If you survey the top 100 ads of 2020, you’ll find most have some things in common:
- When you look at the ad, visually, the ad is more about the people who use/enjoy the product or service for sale in the ad than it is about the product or service.
- The ad doesn't try to explain everything (the list of all the parts and pieces) about the product or service for sale, but rather circles around a unique idea that is simple and easy to understand. Simple, easy, and clearly lays claim to the value proposition of the product or service.
- The ad positions the product or service as specifically different from the other similar products in their shared category. Pepsi is positioned as different from Coke (even though they are very much the same), Apple is different from Dell (or any of those crap PCs), Nike is different from Under Armour.
- The ad contains a strong undercurrent of human emotion. The ad is trying very hard to make you feel something. Could be excitement or love or empathy or whatever. Feeling something is much more important than knowing something, and the mechanics of the ad work towards generating a feeling in the viewer. Remember, information tells, emotion sells.
There will be exceptions, of course. Advertising is mostly a science, but parts of it veer into what you'd call "art,” which means the advertising “art form” — like most art forms — is pliable and can stretch in different directions and still be successful. And so there's never a firm set of hard rules that define ALL advertising. That said, a survey of the best ads will likely show 90% follow the above formula.
I call these four tactics “the fundamentals of advertising.” Think of them like you think of the fundamentals of basketball. There is a way you dribble the ball, pass the ball, shoot the ball, play defense. A coach shows you the proper methods, and if you master the methods, and if you are athletically talented, you can become an effective and successful basketball player. If you don't master the fundamentals, you won't be helpful and your team won't win.
What is true of basketball is also true of brand building. If you fail to apply these fundamentals properly, your customers will see your brand advertising and they will:
- Fail to see themselves in your ad, and therefore won't relate to the activities in the ad, and they will lose interest and will remain "unsold" on your proposition.
- Fail to discern the main selling proposition because there are too many moving parts, and they lose themselves in all the information, which leads to them quickly losing interest.
- Fail to understand why you are different from others like you, possibly confuse your ad with others/competitors, and will make their decisions based on location or price or what coupon is richest for them. Brand advertising is what we do to OVERCOME those more expensive, less advantageous decision-making options.
- Fail to find a reason to care — which is the worst thing that can happen. You spend all that money on ad production and media placement, and when people see your ad they don't care. It's an ad to them, and we are all very, very good at ignoring ads in today's America. Worst thing: To be ignored.
There are many reasons why casino ads get made that fail in one or two or all of these fundamental tactics. Sometimes it's the GM or CEO who doesn't know how marketing works, and they think, “We have this pretty casino with all these amenities, damnit, we need to show all the amenities!” And then you have a brochure ad that's boring, unoriginal, about you and not the guest, and informational rather than emotional. I've seen it happen many, many times.
But sometimes it's the agency or creative group you hire. Maybe they don't know what they’re doing (lots of agencies are out there with terrible books of work), or maybe they think you don't know the difference and they try to sell you something boring and brochure-like. They do this because it's easier for them (and easier means more profitable for them). When that happens, you need to point to this blog, and point to any one of the thousands of effective ads we see around us, and tell them: Don't give me boring and easy. Do the work to come up with an original idea that's full of human emotion and clearly sets your casino apart from the others in your market. It's not easy. It requires sweat and effort. But it’s doable.
If you’d like to see some examples of what casino campaigns look like when these fundamental tactics are applied, check out Red Circle’s book of work. Then, give me a call when you're ready to maximize your creative spend and generate real excitement around your casino’s brand.