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What Makes an Ad Memorable?

Memorable AdsThe great Mark Ritson had an interesting piece in UK-based Marketing Week this week about the elements in video spots that make them memorable.

Study after study indicate that the vast majority of ads are either not remembered or incorrectly attributed. In the study Ritson quotes, done by Ipsos in the US, 84% of spots are either not remembered or not attributed to the advertiser.

Before we get to the conclusions, let’s play a little game and test your insight. Rate the following “distinctive brand assets” in terms of their ability to make an ad more memorable:

  • Logo
  • Slogan
  • Characters
  • Celebrities
  • Audio cues
  • Typography
  • Music
  • Package shape
  • Color

According to the study in question, this chart shows how advertisers use brand assets and is probably a reliable indicator of what most advertisers see as a hierarchy of ways to make their advertising most distinctive and memorable.

Brand Asset Ad Results

As you will see in the next chart, the above chart demonstrates that most advertisers don’t know shit. If you are like most advertisers, you believe that two of the most important elements in making the ad memorable are the brand logo and the slogan (which probably accounts for the ubiquitous cry “make the logo bigger.”) According to the study, these are the two least effective elements. Here are the results of the research.

According to the study, the most effective “brand assets” in making the spots more memorable are audio cues (“sonic brand cues”) and characters. In both cases, these elements are utilized by a tiny minority of advertisers.

Before we put too much credence in this study and start producing spots with cartoon monkeys who fart out a melody, let’s remember a few things.

  1. Memorability and effectiveness are not the same thing. Yes, memorability is probably a significant element in ad effectiveness, but it is not synonymous with it. There have been plenty of highly memorable spots that have failed bigly.
  2. The most important element of an ad’s success is not covered in this research. It is the power of the story the spot tells. This is difficult to quantify and rarely shows up in studies like this.

Read Bob Hoffman’s full biography here: or, follow Bob Hoffman online @adcontrarian.