Decoding a good ad

The Dirt Devil Vacuum Cleaners TV commercial is a good example of an ad that satisfies the three most important criteria of good advertising

Since I review ads, and also speak on occasion as a guest at communication and management schools, quite a few students often ask me this question: So then, what really is a good ad?

Perhaps the best way to answer that question is through an advertisement. There have been many great ads over many years, and some of them have become legendary. Nike, Chivas, The Economist, Avis, Volkswagen Beetle come to mind immediately. But today, I will use a contemporary ad to define what I consider to be a good ad.

Here's a commercial for Dirt Devil Vacuum Cleaners. Who would imagine such a boring product can inspire brilliant communication? Well, guess that's what makes this ad even more special. And the reason it works for me, is because it satisfies the three most important criteria of good advertising.
 
1. It's a surprising solution
We must never forget that a huge mass of TV viewing public essentially considers ads to be a necessary interruption, a chance to visit the loo. And to keep them rooted to their seats, it becomes the job of the advertiser to surprise them with unexpected ideas. This is the fundamental truth of advertising, which we often tend to forget. "Exorcism for a bloody vacuum cleaner? Wow, this I gotta see!" This is truly a surprising solution.

2. It's a relevant link
The surprise factor is of no use if the dots don't connect to the brand. And the viewer is left dazed and confused. Irrelevant surprises are a complete waste in the ad biz. There has to be method in the madness; advertising is a commercial art and not an abstract one. Also, the surprise must be germane to the brand positioning and the benefit it offers. And exorcism in this case works for the vacuum cleaner perfectly. And it makes a rather mundane product come alive.
 
3. It's a delightful idea
Most brand managers ignore one basic tenet of advertising: We must always entertain the viewers. Boredom means instant death for the brand in the consumer's mind. No one wants to buy from bores. We must reward the viewer for spending those precious 30 seconds with us. Advertisers seem to be so full of themselves and their brands, they forget this important truth. The treatment of a horror film takes this ad to that level. It ceases to be just an ad, it becomes a part of the TV programming. In fact, better than it! Dirt Devil has scored on this factor too, and viewers would enjoy watching this ad repeatedly, rather than cursing every time it comes on.

The other factors are more obvious. Sure, the positioning, the execution, the media mix, etc, have to be right. But I believe if you take care of the Big 3, chances are your ad will shine.

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COMMENTS

Rachel Myers

5 years ago

Interesting article. I hadn't seen the ad before but it's certainly different! Dirt Devil is certainly a popular brand here in the UK so it looks like their advertising strategy is working!

B V KRISHNAN

5 years ago

I do not quite agree with the learned author. The ad is arresting, of course, but only for the first time viewer. From next time onwards it becomes a horrible eyesore. Certainly not one that I would want to see again and again. And surely, for selling a vacuum cleaner there must be more pleasant ideas with less exaggeration!

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