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Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

Not many people would resist a nice meal of a 200g burger sandwich, whole and rich with supplements, ketchup on top, and a side dish of French fries or fried onion flakes. But the venue of dining also counts in shaping the diner’s experience — it is likely for a diner to expect a more tasty and enjoyable burger meal at a full-service grill restaurant compared with a fast food restaurant. A number of factors affect the attraction of a restaurant to diners in addition to food quality, like atmospherics of the venue, service and attitude towards customers. “Moses”, a small-medium chain (8 branches) of grill bar-diners in Israel, has created a brand theme aimed at making patrons-diners feel more welcome and wanted at their restaurants. At the core of the theme are anthropomorphization of Moses as a cat wearing a wide smile and his style of language that is meant to let customers feel more at ease, like they belong in the restaurant as personal guests of Moses.

  • See epilogue with update at the bottom (June 2018)

The language Moses uses to tell patrons-diners about special offers, activities and events is personal, direct and very informal, often a non “going around the bush” kind of talk. It appears on table covers, postcards, signage, its website and other materials. This style also characterises its advertising. It may sound a little blunt sometimes but careful not to be offensive. The approach Moses takes to bring up any matter is intended in a humourous way. It seems that Moses is just trying to be frank, clever yet witty.

There is not much company-official text in English to give as an example since Moses addresses substantially Hebrew-speaking Israelis as in a casual discourse. And indeed Moses’s rhetoric employs expressions in Hebrew that have significance to Israelis but whose semantics may be partially lost in translation to English or other languages. Still, the tone and intention of the rhetorical style of Moses is preserved and can be sensed in the following examples. Moses typically takes a rather plain information or message and twists its presentation by inserting: (a) some doubt or skepticism, (b) adventurism or suspense, (c) irony.

The limited content in English on the Israel-native website of Moses appears (reasonably) to be translated from content originally composed in Hebrew. Consider the following phrases, extracted from the English version of the About page (note: information here is not updated as in Hebrew), to get a feel of how Moses talks to clients. Thus, when telling readers of the chain’s background Moses says:

“Here’s something you’ll find on every website, and here too. Do you really care if Moses Tel Aviv was established on November 2003, and it is part of a group of restaurants…” (Note: the group referred to includes other restaurants of different types of cuisine and brand names; since then Moses expanded as a distinct chain within the group).

Cutting short on the chain’s evolution, Moses comments:

“What’s really important is that they are open now. If you wanted to learn some history you’d probably log into Wikipedia or somewhere like that.”

Some consumers may not like to be sent-off like that to find more information, but another, and the correct way to read this is “Moses doesn’t want to waste your time; just come and eat”. In an age when people are shorter in time and can easily search and find information on the Web, Moses shows as understanding. (Moses also seems to understand the tendency of Israelis to be not very patient.)

In another example, a print ad from a few years ago for a new burger of Moses, Artburger, posed in large-bulk letters (‘loudly’) at the center of the copy: “How Many Times Do I Have to Explain to You That This Is Not a Hamburger?!”  Artburger is made of a mix of lamb, beef and veal meat. Text in small font at the bottom of the ad explained:

“In a competition conducted by TimeOut magazine, which is like what you are holding now but another, readers chose the Artburger of Moses, which is exactly what you will be holding soon, as the best hamburger. So this is the time to admit failure. If after all we had done, we couldn’t make you understand that Artburger isn’t really a hamburger, then we probably deserve this.”  (Translated, RV)

This is a clear attempt by Moses, if a little sarcastic, at differentiating its 250g Artburger with a superior-quality meticulous blend of meat from standard beef hamburger. Importantly, this is not a gimmick of one-off ad but an integral part of the language Moses consistently uses in its communication to consumers, part of his character. (An image of the original ad in Hebrew can be found in the Gallery; also see photos from restaurants in the chain and the Artburger Olympic Contest).

As a final example, Moses made an intriguing invitation or call for customers to participate in a satisfaction survey distributed on postcards at his restaurants. This is how the invitation went:

“Psss… Psss… Act normally. Continue reading as if this is just any other text on a postcard. Don’t let the waiters feel that something suspicious is going on here. Smile like what is written here is something funny. Now, in your most nonchalant way, throw a look at the bottom left corner of the postcard…did you get the (QR) code? It can turn you from regular Moses customers to … “mystery customers”, Hush… Yes, exactly as you’ve heard. Scan the code now and not at home, answer our discreet satisfaction questionnaire, show when finished to the waiter and get a scratching card, and maybe you will win a bonus to spoil yourself. Nice work, Agent. See you on the next mission.” (Translated, RV)

It is an attention-grabbing and engaging way of asking customers to participate in such a survey. In a ‘gamified’ kind of invitation, the task is put into a story of a secret mission — properly applied and difficult to ignore. The invitation has additional important elements like encouragement to reply immediately and a reward, both aimed at increasing the response rate (a link is further provided in addition to the code), yet embedded in a whole story that signals suspense and thrill (and also humour). Then finally comes this footnote:

” (!) This postcard will destroy itself instantly when finished reading if you spill a little ketchup on it, a bit of mayonnaise, wrinkle it into a little ball, and then throw to the garbage can…” — A nice touch of irony in mockery of espionage work…

Moses the cat is a cartoon character — he is known to consumers only by face, with his wide smile, his tongue hanging out as a signal of his mischievous nature, round eyes, red nose, and sharpened ears on top. The icon that identifies Moses visually fits well with his verbal language, and together they help build the brand personality: Moses is sociable, extrovert or approaching to others, light, direct but sometimes more subtle and sophisticated, looking for adventures, and he likes to make jokes but with the sting of irony. Over time some versions of the looks of Moses have appeared (e.g., in different colour, ears pointed to the sides or raised upwards) but they all have the same distinctive elements that are indicative of his character. Other visual elements like the design of the website (e.g., colours and shapes of “windows”) or the menu (recently re-designed in a graphic style similar to infographs) are consistent with the less-orderly conduct of Moses .

