Advertising has long relied on the straightforward call-to-action to prompt consumers to act now. It's been a simple tactic that never required much more thought than how loud to shout or how bold to make the type.
However, today's media environment challenges us to imagine new ways to invite a response from customers. Mobile, search and social media create smarter and more specific opportunities to prompt an immediate action.
I began thinking about this when I saw an ad for Sony Pictures' new release, "2012." The billboard said, "Search 2012." This call-to-action is brilliant in its simplicity. It recognizes that people are increasingly dialing up brands through search, not by typing in a brand's URL. The volume of Google searches prompted by this call-to-action results in a wall of search hits that makes 2012 seem like a pop culture buzz machine. Moreover, the simple request to "search" may even inspire more curiosity about what one will find.
I've long advocated that we view mobile phones as a response device, not as an advertising platform. I think we can agree that everyone we know carries a mobile phone. And smartphone penetration is around 20% and climbing. (Presumably much higher among the business crowd.) For example, including an SMS call-to-action in a magazine ad transforms an offline message into an interactive message. The exponential increase in iPhone apps is creating new ways for consumers to shop as soon as they see a brand's commercial. In fact, Pizza Hut now ends its commercials with an invitation to order via iPhone.
Social media offers an entirely different call-to-action. For example, Prius asks people on Facebook to share "Random acts of Prius" -- small gestures that can help your friends make the next 24 hours better than the previous. (Props to my former colleagues at Saatchi.)
So next time we're writing a brief, or thinking about writing a throw-away final line of copy, take a few minutes to think through a more interesting way to compel customers to interact with the brand.
But do so today!