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I just loved the erm, you know, the what'sit advert

The most popular TV advertisement Dulux paints ever ran was one from the 1960s featuring the youthful comedians Morecame and Wise. It hit all time highs in awareness, recall, and 'that does it for me' ratings. It made viewers smile, and feel good. Everyone loved it. But it didn't do much for sales, in fact it bombed. Millions of pounds were wasted.

Afterwards market research established that people were so focused on the comic duo that they didn't recognise it as a Dulux commercial. The Dulux brand, no lightweight by any standards, was obliterated by a more powerful brand. Recall of Morecame and Wise and their wisecracking was almost total; recall of Dulux was barely into double figures. Clearly, when it comes to advertising, popularity isn't everything.

Recently TV viewers voted for the 100 best television advertisements of all time. It was an engrossing line up of highly memorable and beautifully made ads. But how many of these 100 best adverts worked? How many built the brand and contributed to profitable sales growth? Some clearly did. The classic 501 Levi jeans advert from the 1980s showing a young man peeling off his 501s and putting them in a washing machine to the music of Marvin Gaye's 'I heard it on the grapevine' got the attention of women in the laundrette and the jeans buying public. Sales went into orbit. Others did not have the effects their makers intended.

Creating good advertisements is a tricky business, especially as we are all armchair experts. We know what we like and what works for us, or we think we do. And we think we know what works for others too. Advertising is fun and we see enough of them so it's an easy assumption to make. But things aren't so simple.

Take the crucial difference between market growth and brand share adverts. Each addresses a different decision by homeowners. For example, Mrs Brown decides she wants to replace her windows (that's a market growth decision), then she decides whose windows she'd like to choose from (that's a brand share decision). Market growth advertising only works if you're the market leader. So, only one company in your area or market sector should be doing it. Beautifully made adverts that sell the benefits of the product or market, rather than selling what makes their brands different could waste your time and money. Why do so many do it? Perhaps it is copycat marketing: if it works for the market leader, it must work for me. But it probably won't.

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