11 London Decision Marketing Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd.

Facebook ads to force you off the fence

It’s nice to imagine that people are going to ponder your marketing message, but sadly real life isn’t like that. Here are two Facebook executions of campaigns I’ve worked on with 11 London. Both are in what I call decision territory, which is particularly useful when there’s little time to engage and you want to encapsulate a dilemma. It forces the target audience to get off the fence and make a decision.

Working with 11 London and Tearfund I arrived at the phrase ‘Give Like Jesus’ and the questioning format that prompts the target audience to ask herself  Would Jesus leave her hungry? She’ll supply her own answer. The beautiful photograph was taken by Peter Caton on our trip to Chad last year.

Similar thinking went into this execution for World Animal Protection UK. I suggested interrogative headlines such as ‘Kill or cure?’,  ‘Act now. Or ignore?’ ‘Vaccinate. Or exterminate?’ to emphasise the urgency of the choice animal lovers have make about this cruelty.

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Decision Marketing

The HMRC campaign provokes more thoughtcrimes


So here is another HMRC campaign against tax evasion. First credit where credit’s due. This is less toxic than the previous campaign that infuriated me so much.

  • The copy tone is less accusatory. They are closing the net on ‘tax dodgers’ rather than what was previously implied that they are closing the net on you personally. And of course the sign off ‘If you’ve declared your income you have nothing to worry about’ is a vast improvement.
  • From a design perspective, it’s weak. The silly turquoise lines are there to suggest some kind of network tricknology to ensnare those wrongdoers who don’t cough up. But again, it still represents a minor improvement to the ghastly eye peering through grey paper they favoured last time around.
  • The Orwellian eye is retained, and despite being less threatening this time, this execution would dearly love to instil a little fear and paranoia if it hadn’t had its teeth pulled. But is this really what the UK government wants the overwhelming majority of its citizens who do actually do pay their taxes to feel? And there’s no need to state again who the real tax dodgers are: they’re not the people walking past this poster on their way to do a bit of shopping.

Why not help people to do the right thing instead?

Here’s an idea. Rather than infantalising us this way, why don’t HMRC opt for a territory that is about making a decision instead of popping out to say boo! to us. Talk to people as if they were adults for God’s sake. Remind them they have a responsibility to pay up, and if they are facing difficulties, the best thing they can do is talk to the tax office to try to sort things out. Remind people that they have the power to decide to pay or decide to engage. For after all, the alternative is exactly the paranoia inducing state that this poster would love to induce.

Of course marketing exists to prompt decisions. In what I call Decision territory anxiety is introduced to add urgency to the purchasing process. But create too much anxiety in a campaign and people will do nothing. (This is true in healthcare and charity sectors too).

The HMRC could instead make the decision to pay look easy and rational. Allow the taxpayer to feel they are able to engage with the tax office, and that they have it within their power to do the right thing. This must surely be better than sticking a giant eye on the side of a public phone box (network geddit) like the one below.

So HMRC, if you’re listening. Lose the 1984 shtick and treat us like adults. Or in other words show us a bit of the carrot, and not just wave the increasingly limp and discredited stick.

Announcement Decision Marketing

The power of YES


The referendum in Scotland is poised dramatically. Any copywriter, however, will tell you that the word ‘Yes’ is a fantastic asset for those who want independence. We use it against tick boxes to encourage people to sign up: ‘Yes! I do want to enjoy a lifelong subscription to…” The territory of Yes is a broad sunlit highland. It is optimism condensed into a word. For by saying ‘Yes’ you are in the affirmative, you are saying yes to life. It pinpoints the moment you decide to act positively. Even the sound the word makes rises optimistically.

NO, of course, can be powerful too. It is a response to danger, the resistance to being imposed upon. NO is the assertion that the status quo should be maintained. It is negative, dour. Its vowel sound a muffled howl of grief. NO THANKS, as sported on the lapel badges of those like Alistair Darling who want to maintain the union, is even worse. It manages to appear prim, as if someone were waving away a plate of unsatisfactory shortbread biscuits.

If Scotland votes out of fear, surely it will vote No. If it votes out of optimism, and an assertion of its own identity, it has to vote Yes. This is not a political observation, just the nature of the words themselves.