Events or clips presented in advertising campaigns: How many, how fast and how much connected

Many campaigns – especially institutional – are quite long, containing many events or clips. With lots of illustrative images of important moments of conviviality between the brand and its customers, sometimes at a rapid pace to “tell all”, these campaigns seek to show consumers how much the brand is close to them, as a long time friend. It is communication in all its splendour.

However, the way events are presented is of crucial importance to the effectiveness of the final set. I will emphasize three aspects:

Number of events presented
The human being has a limited ability to integrate events or sequential information. In 1956, Miller termed “chunk” the information unit: pure or composite. Based on several studies, Miller showed that, typically, the human can recall, in order, up to 7 items of information previously absorbed in its short-term memory (although a good deal of variation exists between 5 and 9 items). For instance, a phone number like 964312367 is still within the range of Miller’s theory – we have nine units of information. However, if we consider the 96 as the identifying number of the operator X, and dividing the remaining number as 431 23 67, then we have reduced the total number to four units (chunks) of information, which allows a more efficient memorization (X + 431 + 23 + 67).

Thus, advertising campaigns with many sections or clips presented are less likely to be remembered than more concentrated and direct campaigns (eg, three units of information). Another aspect to consider is the fact that the more elements appear in an ad, the more learning of each one is hampered by the mere existence of others. In a sequence of four clips in an ad, the first clip will generate a greater atencional focus, which will reduce the ability to memorize others. The second and third will probably suffer from what we call “interference”: the memorization of the 2nd clip will decrease the storage capacity of clip number 3; in turn, the 3rd will remove some information retained in the second. The same applies to the number of elements within each clip – the more they are, more interference. This entire mechanism deteriorates further if the speed at which they are presented is pronounced.

The speed with which they are presented
The sequence of events presented in a campaign (eg TV or radio) should not be too quick – and that mistake is made frequently. When we receive some information, we must give it time to settle down in the short-term memory. It should be borne in mind that the information is saved – roughly – in three stages: first in the sensory memory (where information is stored for a few milliseconds), then in the short-term memory (one important store in which are recorded the information that allow us basic actions of our daily lives) and, finally, the long-term memory (information that reach this stage can stay in our memory the rest of our life). Now, what does the information solidify along these three steps is the ability to pay attention to it and the possibility of being rehearsed. Rapid sequences of sounds or images do not allow proper attention to the messages stored in the short-term memory and, consequently, gain meaning to allow their retention.

How they are interconnected
This is a key issue in which advertisers can show all his ability. It is normal to see campaigns that display various parts or events and then, at the end, brand name appears triumphal. Even the more vivid and emotional campaigns could lead to a final result advertisers fear: “I saw the other day an ad on TV… it was fantastic… showing various situations with babies playing … it was about … they were so cute … but I do not remember the brand!” Often, there is a logical reason: our atencional capacity is not unlimited: we cannot cover a wide range of events, especially when items are very different.. What can we do? The best would be to reduce the number of elements that are presented to us, as we saw above. But … what if we cannot do that? What if we have to present several different types of information and in a large quantity? In this case, we must present events like they are only one, and introduce some “glue” in the ad. In other words, create a chunk. When we interconnect items in a proper way, it results better.
Notice figure 1:
It represents a TV ad. As the ad unfolds, the viewer must pay attention to six different events – more or less interconnected. Although the brand is the last event showed (which is good, because latest information stay in memory more time – is the effect of “recency”), it is still one more element to view by the public. In order to circumvent this problem, the (good) agencies do rely upon one or more agglutinators, to interconnect as much as possible the clips (see Figure 2).
There are stronger agglutinators and weaker ones. My personal suggestion is towards considering agglutinators focused in the brand as the most important – all other (focus on a benefit, a belief, competitive price, humorous tone, create a story, focus on the product category, what ever … ) will be less important. This is a logical option: even if the campaign is less effective than we expected, at least the brand should stand out! If we focus on (for e.g.) a benefit, we run the risk of our brand not to be memorized and – paradoxically – to be assigned to the market leader and not to our brand as we wanted.  Of course, this always depends on the way things are done.

I conclude with some agglutinators focused on the brand in order to get campaigns connected. More agglutinators combined, the stronger the connection. An important warning: even within the agglutinators centred on the brand, the visual ones are more effective than the auditory ones (except radio campaigns or based on the hearing’s sense).
Agglutinators centered on the brand:
 – Colour – brands with a distinctive colour can create campaigns based on this characteristic, presenting the colour in different clips (e.g. the red colour from Vodafone is a great agglutinator)

Form, illustrations, type of stroke … from the logo (e.g., logo appears as a watermark or some basic element of a clip or image)

Music or sounds associated with the brand (e.g. the Nokia’s greeting sound was for years a powerful unifying tool)

– Using mascots (e.g. portuguese pioneer web portal “Sapo”, is a brilliant example of how a mascot can act like “glue” between various clips and a brand – the frog garantees an harmonic flow of all ads over time, without forget the brand image associated)

phonetic puns similar to the brand over the clips

Imbue the clips with stories, images or situations that are immediately and clearly associated with the brand image (if not, may later be associated with competition) or the signature of the brand

Generate mystery (which may well be looking for something positive or the opposite: to find a solution to something negative), being the signature or the brand a fundamental and distinctive part of the solution

As you can see, the agglutinators centered in the brand that I present are just a few – but they are strong. The agglutinators that are not focused on the brand everyone knows: it may be a story, draw attention to benefits, focus on a target group, stress values, get emotional, “sensory experiences “, to bet on green marketing, to draw attention for the unusual … among many other innovative solutions. But be careful because you may be creating free advertisements for your competition.

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The opinions expressed in this blog, despite they are supported by practical and scientific knowledge, are just that: opinions.

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