This ad that came out the other day, for Cathedral City cheese, is not a good ad, but that's not my point. My point is that at 18 seconds in, a Cathedral City delivery truck randomly drives past. Twice.
Why? For 'branding'.
The purpose of branding - which I wholeheartedly agree with - is to prevent misattribution. If people don't know who an ad is for, it's a waste of money. Or worse - it may benefit the competition.
But where I disagree with most clients, in fact where I become borderline irate, is over the question of what constitutes a well branded ad.
Too many clients believe in branding in the sense of 'branding like a cow', i.e. making sure their name is stamped on the ad. They feel that good branding equates to lots of branding, obvious branding, early branding, or all of the above. They will tell you that 'research proves' that ads should be clearly branded, and that the brand should preferably be referenced up front.
Actually, this is false.
Who says it's false? The high priests themselves, Millward Brown.
In 2006, Millward Brown studied a gazillion ads, to work out where was the best place to put the branding - beginning, middle, or end. And what did the study find? It found there was no difference. In other words, there was no correlation at all - zero - between when the branding came in, and how 'well branded' an ad was (using here the proper definition of the term - correct attribution by the consumer). So there is absolutely no need to drive a Cathedral City cheese truck through the beginning of the ad.
In fact there are good scientific reasons why you shouldn't drive the cheese truck. If it gives away a later plot twist, it may significantly reduce engagement and enjoyment. That is, if the enjoyment levels of this ad could actually be driven any lower.
Nor, interestingly, did the number of times that the branding was repeated make any difference.
So what did make a difference to the branding scores? What made a difference was when the branding was introduced memorably, and (I kid you not, this is Millward Brown talking) "with the intelligent application of creativity". Read the report here (it's quite short, and very interesting).
Below is an ad that I consider to be well-branded, although the branding doesn't come until the very end. The reason it's well branded is that the ad sets up an intriguing idea, which only makes sense with the reveal of the brand name at the end.
In fact, this ad adheres to an even higher standard of branding, that goes far beyond the question of 'at what point in the ad should the brand make an appearance'. The higher standard is that the entire ad should be imbued with the values of the brand. The entire ad should revolve around the proposition of the brand. The entire ad should be in the tone of voice of the brand. When you do that - when the entire ad, as in the case of the PlayStation commercial above, is built from the DNA of the brand - then attribution scores will be far higher than can be achieved by simply putting a picture of the brand on screen for a few seconds in an otherwise unrelated story. Yes, even if that picture covers the entire side of a truck.
Note. Reading this again, I may have been a bit harsh on clients. If an agency delivers them a comedy sketch with the brand plonked gratuitously on the end - which, let's face it, we are guilty of far too often - then small wonder that the client feels compelled to reach for the branding iron, in a vain attempt to put their own stamp onto what would otherwise be an entirely generic piece of communication. Then again, they could always reject the concept I suppose.