The power of insight-led advertising

...or why I think the new Qantas Australia campaign got it right.

Having spent much of my formative working life in advertising agencies, I have always remained a strong advocate of (good) advertising.

I have a perhaps unhealthy interest in discovering new campaigns from around the world and absorbing them as both a consumer and a communications professional.

I have seen first-hand examples of the impact that a powerful, advertising campaign can have on people, brands and even society.

Great campaigns are rare, but when you come across one, it stands tall like a lighthouse, towering above an ocean of mediocrity.

But whilst such exceptional work may come in all shapes and sizes, if you dig beneath the surface you’ll find that it typically contains two things in common:

Firstly, it has taken a creative risk to ensure that the work will stand out from the competition and get talked about - great campaigns don’t follow category convention, they subvert it.

Secondly, it is based on an authentic consumer insight – great campaigns identify something unexpected but true about the category or its users and look at it in a fresh way to ensure real consumer relevance.

With a personal background in the strategy side of the ad business, I find that whilst I greatly admire the former, I feel passionate about the latter - the power of insight to drive a distinctive campaign.

Every now and then, I come across a campaign that connects with me on both a personal and a professional level – that happened last week when I saw the new Qantas Australia work.

The campaign was devised to promote Qantas's new 17 hour direct flights between Perth and London and featured two executions.

The first spot features a London-based Aussie man, in regular contact, day and night, with his girlfriend back in Australia and culminating with him flying back to Perth to propose to her.

The second spot features a young Perth-based family, skyping ‘Grandma’ back in the UK prior to them all flying home for a reunion with her.

Both spots are beautifully filmed and emotionally charged, but for me, their real strength comes from the underlying insight.

Having personally lived in Australia for many years, I am familiar with the challenges of living on the other side of the world from family and loved ones. It’s not easy.

I am also familiar with the brand, still retaining a Qantas Frequent Flyer membership and having used the carrier on numerous occasions to fly between the two hemispheres.

But in terms of why the campaign struck such a chord with me, I think it adheres to four rules which are probably the key ingredients behind many other great campaigns.

1. Identify a true human insight – there are strong ties between the UK and Australia, with hundreds of thousands of nationals from each country living in the other. For each one of those individuals, they are likely to identify strongly with the sense of living 26,000 miles away from ‘home’ and all the emotional challenges that can bring with it.

2. Ensure a credible role for the brand – By introducing a direct flight between Australia and the UK, Qantas have made a significant step in making the tyranny of distance just that little bit easier for Perth-dwellers. And if any airline was to do this, it makes most sense for it to be Australia’s national carrier.

3. Show an understanding of their lives – the two ads contain tiny details that help to add greater authenticity to the overall campaign, demonstrating that they really understand what it is like to be in the audience’s shoes. Whether that be the difficulty of communicating with someone in a different time zone/mindset or the bittersweet moment following a Skype call, Qantas have shown that they get it.

4. Appeal to the heart as well as the head – anyone who has spent time at an airport, waiting for loved ones to arrive will identify with the emotions associated with such occasions. By tapping into those feelings, Qantas has ensured their campaign is made even more memorable to its target audience.

Whilst the campaign may not win any pure creative awards and may even be a little sanitised in places (I’ve made that trip with kids the same age and my experience was, let’s say a little less relaxed!), these are but minor quibbles.

Overall, it is a great example of a campaign that takes the time to understand its audience and fashions a campaign based on a strong insight and a highly relevant product benefit. It deserves to do well.

Any chance of an upgrade next time I fly please Qantas?


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