EDITORIAL: Ads must not only be memorable but also true to reality

It is a truism that those ads best remembered are not always those best loved. The gap between creative excellence and highest recall can indeed be a yawning one.

But for advertising to be effective, it has to be memorable. And for the fourth consecutive year, DIY retailer B&Q has taken the coveted top spot as the highest-recalled ad in Marketing's Adwatch of the Year (page 18).

Despite a change of agency, its long-running creative has stuck with the simple idea of using its staff to promote its products and has made its £37m budget go far.

Similarly - although somewhat more creatively - second-placed Delaney Lund Knox Warren's award-winning work for Halifax has featured genuine staff, most notably Howard Brown. It personalised the cold world of financial services, while highlighting the company's unique positioning and attracted half a million new current account holders.

But there is something other than creative concepts and impressive recall rates that B&Q and Halifax share - and it is far less welcome. They are both companies in danger of overselling their offering, meaning the customer reality falls short of the advertising image.

B&Q has prided itself on its strategy of employing older, more experienced staff so that shoppers receive better service and advice. But as anyone who has found themselves marooned among its aisles, desperately searching for that elusive 6mm twin-thread countersunk Pozi screw will testify, the reality does not live up to the brand promise.

And as a pre-Howard Halifax customer, I have seen how poorly the company has managed its influx of customers. I have witnessed a member of staff walk down the queue in a branch, asking each person why they are waiting, trying to persuade them they shouldn't be. You can imagine the general disquiet among the assembled customers as they muttered about how the queue would move much quicker if said member of staff opened an Xtra till instead.

Customers using telephone banking or automated deposits may best serve Halifax's business model, but where finances are concerned, many customers still want the peace of mind of dealing with a person face to face.

Carphone Warehouse's Charles Dunstone once said it was important to him that his advertising should undersell the brand so that customers coming in to the stores would find the service better than they expected from the ads.

B&Q and Halifax are to be commended for their memorable and effective advertising; now they must ensure the images conveyed to viewers in the comfort of their homes live up to the reality of the in-store transaction.

Marketing wishes all its readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Our next issue will be out on January 8.

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