  • The face icon of Moses is reminiscent of Felix the Cat, a hero comic and cartoon character from the 1920s-1940s. The personality characteristics (e.g., adventurous, playing tricks on others) also match quite well. The chain has reportedly acquired the creative rights to use the icon-logo of the cat Moses from an American company that owns rights since the 1960s for an original animated figure (1), although the article does not mention the name of the original figure.

However, language can more than tell of the brand personality of Moses; it also speaks of the culture of Moses chain of restaurants as an organisation. When the language used in written and electronic communications is considered together with oral communication, conduct and other actions of the chain’s staff members in the restaurants, they indicate a culture that approaches customers, wants to get close to them and cares for them. Staff members on-site do not really talk as described above but they are courteous and waiters would usually ask diners how they were doing before taking order and return to ask how is the meal after serving. They also tend to fix problems and give away bonuses as compensation to conciliate with customers and keep them happy. Members of the customer club are called Moses Friends; the language used by Moses the cat seems to be directed especially to them and to encourage new ones to join as his friends. Moses Friends regularly get a bonus starter or dessert and accumulate stars for price discount. They also get priority seating.

Yuval Sela, founding partner (with the Yarsin Group) and CEO, defines Moses as “a restaurant that talks to everyone, at noon to business people, in the evening to families, and at night to the young ones after entertainment” (2). In fact, Moses restaurants have turned out most popular among families on weekends. The chain that considers itself a place for “Modern American Kitchen” runs a well-controlled number of restaurants, self-managed without franchising. Sela sees children as the anchors that bring families to their restaurants and therefore most important to satisfy — they give them game and drawing booklets with coloured pencils, and at least one restaurant added in the past year a play room for little children (“Gymboree”). For the young ones who come late at night they offer a night burger meal for a special price treat (42 NIS=€8.75). Beyond that they offer as expected a business lunch deal of a salad, 200g burger, side dish and soft drink/juice at a very fair price (competitive even against McDonald’s meals — 58 NIS to 50 NIS) and other attractions like “international burgers” in culinary styles of different countries. All together, it is evident of a culture of a business that cares for its varied customers.

The language of Moses in the chain’s communications will not appeal to everyone. Some may consider it impolite and intruding (e.g., senior citizens). Others may find this genre of language simply strange to them. It is essential to study and confirm to what segments that kind of language is appealling or at least can feel comfortable with it. Notably, five of the restaurants are located in the Tel-Aviv area in or near business districts that host professionals and managers in banking and finance, Hi-Tech and other business services and socio-economically privileged neighbourhoods. The recently added branch in the vacation resort city of Eilat is rather the exception and probably targets primarily consumers as families.

More frequently, the restaurants are in vicinity to patrons-diners that are likely to appreciate and welcome the spiked humorous and sometimes more sophisticated approach of Moses’s language. It is furthermore likely that consumers from those same circles are those that come outside working hours with friends and family to dine at Moses. It can be hoped that diners who come along with “devotees”, even if they do not truly welcome that style of language, will at least find it amusing.

Epilogue (June 2018):  In early 2017 Moses restaurant chain was acquired by BBB Group which already owned at that time two hamburger restaurant chains. Following this acquisition, BBB Group operates three chains with different positions of quality and value proposition: Burgerim — basic, fast-food; BBB (Burgus Burger Bar) — medium, good value; and Moses as its premium brand. However, within a year BBB dropped or abolished much of the symbols and elements of the brand personality of Moses, including the culture and language attached to it. Five of its current 11 branches are already operated by franchisers. The previous founding owners lamented that differentiation of the brand has eroded and revenues did not justify keeping up the chain. Yet the personality and culture of Moses did make the restaurant chain stand out from its competitors, including BBB itself. Moses is not the same as before; even its menu and how burger sandwiches are served have changed. The BBB Group has not made so far an attempt to revitalise the brand theme of Moses or replace it with something new and different. Without it, the task could become more difficult to maintain differentiation of Moses from other chains at least similar in position of quality and value, and it is losing its brand distinction and uniqueness.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

Notes:

(1) “How Did We Turn Into an Overeat People: 20 Hamburgers a Day and a Line to Restaurant at 3AM”, TheMarker Online (Hebrew), 23 Sept. 2010 http://www.themarker.com/misc/1.581423

(2) Ibid. 1 (Citation translated from Hebrew, RV)

 

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We can think of visual images in different forms. Pictorial images like a painting, a photograph or a drawing often depict a congruous scene of figures, objects and background, telling a story, enclosed in a frame. An image in a marketing context may represent product objects, people (e.g., customers, sellers, models, endorsers), a view of the scene of a retail store, etc.. But we may also refer to the visual image of a print advertisement as a visual scene that displays a complex layout of pictorial images, brand logo, text and additional graphic elements of decoration. Rather frequently the ad would show portions of pictorial images (like ‘clip-arts’) embedded in the whole scene, and the spatial arrangement of its objects or elements appears as discontinuous. Visual images may further be related with product packages, website pages on the Internet, video, or the view of a store’s front window and its interior space when one is present on premises of the physical site. Viewing a visual image  is an experience that may be, for example, enjoyable, challenging, annoying or disturbing. If the image leaves us indifferent, however, we would not spend enough time to figure out what we experience.

