Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are You Maximising the Opportunities from Non-Traditional Media?

As suggested in a NY Times (2007) article headline: “Anywhere the eye can see, it’s now likely to see an ad.” The creative potential of non-traditional media solutions is being recognized by advertisers all over the world, as evidenced by the development of specific categories promoting non-traditional media in international advertising award shows such as, for example, Cannes Lions.
Micael Dahlén  argues that “a non-traditional medium can be a (visual) rhetorical figure, more specifically a metaphor. The rhetorical perspective suggests that the manner in which a statement is expressed may actually be more important than its propositional content,” (p.14).
It might be important to pause and define the term ‘rhetorical figure’ which simply means ‘a figure of speech’ – where, a figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning.  Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, it’s worth noting that clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation. Rhetoric originated as the study of the ways in which a source text can be transformed to suit the goals of the person reusing the material. For this goal, classical rhetoric detected four fundamental operations that can be used to transform a sentence or a larger portion of a text: expansion, abridgement, switching, and transferring. The advertising industry has taken the rhetorical figure and expanded it from simple text to a visual display that does exactly the same thing and creates ‘a freshness of expression’ that allows the ‘viewer’ to form different ‘messages’ in their mind.
Dahlén argues that, “in terms of rhetorical figures, a non-traditional medium would be best defined as a visual metaphor, which is one of the most powerful rhetorical figures. Visual figures are more effective than verbal figures because they are entirely implicit; creating an openness and ambiguity that invites consumers to ‘leap to conclusions’. Furthermore, metaphors are under-coded (i.e., they provide no explanation), and therefore require consumers to add pieces to solve the puzzle. When the non-traditional medium works as a metaphor for the brand, the consumer experiences the message through the medium, (p.14)
It’s worth remembering that “brand reputation can be defined as the ‘goodwill’ consumers ascribe to a brand based on their previous experiences of the brand and its visibility in the marketplace. In other words, the reputation is a historical notion of the brand’s past behaviours that guides consumer response when they encounter the brand.” It won’t be surprising to find that “research shows that a brand’s reputation affects its advertising effectiveness, so that advertising for a low reputation brand has less impact, is counter-argued more, and interpreted less favourably (Mitra and Golder 2006) than advertising for high-reputation brands,” (p.14).
Research has also shown that when faced with rhetorical figures in advertising, consumers try to ‘think into it’ and figure out what the advertiser wants to convey (Phillips 1997). As when using rhetorical figures there is no explicit connection between the metaphor and the brand, and hence consumers tend to produce a number of alternative, tentative, conclusions, so-called ‘weak implicatures’, (Dahlén, 2009, p.15).
To highlight this aspect McQuarrie and Phillips (2005) suggest that the resulting ‘weak implicatures’ could best be described as good-faith attempts to understand the message. That is, consumers tend to search for and find positive rather than negative aspects in rhetorical figures. This focus on positive aspects of the advertising, in turn, reduces the cognitive capacity that is left for challenging the advertising (McQuarrie and Phillips 2005; Toncar and Munch 2003). Therefore, one would expect advert and brand evaluations to be enhanced. Finally, research shows that the use itself of rhetorical figures may have a direct, positive, effect on brand attitude: the advertiser is perceived as clever and entertaining and is therefore better liked by the consumer, (p.15).
The main message in Dahlén’s article is that “one should think creatively in the media choice process. Whereas there is great focus on how to ascertain a sufficient level of creativity in the advertss, media choices tend to be made more or less from habit. As brands in the same product category tend to advertise in media with some kind of overlap in audience or theme, their advertising faces competition both from similar brands and from the media content. This may leave less room for positive effects of creativity inside the given advertising spaces and more room outside of them. As a non-traditional medium focuses processing on the positives and reduces counterarguments, it could also be well suited for communicating new messages and benefits to gain greater acceptance.”
“Whereas both low-reputation and high-reputation brands enjoy more positive advert and brand evaluations in a non-traditional medium, the former seems to have more to gain. Thus, we particularly encourage low reputation brands to employ non-traditional media in their advertising,” (p.22).
Dahlén, M. (2009). A Rhetorical Question: What Is the Impact of Non-traditional Media for Low- and High-Reputation Brands? Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising; Vol. 31 Issue 2, p. 13-23.

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