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The myth of creative wear-out

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Does creative really become less effective as people get used to it?

In a nutshell

  1. Creative ads don't have an inherent 'sell-by-date,' and brands should invest in their high-performing ads.
  2. Favourite ads that people connect with emotionally can continue to perform well for years without showing any signs of wear-out.
  3. Brands should consider extending the creative ideas across other media and touchpoints to amplify their effectiveness.

Recent research from System1 has helped bust the ‘wear-out’ myth.  
The data shows that there is no inherent ‘sell-by-date’ for creative. System1 warns that many brands “are not making the most of their high-performing ads” and “investing too much in their lowest performing creative.” 
This finding is echoed in TRA’s Favourite Ads survey.  

Favourite ads have staying power 

TRA, in partnership with ThinkTV, regularly survey New Zealanders to find out which creative is going the distance. 

The survey asks a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 people: “What is your favourite ad on TV at the moment?” (13k+ responses since 2019). 

The most frequently mentioned favourites make up our top ten list. 
Trustpower’s ‘Meant to be Together’, ASB’s ‘Ben and Amy’, and Westpac’s ‘Together Greater’ have all held positions in the top 5 since December 2021.  

That’s well over a year without and signs of wear-out – and they don’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.   
Favourite ads are like favourite films or tv shows – people enjoy watching things they connect with again and again. 

Emotional connection trumps age

We put Mitre 10’s ‘sandpit’ ad (2008) and Nestlé’s ‘Christmas/scorched almonds’ ad (1993) through our Creative Edge tracking to see whether they still resonate. 
Over the years, the brands have continued to get value from these ads – running them at rugby games (Mitre 10) and Christmas time (Nestlé). 
In March 2023, both performed well above average on being Remarkable (grabbing attention), Rewarding (being entertaining) and Remembered (brand is linked to the creative idea). Not only are the ads still very enjoyable to watch, they’ve also developed a strong link back to their brands over time. 
It doesn’t matter how old an ad is if people connect with it emotionally – but there is one important exception to this rule. 

Ads need to remain relevant across cultural shifts

Campaigns are more relatable and enjoyable when they tap into cultural codes and tensions.  
Work that is off-code won’t resonate, or worse – may create a negative reaction. That’s why it’s critical to stay across cultural shifts.  
Meat and Livestock Australia’s ‘Un-Australia / Share the Lamb’ (2022) and Speight’s ‘The Dance’ (2018) are good examples of evolving campaigns to keep up with shifts in the surrounding cultural context. 

The Australian Lamb campaign builds on themes that the brand has become famous for. The message continues to be centred around lamb bringing Australians together and the work uses the brand’s unique humour and epic storytelling style. 

At the same time, the brand acknowledges its own past contributions to an exclusive ‘Un-Australian’ cultural narrative in older ads and replaces this with an inclusive and positive story. 

In ‘The Dance’, Speight’s builds on its established brand themes of celebrating mateship and using humour – made famous through ‘The Southern Man’ spots of the 90’s. 

The ad also evolves the ‘Good On Ya Mate’ platform through reflecting a shift in Kiwi mateship – where it has become more normalised for men to express friendship emotionally.

Extend your staying power 

Replacing an ad in the name of ‘wear-out’ can be a costly mistake. Use data and insight to make sure the work is no longer doing what it needs to do or is no longer culturally on code before deciding to replace it. 
If your ad continues to perform strongly, consider how you might extend the creative ideas across other media and touchpoints. This is proven to amplify the effectiveness of strong creative ideas. 
Don’t move on to the next thing based on an assumption that people must be losing interest. Chances are – they’re not. 


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Lloyd Thomason
Lloyd Thomason is a Communication and Brand Strategist with 6 years’ experience working at some of the best creative agencies in New Zealand. Lloyd has helped deliver highly effective work for government clients including Fire and Emergency and Movember, and commercial clients including The Warehouse Group and 2degrees. He is well-versed in marketing effectiveness, New Zealand cultural codes, and applying behaviour change principles.

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