Lindt ChocolateWhen the object of a researcher’s study is a visual marketing material like an ad or product packaging it is most sensible to show the actual material or a pictorial image of it to consumers participating in the study. It is essentially more reliable for measuring affective and cognitive responses going beyond elementary memory-based measures of awareness. As we try to measure consumers’ recall of detail in an ad’s scene, its accuracy tends to decrease sharply and therefore any further references to content asked from respondents are likely to be of low reliability. The same is true when studying response to a retail scene — we should bring the research participants to the brick-and-mortar site itself, show them photographic images of its scene (i.e., layout, design, merchandise display) or computer-simulated images for a store in planning. Presenting an image of the material or retail scene is likely to enable researchers to capture emotion-laden responses more varied in type and intensity, and reach greater depth in the thoughts and feelings evoked in consumers-viewers vis-a-vis reliance on memory or mental images re-constructed by participants in their minds.

Pictorial images may be used productively, nonetheless, also if they do not appear related to a focal product, brand or company. A visual image can be utilised as an implicit bridge that helps to connect consumers’ mindsets with a brand of interest and to open-up the respondents to engage in a dialogue with an interviewer about personal or more private aspects of their lives (e.g., how a brand may function in the relations between a parent and his or her children). Relevant pictures with respect to the topic of research may be introduced by the interviewer or the interviewee. Professor of marketing Gerald Zaltman (Harvard Business School / Olson Zaltman Associates consulting firm) advises that pictorial images can help consumers to reveal and reflect attributes of a focal brand or company even though on surface the image shows no relation to that brand; the image serves as a metaphor whereby figures or objects in the image substitute for the brand (e.g., a gorilla has been shown by purchasing agents to suggest that managers from the vendor company have been stiff and stubborn in negotiations with them or  have demonstrated insensitivity to their needs). In Zaltman’s technique of metaphor elicitation (ZMET) the consumers bring pictorial images of their choice to their interviews through which they may describe the brand or tell a story about the role it plays in their lives (1).

Advertisements compete eagerly for grabbing the attention of consumers against editorial content as well as other ads in their own product category or in any other domain. It is a tough and demanding competition. The methodology of eye tracking, enhanced by advanced technology for taking different measures of eye movement and fixations, is especially suited for studying what captures attention to the ad and how information is attended to and could be utilised within the ad scene. It is generally assumed that the longer the latency of fixation on an object or element, the more thought a viewer dedicates to it, though the technique cannot directly reveal much more about the nature of affective reactions or cognitive processes.

Important and useful insights have been gained through eye tracking research. An extensive research by Pieters and Wedel (2) shows, for example, that the power of text to capture attention is sensitive to the surface size of its text-body but a picture can capture attention fast almost regardless of its size. Hence it is unnecessary for advertisers to fill an ad copy with larger pictures in expectation that it would increase the chances of capturing attention to the picture and to the ad as a whole. For text, however, surface size, determined by amount of text or font size, is significant (e.g., consider magazine ads that combine a colourful and vivid picture on top and a body of text of some explanation beneath it for achieving maximum effect). Regarding brand logos, it is found that the surface size of the logo is likely to distract viewers from reading text. However, greater interest in a brand logo for any other quality (e.g., the brand itself) can increase interest in reading the text, and secondarily, watching the pictures in the print ad. Text is attended by viewers of print ads particularly more elaborately when viewers have a declared goal of buying a product of the type advertised (Rayner and Castelhano, 3); this is compared with a task when viewers are asked just to rate an ad — then pictures get to play a greater role in viewer attention (i.e., number of fixations and time spent observing and processing). Consumers are more interested in text portions of a print ad that provide information on a focal product relative to pictures when a purchase of product of that type is seen expected.

In order to characterise more concretely the processing of visual information and better understand the valence and content of feelings and thoughts, the investigation process of research has to continue with other methods (e.g., experiments, interviews with probing). The approach I put forward aims to provide such expansion of insights: the technique allows to attach additional information reported by viewers to objects or elements they choose and relate to in the visual material (e.g., a print ad, a photograph). Its starting point is based on visual thinking rather than verbal explications, therefore I named it Visual Impression Metrics. The following chart of a framework model of communication depicts plausible factors that may trigger the processing of ‘objects’ in a visual marketing material from the consumers’ point-of-view:

Two notes to the chart: (1) The combination of verbal and visual elements that correspond with each other is fundamental to encoding; (2) From an information processing perspective, consumers may go back and forth between attention to and processing of various elements or objects in the whole image.

