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?
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.