The second assignment of this unit was one of the most unique and intriguing tasks from third year. The assignment had two parts, first of which involved,
a critical review of past campaigns that had received complaints on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website relating to harmful and offensive advertising, while assessing whether the voluntary codes that operate within the UK are working.
I was given the freedom to chose either a particular company, industry or time period for investigation. Initially, selecting campaigns proved difficult, as the vast majority of complaints derived from misleading ads, not harmful and offensive ones. After significant examination of the ASA website, bearing in mind part two of this task, which warranted for a variety of communication tools to be featured in a campaign. I decided to focus on the first ever e-cigarette ads.
E-cigarettes were first promoted in 2013 by brands VIP and E-Lites (Buchanan, 2014; Sweney, 2013). The methods used to achieve brand awareness received a multitude of complaints regarding harmful and offensive advertising, raising attention from the ASA. As a result, the first two e-cigarette ads were banned in some form. I analysed the creative appeals of the ads and suggested parallels between traditional tactics used to promote cigarettes.
The ASA’s judgement of the two ads appeared to be a catalyst in bringing to light the social damage unregulated e-cigarette advertising could cause. Whether the brands intentionally took advantage of an unregulated environment in order to most effectively achieve their goal of brand awareness, remains debatable. Regardless, following extensive public consultation, the ASA proactively introduced new sections to the CAP and BCAP codes, directly regulating e-cigarettes, in November 2014 (Asa.org.uk, 2014b).
The ASA’s initial negligence placed consumers in a vulnerable positon, giving power to the ad industry and enabling marketers to create content which potentially caused detriment to society. However, through recent complaint analysis, the ASA’s relatively fast reaction to implement new rules, had been judged to have effectively protected consumers and society. Perhaps exemplifying this shift, E-Lites had recently rebranded to be called Logic (Logicvapes.com, 2017). In analysing a key time period for the ad industry, my report demonstrated the need for fast and dynamic action from the ASA, yet, positively supported the organisation in being an effective method for regulating the UK ad industry.
The second part of this task asked me to,
critically review how you would monitor and evaluate whether this was a successful campaign or not.
I chose to focus on E-Lites’ campaign, which consisted of: a radio ad, TV ad, Internet banner ad, poster at a bus-stop and display ad on the side of a bus. This broad spectrum enabled me to explore a wide variety of monitoring and evaluation methods.
A key theme of this essay derived from the opportunities digital technology can provide. However, I began by highlighting some more traditional techniques such as, pre-testing and publicity tracking. These can be effective tools, yet do have limitations that digital technology can overcome quite well. Historically, ‘marketing’ has been unable to confidently claim with a credible degree of accuracy that a particular campaign resulted in ‘x’ number of sales. This is due to a plethora of external factors influencing consumer behaviour. The Internet, however, has provided unparalleled tracking potential. E-Lites’ banner ad offers the ability to accurately determine how effective the ad was in making a sale, the click-through and bought rate (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). This is but one example, numerous others featured in the essay.
Despite acknowledgement of the monitoring and evaluation potential of the Internet, I had to relate the various challenges of this new technology. Computer software partly helps the process of converting data into useful information, but turning the information into tangible business decisions is a complex practice needing highly skilled strategic analysts. Stemming from this, misinterpretation of data is common. A company may choose to monitor so called vanity metrics (Chaffey and Smith, 2013), for example, page views and number of followers, in relation to its objective of increasing brand awareness. However, this key performance indicator (KPI) presents flawed relevance to the number of people actually trying a product. This misinterpretation can distort the overall evaluation of a campaign and lead to misinformed future objectives.
Challenges will need to be overcome involving: speed, cost, dynamism and transparency. Ironically, these challenges with the technology are identical to the opportunities it will offer.
I greatly enjoyed writing these two essays and was extremely grateful to be awarded 88%. This unit was a favourite from third year, largely due to committed, passionate and engaging tutelage from award-winning blogger Jeff McCarthy. I was overjoyed to achieve an average of 86%, a grade I didn’t expected to attain in a unit from third year.
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