A pivotal strength of eye tracking is the ability to trace when attention is awarded unconsciously to objects in the ad in addition to conscious attention — viewers transit between these processes as they move from bottom-up to top-down (and vice versa) processing of the information found in the visual material. A consequence of this, however, is that respondents are not likely to be able to comment on objects they attended to unconsciously. An approach as described above, while more reliant on conscious processes, may be used in conjunction with eye tracking so as to shed more light on how consumers-viewers utilise information from objects in the visual scene, their meanings or implications for them.

In the other realm of research using visual images, a pictorial image is utilised as an aid to enquiring on a topic or concept rather than being the subject of research. An interviewer may show the respondent a picture selected by the research team and invite him or her to discuss it (e.g., what they see in the picture, what it reminds them of, what associations it brings up about a product/brand). When showing the same picture to a group or sample of respondents, it is possible to compare and aggregate how various consumers relate and react to the same image. On the other hand, a picture retrieved and brought by each consumer-respondent is much more capable to entail an idea associated with a brand that is meaningful and relevant to that individual. Gerald Zaltman’s method for eliciting metaphors by visual images is most appropriate to that end — it is free of the assumptions or expectations of the marketers or researchers. But on looking at the interviewing process, it is apparent that separating the thoughts of the interviewer from those of the interviewee is not obvious. A main theme of the instructions of Zaltman to interviewers for probing, as demonstrated in his book “How Customers Think” (Chapter 4 Appendix), is to avoid offering an interviewee their own explanations or interpretations of a reply just given by him or her nor implying their own understanding of the picture. An effective probing approach is to follow-up on a last reply of the interviewee using his or her own words (4). The line between desired and flawed probing in examples given, however, is not always sharp and clear — one needs to carefully make the vital distinction between guiding the interviewee (right) and leading the interviewee (wrong).

Selecting a pictorial image as a stimulus to trigger an “enquiry” in a survey (i.e., quantitative research) needs to be done by careful screening and examination, guided by pre-tests and/or qualitative research techniques, in order to present a picture that conveys the target concepts one wishes to study or test. Vice versa, key constructs (e.g., emotions, thoughts or associations) revealed in a qualitative study by using visual images should be substantiated through quantitative methods for the relevant target population of consumers. Thus, researchers would choose for a survey a pictorial image they appraise, according to findings of the qualitative study, as the best representative or conveyor of the concept of interest shared by the consumers. The method of Visual Impression Metrics, for instance, is suitable for certifying whether focal figures or objects as portrayed in the image scene carry the expected meaning.

The possibilities for research with visual images are numerous; they offer some intriguing opportunities for enriching our consumer insights. Visual images evoke more quickly intuitive and emotional responses, they often succeed in encouraging people to share their thoughts and feelings, and may engage forms of visual thinking that differ from verbal thinking. Depending on context and purpose, visual images can be used in marketing research to enhance the quality, reliability and validity of our findings, and thereby improve the knowledge of marketers about their consumers.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

 

Notes:

(1) “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market”, Gerald Zaltman, 2003, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

(2) “Attention Capture and Transfer in Advertising: Brand, Pictorial and Text-Size Effects”, Rik Pieters and Michel Wedel, 2004, Journal of Marketing, 68 (Apr.), pp. 36-50.

(3) “Eye Movements During Reading, Scene Perception, Visual Search, and While Looking at Print Advertisements”, Keith Rayner and Monica S. Castelhano, 2008; In Visual Marketing: From Attention to Action, Michel Wedel and Rik Pieters (eds.)[pp. 9-42], London, New-York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

(4) Ibid. 1.

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This is a story about a daily newspaper that dared to challenge the veteran and established national newspapers by introducing itself to readers free-of-pay. Furthermore, the newcomer broke the line from the incumbents in its way of reporting and commentating on current political issues and events. Taking the two developments together, it seems to have driven the greatly upset publishers out of their minds.

It is a conflict complicated by entangling business with politics: rather than having a discussion on pricing and distribution as factors of competition, one is drawn into argument about political differences. Any debate on the quality of news information has become subject to differences in political position. Thus, the competitive struggle is too often diverted from business considerations to political concerns. Consequently, the news-media industry has become ever more politicized and tensions between the competitors reach new heights.

The free newspaper “Israel HaYom” (“Israel Today”) was founded by the American-Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson in mid-2007. From its inception, the newsmedia, mostly leaning from centre to the left, attacked the newspaper for its backing of then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu head of the Likud party, giving him a stage to voice his opinions and creating good publicity for him in the run-up to the next election (February 2009). Israel HaYom as well as advocates for Netanyahu denied that Adelson was acting on behalf of the Likud’s leader, yet they claimed that a different approach was needed to counter the unfair treatment and continuous bashing of Netanyahu in news reports. But beyond that, Israel HaYom pertains to provide news readers a different perspective on current affairs in Israel and worldwide, and “to be fair and balanced” as proclaimed in one of their five guiding principles.

Following the 2009 election Netanyahu became Prime Minister (PM), and yet the free newspaper of Israel HaYom continued to be published and even thrive — during 2009 and 2010 reader exposure to the newspaper nearly doubled (from a little above 20% to almost 40% on weekdays [*]). It became so popular that in the end of 2009 it also started to publish a weekend issue. The fact that Israel HaYom maintained its course after the election weakened somewhat the arguments of its opponents and gave rise to other explanations, mainly that Adelson aims to establish a different kind of newspaper in the country and thereof change the nature of competition in the newsmedia market. There could be genuine marketing reasons to justify the introduction of a free newspaper at that time: (a) eliminating the monetary cost of the newspaper to consumers was essential to invade the solid national market as quickly as possible while grabbing a notable penetration share of readers to set-in its roots , and (b) when news are abundant free of charge on the Web readers have much less motivation to give a chance to another paid newspaper. Especially to win the younger readers it was necessary to take the Internet playground into consideration. Israel HaYom’s income model relies on advertising, but as this source is suspected not to be sufficient, it also needs funding from the owner. Hereby, the newspaper has an essential resource, particularly for late entrants into a market: the financial backing of Adelson.

