Sunday, March 27, 2011

Do we stop and think enough?

I walked by a billboard (a 48 sheet) for VHI Healthcare last week. It is their campaign that talks about being cheapest for couples, individuals, families etc. The ad is fine, and is presumably ticking all the boxes in the brief.

But about one fifth of the ad is dedicated to a large call-to-action - a 1850 phone number. My early marketing days were rooted in direct marketing (big fan of Hopkins, Caples, Ogilvy) and I fully understand that we marketers sometimes trip ourselves up persuading people to buy something but then don't help them along on the final "how to buy" bit. So I'm not saying don't bother with a call-to-action - it is always worth considering and thinking about.

So do we genuinely believe that the folks walking or driving by this VHI ad will stop and take down the number?

I don't.

Perhaps there was a time when it was the most obvious way to get the number. It was easier to try and remember it from the billboard instead of getting out the golden pages later and looking it up. Perhaps there were conversations in the car "Did you see that ad. Can we go once around the block so I can get those last 3 digits?"

But surely now this happens less and less. Is the objective simply to persuade us that VHI have good deals (I'm a customer by the way) and if we want to find out more, most of us will have shortcuts to getting more info - visit their website, google VHI, ask a friend that is good for this stuff or, for the more social network savvy of us, ask on twitter.

But so what? Can there be any harm in having the number? Well yes actually. Everything that you add to the ad takes away from the ad. It clutters out the most important message. Those in the advertising business know how much time and effort goes into trying to move around the extra logos, call to actions and other mandatories in the brief. Mandatories that might have made sense at one stage but perhaps don't now.

P.S. This is not a VHI ad bashing exercise. Far from it. I'm as guilty of this kind of thing with our advertising as the next marketer. It is just the most recent example I noticed. And perhaps VHI responses prove me completely wrong too.


Phil Boyle said...

I haven't seen the billboard in question but it certainly sounds like they've given the phone number too much prominence.

That said, I think it's sometimes too easy for the digitally savvy among us to forget that there are plenty of people out there who don't turn to Google, Facebook and Twitter at every given opportunity.

Encouraging people to go to the website or to call would seem to cover the most people with the least confusion.

Gordon said...

This is interesting. I haven't seen the billboard either but reminds me of a Simpsons episode where Homer spots new billboards and stops his car so he can read them, causing cars behind him to crash.

Thinking about it. I'm not sure if I have ever seen a billboard and memorised a phone number from it.

Maybe using a phone number as a call to action on a billboard is not a great idea anymore, not sure if it ever was though.

Anonymous said...

Good points raised. For many of us, the brand name is simply enough. If the messaging it right, consumers can then simply google, call directory enquiries or link through many other channels.

However, I would have to take Phils point too. The target market must also be considered as well as the campaign objectives. A specific phone number for campaigns can provide valuable metrics.

The placement of the number in this billboard might just fit with how the the particular segment responds. As marketers we should be making it as easy as possible for consumers to move through the purchase process and buy the product. In this case providing the number might just be the element that prompts the reader to call before they see an ad for Aviva.

Or it might just be a plain clutter obscuring the message.

Hammie aka lisadom said...

As long as you have the contact details clearly visible on your website then I think it can be left out of large out door.
But it's annoyingly common to open a website where contact details are hidden like the seventh seal of Fatima. If your web designer has hidden your messy phone number or has hidden your entire site under 20 layers of flash that won't appear on a Smart phone it takes 5 minutes to set up a Facebook fan page that will allow customers to CONTACT you and give you money.

Siobhan Walsh said...

I hadn't thought about phone numbers in out door campaigns before but it will definetly stand out to me now.

I don't think within the average 6 seconds of seeing an outdoor ad that you would be converted unless it was on your mental to do list to call them up anyways.

Maybe they were testing a unique number to try and track their outdor campaign.

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