pay attention to me!

An effective advertisement must be able to make people pause, think and take a course of action. Within seconds, it should clearly communicate the desired message from the advertiser to consumers, particularly so in today’s context, where information overload is a problem that everyone can relate to.

Grabbing attention is thus the first thing that an effective advertisement should do. Be it through the use of a catchy jingle or a thought-provoking headline, an advertisement must immediately arouse curiosity in a consumer who first comes into contact with it. A truly successful advertisement will then go on to sustain the consumer’s attention by providing further information and finally trigger a desired response.

For this to happen, advertising copy must be concise, using straightforward language to tell consumers what exactly it is that a product or service can do for them. Jargon, ambiguities and exaggerated claims must be avoided, as consumers have short attention spans and can disconnect with the turn of a page or switch of a channel.

Other than text, photographs, graphics and even typography can be customised to add to the overall effectiveness of an ad. Most importantly, information about the advertiser, such as a logo, contact number or address, should feature prominently in the advertisement, in order to establish or strengthen consumer perception of the brand and promote recall.

An effective advertisement is one that is targeted towards a specific demographic, and offers possible solutions to problems that they might be facing in their lives. Advertisers who succeed are those who understand their consumers through extensive research and embark on subsequent positioning of their products and services.

All of these contribute to the final content of an advertisement, which can be made more effective with the use of repetition and placement in prominent media channels.

Putting it together
An advertising campaign is only as good as the people that put it together. It takes a team of creative talents lots of brainstorming and research to come up with a single simple ad.

The process begins with the client. A project liaison or account handler from the advertising agency will work very closely with the client to find out what the client wants out of the advertisement, such as the key messages, the target audience and the general feel of the ad.

Often, the agency will either offer its own public relations (PR) services or work with another PR company to come up with a complete advertising campaign plan. The publicity campaign will include not only the conventional advertising channels such as print or radio, but also other elements.

Then, along comes the creative team.

The copywriter is the wordsmith who comes up with the best words to match the ad’s objectives. This job often looks easier than it really is. A simple looking ad with minimal words may look easy to create. However, the right combination of words must be very carefully chosen to maximise the effectiveness of the ad. Chances are, the copywriter will come up with a number of drafts and options before the client decides on the most satisfactory one.

Equally important is the artistic team. The art director or designer will use his or her creative vision to come up with images or sounds that will complement and reinforce the ad’s message. The look and feel of the ad will depend on the creative juices of these talents.

Getting into the industry
The advertising industry may seem exciting and glamorous, but not everyone has what it takes to become the creative director of an advertising agency. If you are a student intending to join the industry, it is never too early to start making plans.

One good way of getting an idea of what the advertising industry is like, is to contact television or radio stations for an internship stint. This is because television and radio stations often have departments dedicated to producing commercials, and will allow you to gain relevant experience in the field. An internship will also give rise to networking opportunities for you to make contacts with professionals in advertising agencies.

If you are interested in becoming a copywriter or graphic designer, you can also consider freelancing as a way to get into the industry. Practice makes perfect, and accepting freelance offers will also give you an idea of industry standards and beef up your portfolio.

Whether you are seeking a job in account servicing or the creative department of an advertising agency, do not be reluctant in accepting an entry-level position. Starting out as an account executive or junior copywriter allows you to gain valuable hands-on experience in many aspects of advertising, from handling clients to working on commercials.

With diligence, creativity and tenacity, it is possible for you to become an art director within a few years. After all, carving a successful career in an advertising agency is just like coming up with an effective advertisement: doing your research, knowing your target and producing output that will lead to success in the long run.

Beyond Advertisements
Advertisements are not the be-all and end-all of a promotional campaign. Advertisers often have more up their sleeves to capture the attention of consumers. Here are some commonly seen examples:

• Road shows tend to draw a lot of attention and, if well located, they can attract a good proportion of the target audience. They also allow publicity personnel to approach potential consumers directly.

• Sponsoring events is a subtle way to generate name recognition among the target audience. This is sometimes referred to as getting “mindshare”.

• Media coverage is often used, as you will have consumers seeing both the advertisements as well as the articles or media programmes that tell you about the product or service.

• Competitions are perfect for generating publicity by word-of-mouth. It is also a good way to interact directly with your target audience.

• Engaging celebrities for advertisements and publicity stints is another common way to garner popular interest.

• Workshops provide an excellent chance to educate consumers about the product or service. Having a famous person or expert speak on the subject will often earn extra publicity points.

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