  • About 45% of the area in a weekday issue of Israel Hayom is occupied by commercial ads + 10%  dedicated to public announcements and classified ads.

Needless to say that the prevalence of Israel HaYom was much to the dismay of the veteran newspapers that intensified their fight. Generally, they have tried to raise as many doubts as possible about the motives of Adelson and Israel HaYom so as to delegitimize the newspaper:  it serves as a newspaper of the government and of the PM in particular which manipulates news stories; it cannot survive as a serious newspaper only on advertising; and funding a losing newspaper by Adelson proves that he has political rather than business objectives. They claimed as well as that its business practices are unfair. On the opposite side, Israel HaYom can make the valid argument that its competitors are raising political claims because their actions in the marketplace are failing to defeat it, that they need to conceal their lack of a competitive edge. The free newspaper also has a true case that publishers of at least two of its adversaries, Yediot Aharonot and HaAretz, have strong connections and influence in business and political circles alike and are using their media vehicles to advance their interests.

  • The main confrontation is with centre-left leaning Yediot Aharonot (YA) whose position as the leading (most ubiquitous) newspaper for three decades is being threatened by Israel HaYom — according to TGI surveys of media exposure Israel HaYom surpassed YA on weekdays two years ago and in the second half of 2012 was leading by a small margin: 39.9% versus 37.3%, respectively (on weekends YA [41.7%] still has a clear lead over Israel HaYom [32.8%]). YA is the most vigorous opponent of the free newspaper and champion of the campaign against it, particularly the political-oriented one.
  • The newspaper that had most to lose, however, was Ma’ariv because the free newspaper was aiming at its position in the centre-right. Nevertheless, Ma’ariv has had troubles long time before Israel HaYom arrived, and although it tried to put much of the blame for its fall on the newcomer, the latter’s arrival just accelerated the decline of an already weak newspaper. Ma’ariv, at a level of 10% exposure and after a repeated turbulence, is now under new ownership and leaning more to the right.
  • HaAretz is a clear left-wing newspaper, associated with the New-York Times and the Guardian (UK). It is a high-profile newspaper even though its exposure rate is just about 6-7%. HaAretz has been relatively less vocal, supposedly because it provides printing services to Israel HaYom.

But now comes a time to re-assess the efficacy of the free-of-pay model for Israel HaYom. After the recent election in January the newspaper is way past its challenge to gain the acceptance and approval of large stakes of the public — it has already proven that it has a place in the Israel newsmedia arena. It will be more difficult now to defend itself from suspicions and doubts about its income model and funding from Adelson, which may be legal but not reasonable in the public eye for the longer term. Furthermore, the newspaper has to consider the negative effect that an absence of price may have on its  brand image.

Israel HaYom has characteristics that are not typical of free newspapers. While most of the free newspapers worldwide are local-urban, this one is national. Israel HaYom gives extensive coverage of political events and current issues (e.g., security, economics and business, social affairs, crime) as well as international affairs, topics that free newspapers regularly report only briefly. It includes news items, commentaries, and opinion columns from prominent journalists as well as guest experts and ex-politicians. If fact, the newspaper recruited from the veteran newspapers some of their leading senior journalists. This profile makes it resemble more a traditional paid newspaper rather than a free newspaper. Furthermore, free newspapers are normally intended for light and brief reading that can be completed while commuting on public transport within 15-20 minutes —  a description that does not agree well with Israel HaYom.

On the one hand, consumers who are pleased with the approach and style of Israel HaYom will find it hard to refuse a free offer. On the other hand, questions are bound to pop-up in consumers’ minds over time, namely: How is it possible to produce a newspaper like Israel HaYom without revenue from consumers? How is it actually financed (advertising, Adelson)? And how long this operation can go on like that? What consumers would be specifically concerned about is whether they should trust the reliability and accuracy of news stories it reports.

Israel HaYom should be able to answer two questions:

  • First, do news consumers prefer reading Israel HaYom because they approve and like what the newspaper essentially provides — the way it reports news, its analyses, format and style — or is it only because they don’t have to pay for it (i.e., the formal budget constraint is waived)? If it is found that consumers do not have substantial preference for the newspaper, then the publisher better continue the free model, but it will probably not enjoy a long future. If however the preference for the newspaper is real and well-founded, then the free model should be re-considered because it is not appropriate for supporting and establishing its stature in the long run.
  • The second question is henceforth, what price should Israel HaYom charge from consumers? The price should be low enough to keep the offering appealing against the competition but not too low for consumers might dismiss it as of dubious quality (in that sense, no charge is qualitatively better than a too low price). It should be a price that positions the newspaper as popular yet valuable. If consumers are asked directly about their lowest price limit, they would probably set it at zero because they have been taught that lots of news can be accessed free online. But consumers may have a misconception that the cost of a newspaper is mainly the paper and print and ignore the cost of creating the news stories and articles — this issue is already debated in the last two years regarding the Internet.

