Is it too much to ask for people to trust that David Bowie knows how to put a good tune together?
Here is a beautiful film for Samsung and the Association of Surfing Professionals by 72 and Sunny - not sure its a great ad, or even an ad atall - but it's pretty. It makes me think surfing is cool. I still think Samsung make gimicky shit.
This 'whispy-bint-with-plinky-plonky-piano-cover-version-shortcut-to-poigniancy' malarkey is a plague on Advertising.
The nice people at Harpers Wine & Spirit Review published this piece online last Friday. We thought it was worth giving it a bit more bit oxygen here on our home turf.
There is a prevailing school of thought in
the advertising business that to change consumer behaviour you first need to
change consumer attitudes [and by consumer behaviour we mean getting people to
This is baloney.
In reality, it is actual usage and
consumption that is the thing that ultimately drives and shapes somebody’s
attitude to a brand.
Consumers know much more about brands that
they buy and use more frequently. Hence, attitudes and brand beliefs tend to
reflect behavioural loyalty and purchasing patterns rather than operating as
the things that stimulate them.
It’s a classic case of confusing cause with
It’s not “I buy it because I like the
More “I like the brand because I buy it”
Unlike the chicken and egg, we know what
came first. And it wasn’t a change in attitudes.
And it’s this mistake that’s leading
agencies to produce a certain kind of advertising that treats consumers as
feelgood-chasing, mouth-breathing morons who are bereft of any logic and reason
when it comes to making choices about brands.
That can’t be a good thing, can it?
The belief that you must create an
emotional bond with an audience to get them to love your brand and connect with them before they can consider
buying seems to be treated like gospel.
The obsession that you need to reposition
an audience’s mind before you can move them closer to buying a product seems to
be treated like some kind of immutable law.
Why is this?
Well, for one thing, this kind of
advertising is in fashion right now and is the only kind of advertising that most
agencies want to make.
They cherry-pick whatever findings they
want to from the world of behavioural science and cognitive psychology to
justify their approach to creativity.
This usually ends up with fluffy,
happy-clappy advertising desperate to own
some kind of emotional territory.
This kind of advertising comes from their over-riding
obsession with focusing exclusively on generating brand love to create a connection with an audience, rather than any overt
focus on why the product might actually be of help, use or benefit.
And therein lies the problem.
Most agencies have forgotten what the point
of advertising is.
Selling is now a dirty word in Adland.
If you’re not using advertising to give
more people a reason to buy your product more often, then you’re not using
Despite this seeming like incontestable and
uncontroversial common sense, this point of view is regarded as heresy by many.
The insanity loop continues as agencies
continue to exclusively focus on what can they say about a brand to get people
to like it rather than asking what can they say about a product to get people
to buy it.
And so out come the kittens to supposedly
manipulate the emotions of an audience lacking the intelligence and free will
to make any kind of purchasing decision based on reasoning or logic.
There used to be a deal with consumers.
We knew we were using advertising to sell
They knew we were using advertising to sell
They were prepared to give us their
precious time and attention, and maybe would even consider to be persuaded to
buy that thing, if we entertained them with our message.
We would feature the product at the heart
of this message and show in some way how it might help them or how they might
benefit from having that in their life in some small way.
There was honesty, truth, integrity and
transparency in this deal.
Everyone knew where they stood. Nobody was
Nowadays, it seems that that this deal no
riguer to not even bother featuring a client’s product in a commercial. A
logo bolted on to the end of some disingenuous, generic piece of film that
could be for anything will suffice, thank you very much.
The post-rationalisation going on from
Kahneman’s System Thinking that mistakenly assumes there is no place for
rational or conscious decision-making has turned advertising into an industry
of confidence tricksters.
Despite the proclamations of companies
being organised to be completely customer-centric, nobody seems to be asking
what the customer might actually want from advertising or how it might actually
It seems that it is acceptable business to even
disguise what is being advertised by not just plonking a logo at the end of an
ad. It’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves in a situation where trust is
eroded between clients and agencies [as well as between advertisers and
The tenure of the average relationship has
shrunk to just under three years. Is it really any wonder when agencies
steadfastly refuse to embrace the fact that they are actually in the business
Agencies are now a safe haven for
pseudo-scientists, cod psychologists and wannabe sociologists all seduced by
the intellectual stimulus provided by trying to get people to think something rather than trying to
get people to do something.
It’s also much, much easier to get swept
along by the allure of producing the kind of advertising that springs from the
objective of changing attitudes and owning emotions. It’s also much, much
easier to produce than a compelling piece of advertising that is actually true
to the product.
Advertising an attitude. It’s the “just add
water” method of creative development. Get yourself a Thesaurus, scour the
zeigeist for a cultural trend, stroke your chin and think deep about some
inner-directed values that your audience would aspire to and bingo you’ll have a list of meaningless adjectives to
write ads about.
Integrity, depth of character,
free-spirited, adventure, playfulness, happiness, fulfillment, freedom, escape.
The list goes on and on.
Agencies will claim that advertising an attitude or an
emotion that your brand can own is essential to help differentiation. All
products are the same, we live in a parity world, so the argument goes.
Their party line is that it’s the emotional
battleground is where brands fight it all out. It’s what people feel that’s all-important, not what they
We live in an age where companies spend
millions of pounds just broadcasting brand positionings in the vain hope that
their target audience will identify and connect with them. Agencies are
brainwashing clients that there is no need to impart any relevant or useful
information about the product as people just aren’t creatures of reason.
This obsession with chasing some kind of
brand love is rarely reciprocated from a consumer perspective. They just don’t
care about brands anywhere near as much as people who work in advertising
agencies and marketing departments. And anyway, it’s bloody difficult for
anyone to love a brand they haven’t actually consumed [also, isn’t it a pretty
big degradation of the word love?].
