Three: Creating Strong Press Adverts


Most marketing campaigns are built across multiple advertising channels, including TV, radio, press, outdoor, direct mail, search and digital. While TV and radio are effective channels for entertaining and capturing the consumer imagination, these two channels are fast paced and do not necessarily provide much room for complex messaging, such as price or technical information. Press advertising, on the other hand, can provide more tactical, detailed information to consumers but often struggles to be noticed. After all, consumers rarely admit to buying newspapers and magazines to read ads!

Making sure tactical messaging cuts through the clutter and catches attention in press is vital, but in a time and budget poor tactical environment, pre-testing individual ads is neither practical nor cost effective. It is therefore important for the development of tactical press ads that clients and ad agencies have a clear understanding of what works or doesn’t work in this environment and specifically for the category.

To meet this need, RED C devised a research study, in conjunction with Three and their advertising agency Boys & Girls, with the overall purpose of understanding how press advertising is consumed in the mobile phone market and with the aim of providing strong guidelines for future press executions.

The survey was conducted online using RED C’s online panel RED C Live. A total of 10 press ads from various mobile phone networks were included in the test. These ads varied in style, key sales driver, main message, usage of visual vs. text, usage of colours, branding and target audience. This was important as this diversity allowed us to analyse the impact of various ad elements across a broad range of ads. As such, the diversity allowed us to gain a more in-depth understanding of press advertising and provide stronger guidelines for future executions.

RED C’s standardised advertising test framework, RED STAR, was used to evaluate each ad across six measures feeding into three overall measures – awareness, emotional brand impact and rational brand impact. Combining all these scores allowed us to produce a one number score for each execution, the RED STAR score, and thereby identify which ads should be used again in the future.

Based on the awareness and brand impact scores, the ads were clearly categorised into ads to maintain, ads to increase spend on, ads to revisit spend and ads never to use again.

But the real strength of the test was the use of our interactive heat maps. For each ad, the respondents were asked to click on those elements in the ad which were noticed first. Analysing these attention drivers for ads with high awareness scores versus those with low awareness scores allowed us to identify which elements/format should be used in future execution to drive ad attention.

We also asked respondents to click on particular areas of the ads which they liked. By using the heat maps generated by all respondent answers, this gave us unique insights into elements to include and exclude in press advertising and the “allowable” amount of information without having too much clutter.

It was particularly interesting to compare the heat maps for attention drivers with the heat maps for liking. The ads with the highest RED STAR scores were those with strongest link between what is seen first and what is most liked. In other words, if the reader does not notice the most appealing element of the ad first, then the ad is less likely to convert into purchase or consideration.

The research provided Three with clear recommendations on which press ads to use in the future. But more importantly, based on the research, we provided guidelines for future execution developments, i.e. a do & don’ts” of press advertising. Some examples of this include where to place the logo, how to brand an ad effectively and which visuals to use (and not to use). Also, the research provided strong guidance in terms of press advertising drivers, e.g. should the monthly price, the mobile phone or the price of the mobile phone be the key attraction driver in the ad. The research also highlighted typical pitfalls of press advertising, e.g. too much clutter (everything we could not fit into the TV ad) or possible double meanings of words/expressions.

The research was well received by Three and their advertising agency and fed directly into press execution developments.