What’s love got to do with advertising?

Why building brand love sets you up for the long run

What’s love got to do with advertising?
What’s love got to do with advertising?

The advertising industry is obsessed with data. It’s a sector that has evolved from being about people using creativity to add immeasurable value to business, to one in which only measurable value matters, and creativity is a footnote. That’s because some things, ironically often the most valuable things, are really difficult to measure. 

Performance is not about clicks 

This need for numbers has resulted in a status quo where digital media that drives clicks is referred to as performance media. As though clicks are the only way of describing, or indeed defining, a good performance. This subtly implies that executions and media that change the way people think and feel, but maybe don’t drive clicks, are somehow not performing. 

But what about the adverts that make us laugh, make us cry, make us smile? The ones we share with our WhatsApp groups? The jingles we can still recite from childhood? Companies that invest in building their brand over time are the real winners and, thankfully, there’s data to prove it.

The clicks equals performance narrative actually belies plenty of studies(Binet & Field being the most prominent) that show companies who invest in building brands over the long term see more success than those who focus too heavily on direct response.

In the same way you can’t build a house with just bricks, you can’t build a brand with just clicks.

Building a meaningful brand 

The fetishisation of data has also led to companies being drawn into a relentless pursuit of personal information. So much so that even in the face(book) of major scandals relating to the use of personal data, increased use of ad blockers, and the looming spectre of international privacy legislation, many advertisers and agencies are pursuing ever more invasive approaches in pursuit of more effective marketing. 

And here again, the problem occurs because the easiest ways to measure effectiveness (clicks, conversions etc), are dominating a conversation. They may be the easiest to measure, but that does not make them the best metrics. The more challenging, longer term, measurements that can’t be used to justify marketing spend month by month lose share of voice in the boardroom. But it is this longer term information that offers a better, more holistic, view of the value of marketing. 

It’s not that the data doesn’t exist, it’s just it can’t be leveraged to directly link investment to results. It can’t be readily tracked campaign by campaign, month by month. The fact that companies which invest in brand building tend to heavily outperform the market (see Interbrand, Brandz by Kantar, Havas Meaningful Brands, and this piece in Marketwatch as just an indication) is not proof that a paid media campaign ‘worked’. When the people making the media investment decisions are challenged to prove ROI for every euro, pound or dollar spent, they will default to the stuff that can be easily measured. This is the heart of the problem. So strong is this desire to demonstrate tangible short term returns, that companies will irritate consumers, following them around online like a digital limpet, eating into their respect and trust for that brand. The people investing in these tactics are almost certainly irritated by the same behavior when other brands do it, but the proof that it ‘works’ overrides any greater sense of whether it’s a good idea. 

The erosion of consumer trust that comes from eerily targeted advertising is much harder to track (certainly at a single user level). The negative sentiment that can be driven from creepily targeted or *cringe* personalized advertising is near impossible to measure. So these factors aren’t taken sufficiently into account, and lo and behold the clicks and conversions are harder to come by (more expensive) on the next campaign, and the next and the next…

How will I know if you really love me?

This is not a binary situation. It’s not an either or. You can, and should, invest in solutions that achieve a balance (approx 60:40 brand building to response according to Binet & Field). Which is what makes WeTransfer such a powerful proposition for advertisers. With the largest online canvas in the world, offering undiluted full screen presence that doesn’t interrupt or irritate our users, WeTransfer is ideally suited for building brands and driving short term engagement. 


Since the early days of digital advertising, WeTransfer has created award-winning campaigns for brands like Adobe, Burberry, Sonos, Microsoft, Chanel, and adidas


But how do you prove your worth in a data-driven industry if not by clicks? 

The longer term value for our advertising partners is evidenced by the increasing number of partners that work with WeTransfer year after year, as well as a number of brand lift studies we’ve conducted in partnership with Nielsen. The shorter term value is clear in our engagement rates, (yes, including clicks and interactions) and the anecdotal evidence our advertisers share on the ROI that they see. 

However, in addition to the data backed strengths of WeTransfer as a place for brands to build equity, there are also a couple of other factors that underpin my belief that WeTransfer Advertising is the best digital ad canvas in the world.

  1. We get fan mail. Every week people, completely unprompted, tell us how much they love the ads they see. 

  2. We say no sometimes. Part of how we ensure it’s only user-friendly advertising on WeTransfer is because we turn away advertising that doesn’t cut the mustard. 

  3. Our advertising partners keep coming back. We’re not the right platform for every brand or every campaign. But the rate at which brands stick around once they’ve experienced the value of being on WeTransfer tells us that we’re definitely doing things the right way.