It’s also eminently possible to buy a
product without actually liking the brand.
I’m an o2 customer. I’ve got a tariff that
seems fair enough.Price-wise and
service-wise, I think they’re OK. I do not, however, want to “Be More Dog”.
I like a nice pint of Guinness. Especially
from establishments where I know it’s going to be poured well in a proper glass
and left to settle properly. When I’m drinking it I do not consider it to
signal to surrounding pub clientele that I am in fact “Made of More”.
I have never wanted any kind of emotional relationship
with my bank and never will. So, my money is safe with my existing provider and
I refused to be swayed by Santander’s charms and their claim that they are “A
Bank For Your Ideas”.
In Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow, he demonstrates that most brand attitudes are very
weak and rarely recalled. From extensive research he concludes that the
influence of attitudes on behaviour is astonishingly weak while the influence
of behaviour on attitude is very strong. Sharp found that when asking regular brand buyers about their
feelings towards a brand only 10% see it as different or unique. So, even
people who purchase and use a brand regularly struggle to see it as being truly
Most buying decisions are made from what is
a relatively narrow consideration set for any category. In Sharp’s view, the
real battle of brands is not differentiation, it is to get into this
consideration set by making advertising that is distinctive and consistent.
This leads to a very different model of
A model that recognises that consumers are
not as controlled and dominated by their emotions as agencies like to
think.A model that credits
consumers with intelligence and recognises that they are capable of making rational
decisions, much more than they’re given credit for.
Brand associations are important but they
should be based on characteristics that are important and relevant to the
category and product.
However, there’s a current line of
fashionable thinking permeating Adland that seems to misinterpret Sharp’s work
and the findings of neuroscience to blanketly and blindly dismiss any kind of role for the product in
helping to build memory structures that relate to decision-making.
People often tend to make out that featuring
the product at the heart of the advertising idea makes you Rosser Reeves
incarnate. That’s just lazy thinking because it doesn’t automatically mean you
have to have rational USP based communication if your advertising makes the
product the star of the show.
It’s not as black and white as product =
bad, emotions = good. Great advertising should do both.
possible to put the product at the heart of an advertising idea and
generate important emotional associations at the same time.
Changing consumer behaviour without first changing
attitudes isn’t some kind of rare event. By and large, it’s how the world
Showing a product in a great light can make a difference. Advertising can work —that is, to stimulate sales—by presenting
motivating news or associations about a product.
It’s very dangerous to assume that there
are any laws of advertising.
But it’s an even more dangerous assumption
that advertising should work to change attitudes first rather than work to
One of the main stories on Marketing Week today was that Hovis are 'fostering a more lifestyle-oriented positioning through social media to elevate bread from being a carrier of fillings to the "wholesome" role it plays in peoples lives'
Elevate bread? Elevate bread?
Putting aside the serious question as to how this revelation actually constitutes news in one of the country's foremost marketing publications, this seems like just another depressing example of a client being taken on a social media wild goose chase.
You can read the whole article here if you can be bothered but the gist is that posts like 'Mum's dinnertime rules [No mobile phones at the dinner table!]' are hoped to illicit a stronger emotional and nostalgic reaction from fans, pushing them to share these posts with others.
To put it into some sort of context, Hovis currently has the grand total of 2,808 followers on Twitter.
Now that's not exactly a massive audience or demographic when viewed in pure propensity-to-purchase-bread terms is it?.
I'm sure every one one of those followers is no doubt hooked on the fun and wholesome chat lighting up their social media world but in the grand scheme of things this activity is little more than dust in the wind.
God knows how much time, effort and money must have gone into this re-positioning charade, but preaching to the converted to get them to share more posts really won't move the needle when it comes to impacting on things that matter like, er, sales.
Hovis is a great brand with a history of great advertising. But taking this kind of misplaced, desperate approach seriously undermines their credibility.
I'd wager that there is no shortage of better, more relevant, interesting 'lifestyle-oriented content' on this thing called the internet. Does anybody that commissioned this activity really, really believe in the heart of hearts that people will seek out and gravitate towards Hovis as an authority in this area.
It's bread for fuck's sake. Not Time Out.
In the grand scheme of all the many things in people's lives, it's a low interest category.
No amount of well-written Facebook Posts and 140 character tweets is ever going to change the fact that most people don't really give that much of a shit about bread.
I give you, Exhibit A, the fiasco of the unsuccessful and long-since binned Kingsmill Confessions campaign as prima facie evidence that people do not want to engage or interact with a company that makes things you can make sandwiches out of.
Just because you can have a social media presence, doesn't necessarily mean that you should.
If I was them, I'd ditch all this nonsense and just put the money into sampling instead.
Who knows? Getting people to actually try the product might just be more commercially successful than getting people to share 'wholesome' content with each other.
This Russell Brand clip chipped up on Ben Kay's blog.
Brand makes some really good points here regarding advertising today. I know many a creative or planner will be screaming "he just doesn't get it". Well I think he kind of does.
As mood films become advertising more and more all ads look more and more alike.
And people in advertising will work harder and harder to explain that these emotional pieces work best, even if the consumer can't remember a) who it was for and b) why they should buy the stuff.
I'm not sure what to say about Bob Dylan in the Chrysler ads. Maybe the answer is blowing about somewhere.
But then Russell has made some ads before for HP and I don't think they are too bad actually. Not earth shattering but in the same way Chrysler has the legend Dylan in them that will help re-call so HP had Brand to make their ad memorable. The ads are product demos really, what's so wrong with that? As long as they are done in an entertaining and cheeky way,as Brand does best.