The free model also has distribution implications. Israel HaYom is handed-0ut in many public places like train and central bus stations, large institutes like hospitals, shopping centres and on main street; it is also available in coffee shops. There is also a limited service of delivery at home at minimum charge. However, as the newspaper becomes more accepted and desirable, especially the weekend edition on Friday mornings, the inability to obtain it even at a price in points-of-sale can be annoying to consumers. A strong popular brand requires as wide availability as possible, not exclusivity or hard-to-reach stance. The distribution method of the free newspaper, particularly on weekends, may curtail its potential of reader exposure (e.g., versus Yediot Aharonot). But a lower performance on weekends may also occur because Israelis expect more in reliability and depth from their weekend newspaper and a free newspaper seems less adequate to that end.

  • Israel HaYom distributes 275,000 copies on weekdays and 325,000-375,000 copies on weekends that have to serve readers at public venues or for taking away.

Israel HaYom may start addressing the future of their model of free newspaper by distinguishing weekends from weekdays. On weekdays it may indeed not justify confronting the price question because the range for manoeuvering is relatively narrow (i.e., zero to 5 shekels = 1 euro) and the current income model may suffice. Discriminating price points in the range is likely to remain ambiguous (e.g., YA distributes promotional weekday issues for 2 shekels on the street). The weekend edition is another matter because it is perceived as a different product, a more comprehensive source of news information to summarise and digest the week’s events, and paid newspapers charge more than twice the weekday price. Moreover, Israel HaYom provides two supplements on the weekend. A price assigns an overt value to the newspaper and endows it with greater legitimacy as an economic product, especially when it relates to information. A price on weekends can also reflect positively on the newspaper’s image on weekdays.

News organizations are re-considering their policy of publishing news free of charge on the Internet. Income from online advertising is declining and print advertising remains after all more lucrative. Consequently, publishing free news online is getting less economic while continuing to diminish the perceived value of news information they provide on the Internet. Leading news publishers like Financial Times, The Times of London, Wall Street Journal and New-York Times have launched in recent months a model of paywall — view a number of articles free (e.g., 5 to 15 a month) but beyond that one has to make a paid subscription to read more content. It is going to be a long process of change but is important to follow: it may increase the attractiveness of the free Israel HaYom but it may also further hurt its credence as a source of news information. Nevertheless, a website with a paywall may serve Israel HaYom well as a future source of income and to establish itself as an invested and sound news source.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

(*) Statistics on reader exposure to media are based on Target Group Index (TGI) semiannual surveys.

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It is an ever lasting quest of advertisers to find the content, format and style that will draw more consumer attention to their ads, and subsequently elicit a positive response to the ads and their target brands. Consumers would have to focus on the ad long enough to capture some critical elements (e.g., visual or textual, informational and affective) so as to grasp a key message from the ad. With a print ad, often just a few seconds should be enough but on some ads it may take a minute or two to properly comprehend the ad and make sensible inferences. For video clip ads, on TV or the Internet, the consumer may ponder on the ad for no longer than its duration (e.g., 20-40 seconds), yet sometimes he or she may elaborate or relate to the ad for a few more minutes afterwards (e.g., particularly for humourous ads with a punch). It is a puzzle never really and fully solved, among other reasons because there is no single “secret solution” to this puzzle, and even the best solution for the same brand and audience can change over time and across situations.

There is a growing propensity among advertising professionals to claim that marketers should not expect consumers to think too much on an ad, that an ad should include minimum product information and instead concentrate more on gaining a pleasant emotional reaction. The problem of low involvement when consumers encounter ads, particularly during commercial breaks on TV, is a topic widely and extensively researched. Yet advertisers should not use this challenge as an excuse to produce simplistic ads of little informative value. There are enough occasions where it is suitable or even desirable to create more intriguing and thought-provoking ads. Ads that emphasise graphic elements in their design can be either gross and superficial or imaginative and clever. Advertisers should not shy from turning consumers to utilise the central route of processing product-relevant information contained in their ads (1). But then ads may induce consumers to think a little further, beyond a typical “central”, analytical processing of an ad to decode its message; these are cases where thinking may be accompanied by positive emotions like enjoyment and amusement. When catching the clever punch in a humourous ad, the consumer is entertained by both feelings of fun and the gratification that “I got it”.

On one hand, a print ad may include an impressive photographic image, complete with detail and colours at high-resolution (e.g., visualise a photo-scenery in National Geographic quality) that make them imagine themselves “jump-into the scene”. This approach may be suitable, for example, in the area of travel and tourism when advertising a vacation resort. Perception of highly vivid images is likely to interfere with voluntary mental imagery by consumers-viewers, based on their own ideas and experiences; but the picture-image can inspire the viewer to “experience” the scene-imagery as proposed by the advertiser (2). On the other hand, an ad may mask or omit in its composition certain visual elements, letting the consumer-viewer complete the image (e.g., following rules of Gestalt), and thereby arrive via this additional contemplation more independently to the main message of the ad. Such ads are engaging consumers by stimulating them to work-out the whole ad-scene; it has some risk, but when the viewer makes the extra effort to get the message, it is a rewarding experience.

