Brand Building Takes Time AND Talent


The lead story in this week’s Campaign about Pfizer looking for a retained European agency a for a well known pharmaceutical product reminded us of the award winning advert for Vitta Farma:

The Original Vitta Farma Ad

The Original Vitta Farma Ad

So we tested the advert in our omnibus in the context of Men’s Health magazine with a sample of thirty men and found that the advert elicited subconscious emotional responses of surprise with confusion, mild shock and in some cases disgust. These emotions were not resolved in the majority of readers because they did not know what the brand Vitta Farma does and they didn’t read the white out of pink text ‘Medicine for erectile dysfunction with special discount.’ As can be seen by the eye tracking heat map.

Vitta Farma heatmap of 30 Men's Health Readers

Vitta Farma heatmap of 30 Men's Health Readers

Vitta Farma heatmap shows readers see the scratches and brand but don’t read the text. So we swapped out the Vitta Farma logo for a well known pharmaceutical and mark and removed the white out of pink text:

A well known pharmaceutical logo replaces Vitta Farma

A well known pharmaceutical logo replaces Vitta Farma.

The advert was shown to a different thirty readers in the context of Men’s Health and the initial emotional response was similar to Vitta Farma; surprise with confusion, mild shock and in some cases disgust BUT on noting the well known pharmaceutical mark and tablet the initial negative emotions are turned into amusement and happiness as the proposition is understood and resolution was achieved – They got the joke! Readers engaged with the well known pharmaceutical version of the advert for more than three seconds compared to 1.4 seconds for the Vitta Farma version and the heat map shows that more attention was paid to the mark:

Eye tracking heatmap of a well known pharmaceutical.

Eye tracking heatmap of a well known pharmaceutical.

I’m not suggesting that the above advert is an appropriate one for the well known pharmaceutical, indeed it’s not appropriate for legal and brand value reasons. However, as a case study it illustrates a point: We understand what the well known pharmaceutical does because the marketing has been so effective that the brand has earned the right to be clever and amusing in its communication. The brand has earned the right to play with our expectation and mental models of the world. I’m not suggesting that it should, just that it could.

Vitta Farma has not (yet!) earned the right to be clever and amusing; it does not have the brand values to leverage from. The original creative treatment used white out of pink text and whilst this may look obvious in the board room with the creative director pointing out its existence, it doesn’t work in the real world of magazine advertising, where it was ignored. The Vitta Farma advert left readers confused with many thinking that the product was a rash cream for skin disorders. This is a shame as the concept is great and works given a different treatment.

This piece of research cost as little as 24 hours to gain the insights of 60 readers’ implicit, subconscious emotional and rational responses. These insights take the pain out of route meetings by making the decision about which route to go with evidence based rather than opinion.  It is now possible to cost effectively and quickly measure the implicit emotional and rational effectiveness of a creative against other creatives. I’m interested to know who is going to embrace the opportunities afforded by accountability to prove effectiveness to clients and who is going to maintain that ‘creativity cannot be quantified’?

Thanks for reading, now follow me @modestrobert

  • John Lampland

    Mr. Stevens: Thank you for the effective and technically sophisticated example. I’m tempted to go up one or two levels of abstraction because one may not always have access to the strong scientific tools you used. One might aspire to have a work group norm of not killing ideas dead before they can be tested in some way that will create objective data. Alas, there may not always be time for this either, but one might hope.

    One further point I take from the magazine ad example is that context is a powerful determinant of what is an effective idea and what is not, and we benefit from having acute and nimble sensibilities (and a drive to use them) to perceive contextual factors, such as what will cause a positive connection for an established brand vs. little connection for a less well-known one.

    Contextual awareness is a second-order creative evaluation skill that can make a big difference. As the late agricultural geneticist Derald Langham put it, a weed is merely “a plant out of place.”

    Applying and encouraging contextual awareness are management skills much to be desired.