We’re used to seeing elements of personalisation in brand communication. An email saying happy birthday, for instance, or a targeted ad promoting something you were just eyeing up online.
But what about an advert featuring your face or someone you know?
This is the level of personalisation that Argos is promising this Christmas, with the retailer launching a personalised social advert as part of its festive ad campaign.
Of course, this type of advertising can be risky (as Walkers crisps can certainly attest to – more on that later) but with consumers increasingly demanding personalised experiences, the benefits can be huge.
So, along with more info on Argos’s ad, here’s a few examples of brands using personalisation in advertising campaigns.
Unlike retailers such as John Lewis or Morrisons, which typically use sentiment to drive brand awareness at this time of year, Argos tends to use its Christmas campaign to promote USPs such as super-fast delivery and convenience.
Its 2017 campaign is no exception. The ad – which depicts one of Santa’s elves going above and beyond to get a forgotten present delivered – is geared around its promise of ‘delivery in as little as four hours’.
It’s a decent enough ad, however, in order to build further hype and engagement Argos is also giving consumers the chance to be featured in a personalised version.
Encouraging parents on Facebook to submit pictures of their kids, it will send winners their own ad to share on social media, as well as pick a lucky three to feature in ads aired on television.
But is this a risky concept? Both Walkers and the National Lottery have previously launched similar personalised campaigns, and both have fallen foul of pranksters who hi-jacked them with controversial and offensive imagery.
It looks as though Argos is well aware of this, as the brand has stated that it will be manually checking each image to prevent misuse. Meanwhile, personalisation is just one element of the campaign, which indicates that there is much more of a strategy behind it than the Walkers example.
Essentially, instead of creating small-scale engagement on just one platform (like Twitter), Argos is aiming to use TV and digital channels in conjunction to generate greater brand awareness. In this sense, the personalised videos are not vital to the campaign, and yet without them, it would be much less impactful.
The personalisation element creates a memorable connection with the consumers involved (potentially increasing brand loyalty in the long run). It also helps differentiate Argos in a period of heavy seasonal advertising.
Earlier this year, Channel 4 announced a new VoD format to allow brands to personalise ads on its All 4 streaming service. By using data from Channel 4’s 15m registered users, advertisers would be able to insert personalised audio and video clips into ads.
The first brand to take advantage of this was 20th Century Fox for its film, Alien Covenant. At the end of a spooky trailer, viewers names were incorporated into the final call to action (“Nikki, run!”). Similary, beer brand Fosters also name-checked users in adverts, telling them that “…this one’s for you”.
But is it too creepy? There’s definitely a fine line when it comes to this kind of personalisation in advertising. Channel 4’s defence is that by registering with the service, users are willingly giving away their data for advertising purposes. However, that of course does not stop a viewer being put off or mildly freaked out in the moment when they hear their name (a potential concern for advertisers thinking about the GDPR).
On the flip side, this type of personalisation certainly creates an impact – if a viewer is not focused on the ad, hearing their own name is pretty much guaranteed to grab their attention. Similarly, in the case of the movie trailer, which was intentionally designed to be creepy, the final call to action amplifies the scary effect.
In this sense, Channel 4’s format allows brands to bypass other problems association with personalisation, such as irrelevant or overly intrusive targeting. Used as a way to cut through the noise – it’s a good example of how to use personalisation in a restrained yet effective way.
As well as consumers getting actively involved in campaigns (as with Argos), real-time data is another way brands can create personalisation in advertising.
One notable example of this is from Microsoft, who launched an out-of-home campaign in 2015 to promote its personal assistant Cortana. It ran digital ads on billboards and bus stops, with screens dynamically changing depending on variables such as weather, day of the week, time of day etc.
While this is not super-personal (in the sense that it is not tailored to individuals), Microsoft did take it to another level on the back of a viral tweet about the campaign.
Said nobody in the east end of Glasgow ever. pic.twitter.com/pxenKTMmbv
— Chris (@Chris72600702) June 4, 2015
When a passer-by criticised one of the screens, saying “said nobody in the east end of Glasgow ever” – Microsoft fired back by tracking down the same ad and replacing it with a direct response to the user.
As well as being a great example of real-time marketing, this shows how personalisation can forge consumer relationships – and even turn around negative brand sentiment.
— Microsoft UK (@MicrosoftUK) June 17, 2015
The consumer in question is likely to have been amused at Microsoft’s efforts, with the stunt raising the profile of the marketing campaign (as well as cleverly tying in with the personal nature of the Cortana product).