What is a successful ad?

I read a great book last year called “Hannibal and Me.”  In a nutshell, the book talked about the writer’s obsession with the great Carthaginian General Hannibal. In examining his life, he makes a larger point about success and failure. Rome never defeated Hannibal in battle. At one point he killed something like 1/5 of all Romans who were eligible to serve in the army. Was Hannibal a success or failure?

Sixteen years always fighting the much larger Roman army on their home turf never defeated, and ultimately never victorious… Hannibal never took Rome, never brought Rome to its knees. He was defeated by a Roman General named Fabius. Fabius’ strategy, constant retreat, he never won a battle.

How we define success and failure is often overlooked, but it is critical to remember what your ultimate goals are.

Which brings us to these ads:

I think these are both terrific ads, great copy, well filmed with compelling visuals (wait for it, here it comes….). But I have to wonder if the build up matches the payoff.

After all that does an apron really equal progressive? Is that what Progressive is about? Is it about hard work, about the people who show up everyday without a hint of glory? That’s not what I think of as Progressive Insurance, they’re the ones with Flo and low rates, maybe.

And the second ad, is beautiful. Its how anyone in love feels when they look at the person they love, it captures a truth, and in doing so it says we get it, we understand you. I was with the ad, in with the payoff (how long did it take for those flowers to sprout) that was a little sappy. But its selling what? Hair care products, what? How are they involved in love? I mean the woman had great hair, but what? Now maybe that brand has some affiliation with that message, but still I felt cheated at the end.

So are these good ads? Yes. Are they successful ads? I don’t think so…. Which brings me back to my first question: Are these good ads? Can an ad that doesn’t succeed in pushing its message, that doesn’t change the image of a brand or build upon its existing image be a good ad?

I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it can.

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