How Can Million Dollar Ad Campaigns Create Lasting Impact

“A great product is the foundation of all great marketing. There is no exception.” ~ Kyle Tibbits
On average, consumers are shown over 250 marketing messages every day. Very few, have brand recall. Spending big ad dollars on getting a memorable campaign out is only a job half done. It is how the story unfolds across the rest of that user journey that ultimately determines campaign’s success | (Photo by Wojtek Witkowski)

In continuing with the series on “Marketing vs Product/UX”, we explore whether OLX’s recent brand campaign (The Break-up Challenge) can alone change consumer attitude and behaviour. And how it could maximise its Return on Ad Spend (RoAS) through product & UX tweaks.

The Insight for the Campaign

We have a natural predisposition to spend on things we might not need. In fact, we are quite horrible at controlling our impulsive shopping urges and we end up with a lot of stuff that we never wanted in the first place.

According to a survey conducted by IMRB, stocking is the most common activity pertaining to pre-owned goods, and Indians are stocking unused goods to the tune of ₹ 78,300 Crores in their homes. The survey had also revealed that 37% of the respondents cite the age-old excuse of “I’ll use it one day” as their top reason for stocking used items.

Getting Consumers to Commit

OLX’s “6 months break-up challenge” is based on this insight. The campaign is ingenious because it tackles the consequence of this behaviour, as opposed to addressing the problem of “What can we do to stop bad shopping decisions?” It provides a way to remove the guilt of indulging in such shopping sprees.

The campaign urges people to sell pre-owned goods that haven’t been used for at least 6 months.

Para-phrasing that,

Selling used-goods helps save money and space.

But can an Ad really change Habits?

The campaign taps into a powerful principles of persuasion (borrowing from Cialdini’s commitment & consistency principles) that gets us to commit to do something.

We’re more likely to do something after we’ve agreed to it verbally or in writing. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, we tend to honor the agreement.

No doubt OLX’s marketing campaign did its job by inviting (and motivating) people to take up the challenge, and thus commit, making them more likely to follow through with the intended action (of selling accumulated clutter).

But can an ad or a campaign really change behaviour that is deeply ingrained in us?


An ad can only inform.

An ad can motivate (and incentivise) but only for a short while. But to get someone to change and commit to something requires constant persuasion— both extrinsic & intrinsic.

The truth is, an ad or a campaign, no matter how huge or successful, just can’t break age-old habits. It needs product or service features to nudge the consumers, which in turn, could gradually turn it into action or a commitment.

Which leads us to the next question,

Does OLX (web / app), follow it up? Does it get users to commit? Does it provide the triggers? Does it remind or induce recall in the user?

The OLX Product Experience

Surprisingly, neither the website nor the app, carry any reference to the campaign.

  • Play Store / App Store page — nothing
  • Intro / Onboarding — nothing
  • In-app feed & Sell — nothing
  • User Profile — nothing

Not a single ad or lightbox, not a single button or link anywhere that references back to campaign.

That just means, the campaign’s effect will invariably fade in the months to come and stats will return to the median — as if the campaign never happened.

What if instead of asking for little more recall & more ‘sells’ from consumers, OLX builds a culture of selling things we don’t need over time & gradually?

What if, OLX also extended the idea to their product?

Let’s see what a fraction of that ad-dollars into UX can do?

Redesigning the OLX Experience

Update Play Store / App Store content

When a new consumer comes onto the OLX App Store / Play Store page, it should have reference to the campaign. Title, screenshots and content need to be updated with relevant messaging.

Here are a few screenshots designed for the purpose.

The process starts with the right messaging on the OLX App Store & Play Store pages to educate consumers about the Breakup campaign

Educating Users

The aim is to introduce the new feature by using the familiarity of the existing UI so as not to drastically change the experience for current users.

Push Notification to inform the existing users. On clicking the notification, a walk-through of the screenshots (same as the ones in the App/Play store pages) are displayed. Each screen tells how Breakup Stories work. An in-app tutorial or a blog post link would also work. The objective is to only communicate the introduction of the feature in the app.

So, how do we introduce the Breakup feature in the existing UI? Where do we find the real-estate?

In the homepage, just beneath the category filters, is ideal to place the ‘Breakup Stories’ — the first icon is for uploading one’s own breakup product story and it is followed existing products uploaded as part of breakup story campaign.

As many users are familiar with the now widely used UI of Instagram ‘Stories’ feature, this design should be fairly intuitive. But instead of adopting Instagram’s horizontal scroll (along with the “► Watch all” link), an icon indicating the number of products uploaded that day works better as it taps into the principle of Social Proof better (seeing other people do it, influences you to take it up as well). Both options can be A/B tested to determine the final design.

The first icon is a call-to-action to the user to upload her Breakup story with a product. On clicking “Breakup(+)”, the user is asked to take snaps of the product she wants to breakup and enter the product name. The remaining elements are Breakup product stories uploaded by other users
Once the breakup story upload is complete, a confirmation message is displayed. In addition to that, based on the product being sold, an expected current selling price for similar products is displayed urging the user to sell the item right away— which gets the product listed on the ‘Direct Sell’ feed, in addition to the ‘Breakup Sell’ feeds. This is powerful since “Loss Aversion” makes people prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it’s better to not lose $5 than to find $5. Thus, losses are considered twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

Designing the Buyer-side (Demand) experience

The second icon links to the breakup story feed.

Clicking on a breakup product, allows the user to view the product images. The ‘Call’ option has been dropped to provide a distinction between the ‘Breakup’ and direct ‘Sell’ feeds. It is an assumption that this distinction between the ‘Direct Sell’ and ‘Breakup Sell’ feeds, motivates the user to choose the ‘Sell now’ option

Wrapping up

As Mills Baker reminds us,

“Innovation is as often conceptual as technological”

We strongly believe that, Product, and by extension — Design, should influence user behavior.

Right from customer acquisition ad campaigns to app design, the aim is to influence user behavior at a specific moment in time. There cannot be an abrupt break in the consumption cycle.

Thus, while OLX’s marketing team cracked the concept, it’s equally important to complete that experience in the product, by means of technical UX flows.

Design, technology and marketing innovations are critical for a successful product.

So, this isn’t about UX /design being more important than marketing or engineering. Rather, a unified approach is recommended, where a simple insight gathered from customer surveys could form the core idea behind a massive brand campaign to drive consumers, backed up by product relevance and great UX.

Disclosure: I’m an advisor at

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