Ad Campaign Didn’t Get Covered? Here’s Why

It’s not easy to predict if a creative ad or branding campaign that you’re tasked with publicizing will get picked up in the press. Media coverage is often unpredictable due to the different criteria at play at the media outlet itself and by the subjective opinions of each reporter.

We have clients that ask us sometimes: “We saw this article in Adweek, but our campaign is so much better than that one. Why did theirs get picked up and not ours?”

To answer that, we’ve identified seven criteria we believe reporters use to help decide whether a campaign gets featured:

#1  Emotional impact:

Ask yourself: is there an emotional impact? Does it make you laugh or cry? Does it make you angry? If the spot has a real emotional impact on the viewer, it has a better chance of getting picked up by the press.

For example the Harrowing Pandemic Ad for Jolibees, Jollibee, the Filipino fried chicken chain.

#2  Aesthetics:

Is the look of your ad campaign pleasing to the eye? Is it jarring? Is it something that you haven’t seen before — a fresh style of animation or perhaps a live-action film that stands out thanks to the cinematography or art direction? Aesthetics certainly go into a reporter’s decision-making process.

Sometimes, a lack of aesthetics can be a selling point, too – something deliberately made to look, well, bad. For example, the Colorado Lottery Cactus Ad created by our client, Denver-based agency Cactus, parodied a very cheesy 70s ad look. Not exactly aesthetically pleasing, but funny and memorable.

Look into: the latest Diet Coke Ad.

#3  Cause-related:

If your ad campaign is for a good cause, whether sustainability, the humane treatment of animals, cancer research or other noble causes, it will raise reporters’ interest as they too want to do good in the world. Cause fatigue is at the other end of the spectrum. For example, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of campaigns were using similar language (“now more than ever,” “unprecedented times”), set-ups, and emphatic tones, which led to cause fatigue and a feeling that these ads were on some level insincere.

Look into: All the COVID-19 clichés in one big fat supercut

#4  The size of the media buy:

Sometimes, even if the advertising campaign is mediocre, if it’s a big, high-profile brand doing a massive media buy, the reporters might want to cover it simply because it’s substantial from a money-spending standpoint.

Like the famous phrase related to some companies that are “banks are too big to fail,” some campaigns are just too big not to be covered. If it’s a brand initiative that will make waves in the industry, it will likely get picked up again, despite the work not being that “great.”

Look into: Pepsi — Live for Now Moments Campaign

#5  DTC companies in a hot market:

Startups or companies advertising in a hot market like DTC came to the fore some four years ago. Casper and Warby Parker are two prominent examples of that. When all these DTC companies started to advertise, reporters were intrigued and covered more than their fair share of DTC companies.

Look into: Casper Mattress – Cooling Collection Campaign

#6  Celebrities in front or behind the camera:

Celebrities in front of or behind the camera are a big driver for coverage. Is there a famous face in it? Is the director well-known? Is it visually effects-driven and features the work of a renowned studio like The Mill or ILM? Does it feature a particular cool music score or well-known licensed track? All of this will get it on a journalists’ radar.

Look into: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi in Nixon Superbowl Ad for Amazon

#7  Novelty:

Journalists always look for an element of novelty in advertising campaigns. Does it feature AI, or crossover from TV to an interesting online component, use new technology, or communication tools? All of this will play into the reporter being on top of the next groundbreaking trend.

Look into: Digital Humans – Albert Einstein Campaign for Smart Energy GB

Before anything else, journalists are firstly consumers of media, seeing the same things we’re all-seeing. They will most likely not cover your work even if it’s done well unless it touches on one or several of the criteria above.

Reporters will try to be objective and aren’t going to cover everything that comes across their desks. Remember they are curators, and that’s important for everyone because for the PR to have value you want the media outlet covering your client’s work to be credible.