The True Awards Jury found a True Winner

The True Awards Show in Denmark has just found its winners. Millward Brown tested two of the award winning ads for the Danish business newspaper Børsen’s Advertising Barometer: Best Ad and The Audience Award.

The recipe for great and effective advertising

Interestingly, the jury’s choice of Best Ad is completely in sync with Millward Brown’s “recipe” for great advertising. Generally, an ad must fulfill three criteria to create an effect for the investment:

  • The ad should actively involve the viewers and make them remember the sender
  • It should communicate a message that is relevant to the viewers
  • It should create a motivation in the viewers, leaving them with a stronger emotional bond towards the sender or make them want to buy the product – or in this case – make them want to support Doctors without Borders.

Good intentions are not enough

The ad “Anne-Sophie” for Doctors without Borders hits the head of the nail on all three criteria. The ad is not the type of ad that viewers “like to see” but certainly one that engages people and it clearly communicates Doctors without Borders as the sender. The message of the ad comes through clearly, too: Good intentions are not enough. The ad leaves the viewers positive towards the organisation and 4 out of 10 would like to support the doctors’ work abroad.

Getting the measures just right

Julie Hoffmann Jeppesen, MSc in Psychology and Senior Qualitative Consultant with Millward Brown Nordic has been in charge of the qualitative research we put into the prize winning ad:

– ” It is a never ending debate whether you should use scare stories in the form of death and disease in order to get people to support humanitarian organisations or if you should use another approach. Looking at current motivation theory, it is clear to us that you need to create an emotional impact if you want to change people’s actual behavior and not just leave it at the good intentions. Humanitarian organisations balance on a knife edge in these matters because the feeling of unrest and emotional discomfort may lead to action. If, however, the viewers’ discomfort gets too strong, it will often lead to psychological resistance. The viewers’ defense mechanisms will set in and when that happens, they do not take in the message. That means humanitarian organisations must step carefully, ensuring that they get the measures just right in order to engage and leave the minds of the viewers open for their messages.“

Qualitative research into the feeling of guilt

And the ad for Doctors without Borders does indeed have a very engaging effect on the viewers. Some viewers describe the ad as directly unpleasant, 28% get a feeling of bad conscience when they watch the ad and the test results are actually even better among those who do feel guilty. By conducting qualitative in-depth interviews with this group of viewers, we have investigated which elements of the ad trigger the feeling of bad conscience and what the feeling does to the reception of the ad.

Towering credibility

Our qualitative research shows that the viewers are left with a bad conscience because the movie ends unresolved – the child does not get the help she needs. The ad makes the majority of the viewers think about all the help that is needed around the world and it reminds them that most Danes could spare a little if they really wanted to help. The viewers do not see the ad as manipulative; more as genuine information, enforced by the towering credibility Doctors without Borders has in the population in general. Watching the film to the end you get the understanding that you can actually do something about the problems in the world, “all you have to do is support them” as one respondent puts it.
– ” The use of facial expressions and focusing on what happens between the child and the doctor conveys the message very strongly. The impact becomes a lot more convincing than a voice-over conveying the messages. The ad hits exactly the right balance by not being too overdramatic. It does not point to  the whole of Africa’s problems. Instead, the ad captures one single relation between a doctor and a child and the subtlety gives it great impact. People’s feelings of bad conscience do not prevent them from taking in the message. The feeling the ad leaves in them works as a catalyst, leading to increased reflection and awareness of how important the organisation’s work is,” Julie Hoffmann Jeppesen concludes.

Strong communication and strong legs

In terms of impact, it is clear that the respondents are left mostly positive in relation to Doctors without Borders. Having seen the ad, viewers feel they know more about the organisation’s work than they did before. There are, however, certain difficulties that all humanitarian organisations are facing: There is a lot of focus on Red Cross, Syria, Cancer, etc. in Denmark right now and it is difficult for the ordinary person to decide which cause to support. Often people will end up supporting the ones who call at their doorstep. So, the immediate effect of the bad conscience the ad creates will not necessarily be donations. The opening is there, though, and when people are met by direct queries, the likelihood of them making donations will increase significantly because of the ad. Humanitarian organisations must make sure it is very easy for people to pay, i.e. by running campaigns where they go from door to door. Unfortunately, a good TV ad is not enough to get money in the collection box. Or, paraphrasing the ad’s message: Great advertising intentions are not always enough. Communication opens doors but getting people to cough up takes lots of legwork, too.

The research behind the results

Millward Brown tested two True Awards Winners for the Danish business newspaper Børsen’s Advertising Barometer. We tested the ads among 250 people aged 18 to 60. MSc in Psychology and Senior Qualitative Consultant Julie Hoffmann Jeppesen conducted qualitative in-depth interviews as a supplement to the quantitative work in order to uncover the behavioral impact among those who felt guilty (had a bad conscience) after watching the ad for Doctors without Borders.

Award winning advertising often has a better effect

Award winning ads often have better Ad liking and a higher Involvement than other ads. Jurys often honour strong creative ideas in competitions. So, not only will a strong creative idea that holds the brand as the centre of attention get noticed by the jury, it will also perform significantly better in tests and be more effective at strengthening image or generate sales. Please read more about strong creative advertising here.

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