What Makes Your Advertising Memorable?

By George Farris
CEO, Farris Marketing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Eighty-four percent of TV commercials that consumers view are either not remembered or not attributed to the advertiser, reports a study by Ipsos Market Research. Ouch!

If you’ve got a lot of the budget tied up on the tube, that statistic has to hurt. It’s not just ads on TV – ads on other media platforms don’t make out much better.

It would be easy to blame the platform – but the media choice is not the problem. The research results were based on ads that were viewed. Not missed or overlooked.

Translation: The audience saw the ads but didn’t remember them. In other cases, they remembered the ad itself but could not recall the advertiser.

Neither result is good. But the second issue, not remembering the advertiser, must be a double “ouch.”

An article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week states certain elements in video spots make them memorable. They include the logo, slogan, characters, celebrities, creative visual styles, audio cues, typography, music, package shape and color.

“If you are like most advertisers, you believe that two of the most important elements in making the ad memorable are the brand logo and the slogan (which probably accounts for the ubiquitous cry ‘make the logo bigger’),” Ritson says. “Actually, these are the two least effective elements.”

The most effective components in making the spots more memorable, says Ipsos Research, are characters and audio cues.

In both cases, a tiny minority of advertisers uses these elements. Before you put too much credence in this study and start producing spots with cartoon monkeys who burp out a melody, we must also look at memorability vs effectiveness.

“Memorability and effectiveness are not the same thing,” says Bob Hoffman of Brand Knew Magazine. “Yes, memorability is probably a significant element in ad effectiveness but it is not synonymous with it. There have been plenty of highly memorable spots that have failed big time. The most important element of an ad’s success is … the power of the story the spot tells.”


We all remember great ads. But do we remember the company? This is the No. 1 aim of advertising. Surprisingly, few marketers achieve it. One of the most recalled spots of all time was the funny Alka Seltzer “Spicy Meatball” spot. (search YouTube to see it). Most people remembered the spot but could not recall the product.

“Clever ad, but what was that company again?” That’s not the response businesses are paying for. If your brand is not remembered, at best, your advertising is entertaining audiences for free. At worst, it’s helping a competitor to step in and take credit for your message. 

To make sure the advertiser is remembered, the brand must have a clear and meaningful role in the story of the ad. It needs to play a key role in the story conclusion – as the hero, the solution, the place to seek help or get what you want.

When done well, integrating your brand could help the advertiser in surprising ways.

You might think the research above (84% not remembered) is depressing. But look at it as an opportunity and make sure your ads are part of the 16% that are remembered.  When you succeed, you’ll have something worth remembering.