The Activation Tool is one of the most effective but underused tools in advertising. Commercials based on this tool work well because they make your marketing message stand out in the sea of advertising. They engage the viewer to participate, either mentally or physically. Instead of just reading, watching, or listening to the message, the viewer is required to take an active part. This causes a dynamic sensory experience so memorable that the viewer is more likely to remember the commercials main message.
The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials. Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” and provide a step-by-step approach to using them. The tools are:
5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
8. Extreme Effort
The Activation Tool is particularly effective when you want to 1. make the target audience aware of a problem, or 2. make the target audience aware of the benefit or solution that your product delivers. The key is to get the viewer highly involved. With smart phone technology, advertisers have a whole new medium to do that. Here is an example:
This commercial requires the viewer to participate physically in the “driving experience” as well as mentally imagining the unique benefits offered by the product. It makes clever use of smart phone technology. But activation ads need not be expensive, nor must they use the medium in a unique way. The trick is to use the viewer’s mind in a unique way to emphasize the message. Here is an example of a simpler ad that does this well:
Creating ads with the Activation Tool is a challenge. First, you have to convince the audience to perform a certain action. It is hard enough just to get viewers to read an ad, so getting them to take action is even harder. They have to understand right away that their involvement is necessary to “complete the picture.”
Second, the viewer has to receive some reward for their efforts. This can be in the form of beneficial information or some other reward (saving money, etc). Without a reward, the viewer will feel cheated for expending their energy – the ad will backfire.
Finally, the viewer’s participation must complete the picture in a way that helps them see the main message of the ad. Otherwise, they will be confused, and the ad is wasted.