Timex OOH - The right creative copy doubles your market share

Eaon Pritchard and Andrew Tindall
By Eaon Pritchard and Andrew Tindall | 31 August 2022
Image: Supplied

Eaon Pritchard, ArtScienceTechnology, and Andrew Tindall, System1.

The now widely shared Timex ‘dumb watch’ billboard popped into our social feeds. Cue much applause from the adland chattering classes. But was it great? This presents an opportunity to show the power of good creative and copy. 

Eaon Pritchard, ArtScienceTechnology, Australia:

Typically, a couple of things to critique occurred to me.

For a start, in the wild it would be difficult to know that it was indeed a Timex ad (it has miniscule branding) and then there was something about that line.

‘Know the time without seeing you have 1,249 unanswered emails’.

See, it’s proudly a basic watch.

First up, that seemed to me to be an awful lot of copy to absorb in a nanosecond on the freeway. Although I’m not a copywriter I do know that three or four words is about all you want to use to try and get your idea over in that medium.

Secondly, it seemed to be more like the proposition the planner wrote rather than a bit of creative copy. As a planner myself I confess to writing the line on occasion, then working backwards to the prop hoping that the writer will end up somewhere I’ve already been.

The prop should, of course, contain the key thing that we want to say, but the copywriter’s magic should make it interesting. The best writers I’ve known have told me that a great line leaves a bit of space for the action to happen inside the reader’s skull. Give them something to ‘get’ (this helps with memory encoding – what fires, wires).

With that in mind – and with no snark intended, just for fun - I came up with a line of my own – ‘You have no messages’ - and posted on LinkedIn.

Instead of being a brief amusement for myself and the 5 or 6 others whom I usually converse with, the post caught fire, collecting thousands of reactions and hundreds of comments.

Many of the commenters joined in the game and offered their own lines up.

There were a few good ones too. 

Now we had a bunch of different creative routes - an opportunity to evaluate the hive mind. So that’s what we did.

Enter Andrew Tindall from System1, who test ads based on how people feel about them and how well they recognise the brand. I mocked up my suggested line, picked five others with some merit, and the original, and handed them over to Andrew to get them tested. We’d see what people outside the bubble would make of the Timex ad.

Andrew Tindall, System1, UK:

At System1, our testing system uses people’s emotional response to ads to predict their potential for brand growth and business impact. Positive emotions, strongly felt, well connected to the brand, are the sweet spot you want to be in. That’s why humour and smart, immediate copy do so well.

We create a Star Rating and Spike Rating to predict long and short-term market share gains. So, what did people make of the original Timex ad?. Not a lot. The original with the wordy copy had a rough ride - it got 1-Star out of 5 on System1’s scale. This suggests it will have minimal to no market share gains.

timex 1

The only version it beat was… Eaon’s suggested ad. He did tell you he wasn’t a copywriter. However, you do see a brand fluency increase.

timex 2

The clear winner was ‘No Messages. All the Time’ which scored 3 stars. Not bad, but still short of a perfect 5.

The test proves Eaon’s point, smarter and shorter copy leads to incremental gains in creative effectiveness.

timex 3

There was one piece of golden copy, taking the original ‘proposition’ and creating a phrase with a neat double meaning to fire the neurons. “No messages. All the time”.

This jumped from 1-Star to 3-Stars, which according to System1’s database of over 100,00 ads, is worth 1% incremental market share assuming 10% ESOV.

timex 4

What does all this mean? Leave advertising to the LinkedIn hive mind? No, there are two learnings. One, Eaon’s attempt at making a better creative made it worse. Pre-test creative so you aren’t shooting in the dark. Two, never cut corners on copy. Keeping the work in-house doesn’t always give you the best outcomes and brand managers need to resist the urge to step in with strategy-first language.

This is not a knock-on Timex’s work. The proposition was right, and the bold approach was a great call. The fact people are talking about it is proof of that.

This just serves to remind all us marketers that a little more time or budget spent on great ideas, means a lot more profit down the line. Also, golden creative and ideas can come from anywhere in your organisation. How are you working to find the gold?

The full test of creative is HERE 

Eaon Pritchard and Andrew Tindall: 

Eaon Pritchard and Andrew Tindall


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