The Advertising Litmus Test

In chemistry a "Litmus Test" determines the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.  In regular usage the phrase has been adopted to refer to any "make-or-break" or "all-or-nothing" measurement or question.  I am neither a chemist nor an English teacher, so pardon the unsophisticated explanation.  I seem to hear the phrase all the time when it's time to appoint a new judge or government official, however we're going to apply the phrase to different topic and ask the question:  Is there a Litmus Test for good advertising?

My instinct says there is, but what is it exactly?  We've all seen the great commercials aired during the Super Bowl--which seem to generate more buzz than the game.  We know a good ad when we see one.  Often it will make us laugh or maybe strike some other chord.  It will always leave a lasting impression.  It will motivate us to an action or persuade us to think differently about something (if those who have paid for the ad will have their way).

So, whether we're trying to figure out why we like a commercial, or we're trying to create a commercial that works, what is the Litmus Test?  Try asking this question next time:  Is this ad relevant and unexpected?

This question is something I picked up from Eric Schulz, the VP of Marketing for the Utah Jazz and an experienced marketer.  It rings true to me and I think it may ring true to you if you try it on for size.  Is the advertisement relevant to me and does it motivate me to do what they want me to do?  Is the message communicated in such a way that it stands out and is memorable?  I'm willing to bet that if both of these components are there, or in other words, the ad is relevant and unexpected, it's probably an ad you like and will most likely act upon. 

Try it out and share it if you like it.


  1. This is one of the better commercials I've seen in a long time: The Doritos Guardian. It was made by a team from BYU and won some prizes.


    J C