Joining the likes of McDonald’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco, British motoring association The AA was one of numerous brands to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year.
Bank holiday weekends are always a “big time” for The AA, head of offline response marketing Simone Scaysbrook explains, with drivers taking to the roads in their droves. As a British organisation founded over a century ago, the Jubilee therefore felt like the “perfect time” to reach out to readers of national newspapers and drive consideration, she tells Marketing Week.
But with so much competition for attention, the challenge for any brand advertising against a huge cultural moment is to stand out while still maintaining strong brand association.
The AA achieved this, with its ad standing “head and shoulders” above other print ads over the weekend in terms of public response, according to the latest research by Kantar. With the playful line ‘Congratulations mA’Am’, the ad effectively drove an emotional connection with people, while also being relevant and meaningful.
Produced in association with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, ‘The Works’ study asked 750 consumers what they thought of five of the Jubilee weekend’s top print ads – 150 consumers per advert.
Poor branding undermines the ROI ads deliver, while ads that are unapologetically branded like this one from The AA punch above their weight.
Lynne Deason, Kantar
The AA’s ad scored in the top 20% of all UK ads on distinctiveness, and in the top 7% for brand cues.
“We’re in a lower-interest category, so we have to do things that are engaging and relevant. We’ve done that with this creative and we have done that in the past,” Scaysbrook says.
As a previous example, she points to the brand’s post-lockdown print ad, which suggested drivers take out breakdown cover ‘because the last thing you want after lockdown is another long walk’.
Indeed, Kantar’s head of creative excellence, Lynne Deason, says there is a correlation in print between impact and category interest, meaning any brand in a low-interest category needs to be “highly creative” to draw readers in.
“Readers are in complete control when consuming advertising in newspapers. They are looking for something interesting or entertaining, so ads need to ensure they provide that ‘hook’, grabbing attention, and drawing the reader in so they stop and look at the ad before turning the page or allowing their eyes to be drawn elsewhere,” she explains.
Striking the right balance
Achieving strong branding in advertising can often be a challenge for brands tapping into key moments or cultural events, Deason adds.
“There is a risk the event the brand is connecting with can dominate, or that the key cultural symbolism, imagery, stories, music, etc, that are incorporated to ensure a connection to the event take over,” she explains. For example, Kantar’s database shows the average branding score for Christmas ads in the UK is lower than all other ads.
As a result, the brand does not play a role in what’s engaging or memorable about the ad, so the opportunity to impact brand associations or drive mental availability is “massively negatively impacted”, Deason says.How a Lurpak YouTube ad ranked among the most effective in March
It’s a challenge Scaysbrook and her team were keenly aware of when deciding on the best creative out of those submitted in response to her brief.
“It had to strike the right balance of being distinctively us, but also have a respectful mark for the Platinum Jubilee,” she says.
Congratulations mA’Am was the “clear winner”, as it leverages The AA’s distinctive brands assets – including its yellow colour, the AA van and its distinctive logo – in a “remarkable natural way”.
From an efficiency and effectiveness point of view, the real power in these brand cues is they are at the “heart” of what makes the ad engaging, Deason adds. So strong is the branding, in fact, that the ad fell into the top 2% of Kantar’s database in terms of how likely it is to be remembered in association with the brand featured.
“Poor branding undermines the ROI ads deliver, while ads that are unapologetically branded like this one from The AA punch above their weight, effectively multiplying the efficiency of the media spend put behind an ad,” Deason says.
The ad falls into the top 10% of all ads on this measure of efficiency, she adds. Even with limited dwell time, it will help remind people of The AA brand, supporting its saliency and chance of coming to mind when the need arises.
Eye flow tracking shows how attention-grabbing The AA’s distinctive brand assets are, with eyes first drawn to the AA logo on the side of the van.
Importantly, eye flow shows people then look beyond the logo and message of congratulations, taking in the promotional Jubilee weekend offer towards the bottom half of the ad.
However, given the limited time period the offer was available for and fixed renewal dates for those who already have breakdown cover, immediate persuasiveness wasn’t a “standout strength” of the ad, Deason says.
Not only does The AA’s ad grab attention, it’s also likeable, scoring in the top 40% of ads. Participants in the study appreciated the play on words and the connection to the brand in a humorous way.
“How colourful, polite and congratulatory it was,” one participant responded. “I like the good sense of humour the most. A good way to use their company name.”
Another said: “It is bright and eye catching and made me smile when I saw it. I liked the use of the logo for ma’am and the link to the Jubilee.”
The ad also outperforms other print ads researched on feel-good factor, or the balance of positive versus negative emotions evoked. The emotion pride came through at “significantly above average” levels, with some participants pleased to see the ad show “respect” and “support” for the Queen.How period care disruptor Here We Flo created April’s most effective TV ad
Print is also more likely to inspire “trust” in people than some forms of digital advertising, The AA’s Scaysbrook believes. With its broad reach, higher engagement and dwell time than some digital formats, and ability to drive response, print is a “good” channel for the brand on a number of levels, she adds.
Moving forward, The AA plans to continue its focus on being a “modern and relevant” brand, while remaining part of British culture, Scaysbrook says. That will mean rolling out more time-specific, shorter-term “tactical plays” in future, using those cultural moments as an opportunity to have a “voice” wherever it makes sense to.
“We’re always looking for new ways to tap into what audiences might be looking for or what might be interesting at a particular time,” she says.
“We want to support UK drivers. Whether that’s learning to drive, whether they’re leasing, break down, insurance, servicing or repair. So as drivers’ habits change, we want to be part of that narrative. Whatever you drive, we’re there wherever you need us.”