More sophisticated and artful methods for creating intriguing ads use visual rhetorical figures such as rhymes (schemes) and metaphors (tropes). Visual figures, however, are still less frequent than verbal figures. Meaningful visual metaphors are particularly more difficult to construct (e.g., a package of tablets against a feeling of nausea is placed instead of the buckle in a car seatbelt). McQuarrie and Mick have shown that ads with visual figures are perceived more artful and clever than respective control “regular” ads, evoking more elaboration by being more vivid, interesting and provoking to viewers. They also induce greater pleasure in seeing the ad, implying a more positive attitude towards the ad. Moreover, these effects are stronger for ads that include a metaphor or pun than a scheme. The problem is that these ads are generally more difficult to comprehend, hence the risk in using this creative approach. The balance between pleasure and difficulty is very important — a visual metaphor, for instance, can create pleasure when it is intriguing at first sight and is interesting to resolve, yet it should not be too difficult to comprehend, confusing or ambiguous, lest it may cause frustration and fail to persuade (3). The visual figure intrigues viewers to “think into it” to imply its meaning (“implicature”); when the figure is too difficult to interpret, viewers are likely to imply more original but irrelevant meanings (4). Hence, the designer should keep in mind that while a visual rhetoric figure like a metaphor has to present a challenge, it must not be too sophisticated to allow the viewers to resolve it successfully.

Another perspective on the effort consumers have to invest in processing advertising information observes the difference between presenting product information as a list of attributes or conveyed in a “story”. Nielsen and Escalas suggest that making the information in the ad more difficult to process can have inverse effects on brand preferences or attitudes depending on how information is conveyed, having a negative effect when consumers process a list of attributes in an analytic mode versus a positive effect when consumers read a “brand story” in a narrative mode. Preference fluency defines the ease at which consumers are able to construct their preference for a brand. When consumers encounter a difficulty in reading or interpreting information relating to a brand, thus lowering preference fluency, they are more likely to conclude that something is wrong with that option and decline it. The researchers argue and demonstrate that while this consequence holds in the case of analytic processing, a different process happens when engaged in a narrative mode: the decreased fluency induces the consumers-viewers to get more immersed into the story, possibly by developing their own imagery around the base-story in search of meaning (a phenomenon known as “narrative transportation”), leading to stronger preference or a more positive brand evaluation (5).

In a series of three experiments, Nielsen and Escalas reveal some interesting differences between the two modes of processing information in ads. They show that making the information more difficult to perceive (e.g., using small vs. large font) in a list of attributes results in lower brand evaluation (consistent with previous research) but in a storyboard the result is a higher brand evaluation, as hypothesised. However, an instruction to participants to be critical and skeptical about the ad, directing them to analytic processing of a storyboard that should have involved narrative processing, a small font indeed produces a negative effect on their brand evaluations. The researchers also substantiate in two experiments (in two different product categories) the role of narrative transportation: when displaying a story, greater processing (reading) difficulty has a positive effect on brand evaluation but that is obtained by first evoking narrative transportation, and then narrative transportation positively effects the brand evaluation. This research thereof demonstrates how driving consumers to invest more cognitive effort in comprehending a story can benefit the target brand in the advertising.

There is also a basis for criticism of the research of Nielsen and Escalas. I wish to point out two weaknesses.

  • First, the authors focus on factors that influence the ease or difficulty of perceiving the ad (i.e., its perceptual fluency), viewing the ad image and reading text. They do not treat in their experiments semantic aspects of the ad, that is how well attributes are described or how clearly a story is told, its meaningfulness and associations it elicits in consumers (i.e., conceptual fluency). Is the presentation of text in small font the true motivation to increase effort by narrative transportation?  The research is lacking in that respect.
  • Second, the storyboard composed of a sequence of image-frames with captions and the single image of an ad with a list of product attributes do not match as parallels of the same ad format (video vs. print ad, respectively). The storyboard is not the natural way in which consumers view video-audio ads and process their “story”. Alternatively, an attribute-based style should have been contrasted with other configurations that convey a story but are compatible with the print format; for example, providing the same attribute information in a rich paragraph told in the frame of a story or a combination of image and text-paragraph.

Different predication prevail with regard to the occurrence of mental imagery and the type of processing it follows. Nielsen and Escalas explain that their display of product attributes should give rise to analytic processing. However, it has been argued that a single product profile described by concrete words is more likely to be conceived in a holistic manner, possibly in the form of mental image. On the other hand, a comparative ad with two adjunct product profiles encourages an analytic by-attribute type of processing. Rich verbal descriptions with concrete words,  pictures, and explicit instructions to imagine or visualise are recognized as effective techniques for eliciting mental imagery. In many cases a combination between them is the most productive strategy (e.g., joining a picture with concrete words, instructions accompanied by concrete words) (6). It may be noted that techniques applied in the ad design that are capable of eliciting imagery fit with the expectation of imagery during narrative transportation.

The research in this field is interesting and offers many insights on the possibilities and opportunities for creating more clever, intriguing and imaginative advertising. It has to appeal not only to advertising professionals in its creativity and sophistication but also to the consumers, capturing and driving them willingly to invest the extra cognitive effort. Yet, due to the importance of striking a right balance between difficulty of comprehension and pleasure, and the greater effort required to design successful ads, advertisers and advertising professionals often remain unconvinced that pursuing this course is cost-effective. They need more convincing empirical evidence that producing advertising that makes consumers think harder — but not too hard — can deliver the desired reactions and rewards.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

Notes:

(1) In reference to the Elaboration Likelihood Model: “Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement”, Petty, R.E., Cacioppo, J.T., & Schumann, D., 1983, Journal of Consumer Research, 10 (Sept.), pp. 135-146.

