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Why the Great British public loves a Turkey…

Even the nation’s favourite love-machine can’t predict the tastes of the Great British public. Answering questions about why winners of The Voice have so far failed to go on to commercial success, Tom Jones said he’s given up trying to second guess what success looks like.

After more than five decades in music, he still can’t predict which of his songs will become hits.

“That is still going on with me – as long as I’ve been in the business I still don’t have the secret of, ‘This will be a hit if I record it’. You have faith in the song and you do the best that you can with it. Hopefully the public, because they’re the ones that make the decision, will like it,” the great Welsh crooner told Press Association.

While re-reading some of Campaign’s recent ‘Turkey of the Week’ nominations, I began to think about whether we in Adland are more qualified than Tom Jones to predict the success of our own industry’s offering with the British public. Are these advertising ‘Turkeys’ just like dying swans? Or are they really a golden goose?

Looking back at the last six months or so of ‘Turkeys’, I’d suggest that at least half have been judged much more favourably by the nation’s arm chair critics than by their Adland critique.

Here are some examples:

Maryland – ‘Gooeys Pirate’  (VCCP London)

The Result: Maryland Gooeys has seen 18% year-on-year growth.

Holiday Inn Express – ‘Selfies’ (JWT London)

The Result: Holiday Inn Express has increased revenue per room by 3%.

Iceland – ‘Romance’ (The Tom Reddy Agency)

The Result: Iceland has delivered above category inflation revenue growth.

Muller Rice – Rice, Rice Baby (VCCP)

The Result: Muller Rice have seen a jump of 10% in sales.

Not that Tom Jones would want to admit it, but the most cherished sons of that other singing contest – The X Factor – has also proven that the British public love a Turkey, especially at Christmas.

Their fragrance, ‘Our Moment’, was the nation’s biggest selling last Christmas (apparently by at least five times the nearest competitor) even though it was awarded Turkey of the Week.

What can explain this judgement gap?

I think there are two things to bear in mind when interpreting an Adland critique of advertising campaigns and they both stem from a single truth; that the definition of successful advertising has to be whether it helps sell our clients’ products to the Great British public.

It’s all about the audience

The judgement criteria are often different for the public. Is the ad memorable? Is the ad convincing? Does it make the product more appealing? Do they go on and buy? The public are more likely to accept advertising as just that, without (always) expecting it to be art. What’s more, the average armchair critic is a very different breed to a typical Adland critic. More likely to be a female, aged 35 to 44 with a household income of £30-40k, married or living as such, with kids either still at home or recently moved out. Oh, and they don’t live in London… That is not usually the person that I observe in meetings.

As well as applying a different set of judgement criteria, we need also remember the role that media planning plays in creating success. A successful advertising campaign is always dependent on a great message connecting with the right audience in the most persuasive way, which is why media agencies invest so much time and effort on behalf of their clients to develop a connection strategy that does justice to the creative and the brand. Perhaps that’s like making sure that the turkey dinner is served when the family are hungry, that the plate is big enough and that there’s always lashings of bread sauce on hand. Or perhaps that’s stretching the metaphor just a bit too far.

Back to the best measure of success; if being awarded ‘Turkey of the Week’ has ruffled a few feathers, I’d suggest reserving judgement until Britain’s arm chair critics have also voted at the till.

After all, the British public love a Turkey.

Scott Magee is Strategy Director at Vizeum UK