Oh look. The latest ads from Apple — the ones created by Apple itself — haven’t scored as well as those created previously by its longtime agency.
I know it’s true, because I read it on the Internet.
These news stories are all based on a single report from Ace Metrix, which bills itself as “the new standard in television and video analytics.”
Please, say it ain’t so.
First, be aware that what appears to be a news story is actually a marketing pitch. It’s the same technique used by assorted computer security companies to drum up new business, which we’ve seen many times before.
They release a report with a sensational headline (New Virus Blows Up Mac Security Myth!), watch the news organizations eat it up, then happily field inquiries from clients impressed with their skills.
Ace Metrix sells marketing analytics software and competitive comparisons. Their findings generate stories, which at the same time generate PR for Ace. An excellent way to build “the new standard” in analytics.
But what exactly is the “Ace Score” of which they speak? If you have the stomach, read on.
Exposing each ad to 500 people, Ace calibrates creative effectiveness by two key measures — Persuasion and Watchability. In their own words:
“The Persuasion rating is based on the interactivity of six data elements – Desire, Relevance, Likeability, Attention, Information and Change – automatically captured and analyzed for each ad. Watchability measures the engagement that a person has with the ad. Watchability and Persuasion interact to create the Ace Score.”
This is the kind of language that gives talented people nightmares, because it often gives ammunition to people who aren’t particularly good at judging creative work.
I get that a lot of companies feel compelled to subject their ads to deep analysis. But — would you like to know how Steve Jobs analyzed an ad? He looked at it and said “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” After it ran, he gauged the reactions to it.
Ace’s type of analysis is the reason why so many companies, usually the bigger ones, begin to churn out drivel. They get more concerned with ratcheting up their “six data elements” than creating great ads.
Steve didn’t tolerate that kind of thinking. Apple’s history of great advertising is the validation of his approach.
If Ace is truly the “new standard” for measuring creative effectiveness, one would assume they’d have a pretty good track record, right?
Well, careful with that assumption thing.
In October 2012, using the same data points, Ace declared that the thoroughly embarrassing Microsoft Surface “Dancing” ad was the highest rated tablet ad ever, ahead of those from Apple and Samsung.
Not content to sit that far out on a limb, the Ace CEO climbed out even farther, adding “The new Surface ads have flipped the ‘Mac vs. PC’ campaign on its head introducing intense aspiration among consumers, as evidenced by very high ‘change,’ ‘desire,’ and ‘attention’ Ace scores.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to fork over a few hundred grand to these guys for their analytic wisdom.
And there’s more.
Remember Apple’s emotional holiday ad, “Misunderstood”? It scored well in likability, attention and relevance — but it was found to be lacking in information, dooming it to a mediocre Ace rating.
This type of analysis betrays a total lack of understanding about the power of advertising, and the proper use thereof. It’s as if every ad has to press every button. If that’s true, you’ll have to get used to the idea that most of your all-time favorite ads were actually mediocre.
To stand out from the holiday clutter as it did, “Misunderstood” was quite extraordinary. Connecting with customers emotionally, it had relevance beyond the short time it ran. It contributed to the Apple brand image.
Apple shareholders should rejoice that Ace wasn’t consulted about squeezing in some of those missing data points.
Now that I’ve expressed my disdain for Ace-style research, I have a confession to make. I actually agree with Ace’s conclusion that recent Apple ad efforts — particularly the “What Will Your Verse Be?” series — have been less effective than earlier ones.
But trust me, that’s just coincidence.
Logic like Ace’s is the reason why great creative leaders look at research with a wary eye — if they look at it at all.
The gut instinct of a few talented, experienced and brave individuals is worth a great deal more than 500 people ticking marks on a survey.
Tags: apple ad ratings