(2) “Brain Areas Underlying Visual Mental Imagery and Visual Perception: an fMRI Study”, Ganis, G., Thompson, W.L., & Kosslyn, S.M., 2004, Cognitive Brain Research, 20, pp. 226-241; “The Role of Imagery Instructions in Facilitating Persuasion in a Consumer Context”, Mani, G. & MacInnis, D.J., 2003, in Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective, Scott, L.M. & Batra, R. (eds.)(pp. 175-187), NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

(3) “Visual Rhetoric in Advertising: Text-Interpretive, Experimental, and Reader-Response Analyses”, McQuarrie, E.F. & Mick, D.G., 1999, Journal of Consumer Research, 26 (June), pp. 37-54; also see their other article “The Contribution of Semiotic and Rhetorical Perspectives to the Explanation of Visual Persuasion in Advertising” in Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective (ibid. 2)(pp. 192-221).

(4) “Thinking Into It: Consumer Interpretation of Complex Advertising Images”, Philips B.J., 1997, Journal of Advertising, 26 (2), pp. 77-87.

(5) “Easier Is Not Always Better: The Moderating Role of Processing Type on Preference Fluency”, Nielsen, J.P. & Escalas, J.E., 2010, Journal of Consumer psychology, 20, pp. 295-305. (Available on the website of eLab at Vanderbilt University: http://elab.vanderbilt.edu/research_papers.htm)

(6) “The Role of Imagery in Information Processing: Review and Extensions, MacInnis, D.J. & Price, L.L., 1987, Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (March), pp. 473-491; “The Role of Imagery Instructions in Facilitating Persuasion in a Consumer Context” (ibid. 2); “The Effects of Information Processing Mode on Consumers’ Response to Comparative Advertising”, Thompson, D.V. & Hamilton, R.W., 2006, Journal of Consumer Research, 32 (March), pp. 530-540. (For more background on decision processes consult also the work of Payne, Bettman and Johnson on the constructive approach).

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Digital online advertising is more than banners that appear on web-pages, whether static or animated with motion. It has to be, because the online interactive scene of the Internet has so much more to offer, and much more can be done to capture and activate consumers. Advertising clips are also not enough, because they usually leave people passive watching them. There is also no substantial advantage to playing a clip on the webpage than on TV because the company is still not using the online medium properly.  

Ad banners catch your eye, grab your attention at least for a second or two, but they do not succeed at achieving much more than that. They do not deliver much information, and in most cases they are meant to induce you to click the banner and transport to another webpage where you may find something more interesting, meaningful or entertaining. The problem is that with time people have become used to them, often regarding them as a disturbance or nuisance to their main interest with a webpage. They can be truly annoying on occasion, over-riding text areas on the page and making it impossible to get rid of them. Surfers in decreasing numbers become tempted or intrigued enough to click a banner (somewhere between 1%-5%). They may even purposely ignore them as punishment.  

This brings us to a new type of advertising that lets the consumer get into the plot and become an active player in it. This branch is still in its infancy but one can find some good examples from time to time. One such brilliant example is the Pleasure Hunt promotional game by Magnum ice cream (a brand of the British-Dutch Unilever). It is cute, dynamic, entertaining, and has an effective ending. (I owe my gratitude to a good friend who referred me to this gaming-ad, recommending it for a good reason).  

I will not describe the game-ad in detail in order not to spoil the fun and surprises for those who want to follow the link below and try it for themselves. A few brief comments: First, it took me a little time to learn how to pick-up more bonbons on the way — I hope you are more successful. Sometimes, however, I reached a bonbon but couldn’t get it.  Second, on some screens it seemed the full image didn’t fit into my browser frame (too tall) and it overflow.  Yet, and that’s the main point, the whole concept was intriguing. The game gives publicity to advertisers in other domains (e.g., tourism, cars, fashion, beauty-care etc.) by displaying apparent web-pages of them which appeared a bit odd in a promotion for Magnum. But Magnum probably won’t worry about it — you cannot click away because the pages are fake, you are too busy running around looking for bonbons, and eventually you will remember the advertised pleasure at the game end. The beauty of it is mainly in the way the scene changes through the game story and the different topics add interest to the game. It is not a complex game; it should not be so. It is merely a little fun, and it does it well, not distracting the consumer-player from the marketing goal at the end.   

I regard this kind of application as Engaging Advertising because of its ability to captivate and draw the consumer into the ad-application as an active player and not just observer or viewer. I think it is not truly appropriate to use terms solely like advertising, promotion or marcom in this case , in concern that it does not do this kind of marketing initiative  justice. It blends advertising with experiential marketing. It is said about TV ads that even when they include “people like us”, when they involve  sentimental scenes and familiar situations, and may be exciting, the viewer is still left outside and experiences it indirectly or vicariously. It is different when the viewer becomes part of the plot and can influence it.

And now you can try the Pleasure Hunt ad-game first-hand.

Good luck, and Bon Apetit!

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

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