For the longest time, I’ve hated advertising. Or at least I thought I hated it. Constantly being interrupted to be “given” messages of absolutely no value to me… it’s enough to make anyone a little exhausted.
It’s no surprise then that I took to the “Advertising Is Dead, Long Live Social Media” mindset like cheese on pizza. I love the idea that every day people like you and me took back control of our lives and told advertisers in unison to bugger off. I love that we’ve taken control of the conversation. And as a marketer myself, I love joining conversations as opposed to simply screaming into the void. Lord knows I would not be in this business if all I had to look forward to was creating work that people either hated or ignored.
But before we hammer the nails into advertising’s coffin, let’s take a step back and reassess what’s really going on.
In reality, I’ve loved many ads. Like so many others, I look forward to each new mini-episode of the Mac vs. PC saga. That’s unfortunately the only example of TV advertising that comes to mind as a positive experience, but consider these print ads, all of which are brilliant and provide real value to me.
This ad alone, for no other reason whatsoever, makes me want to own a
Bentley. I’m dead serious about this. I know this has everything to do
with some male ego thing, but I love the idea of associating my choice
in a car with giving everyone else the finger. Is it just me?
These are, of course, classics. They’ve even been featured prominently
in an episode of Mad Men, where all the folks at Sterling Cooper are
perplexed and even angered by how counter-intuitive the ads are.
These ads may not connect with everyone. But that’s okay. At a bare
minimum, any parent, in particular parents of small children, will
instantly be able to connect with these. They’re even funny in a “funny
because it’s true” sort of way. And even though I could get the same
rest at any hotel, I’m suddenly overpowered by the desire to stay at
Scandic, as if somehow they’ll understand and sympathize with how
exhausting children can be.
Do you really want to live in an advertising-free world?
Given the choice between our current overwhelmingly loud world (in
terms of the volume of ads we’re forced to endure) and a world where
there were no ads at all, I would certainly choose the latter. But that
world would be missing something very important.
Advertising can, when done right and with the best intentions, fill our
lives with joy, if only for a moment. Unlike a television show or a
book, though, advertising also gives us hope. Take the above Scandic
ad. This ad should be considered a public service. It reminds exhausted
parents everywhere that they deserve a break and that there are indeed
places you can go for those breaks. It’s like a small moment of pure
zen, where we can pause and dream and maybe, just maybe, start planning
on achieving that dream, if only for a little while.
Maybe we’re simply raising the bar
The world’s greatest copywriters have always said that a great ad is
not necessarily an entertaining one. A great ad is one that increases
sales. While I don’t disagree that our goals as marketers are of course
to increase sales (my chances of landing a job any time soon would be
nil if I said otherwise!), we need to understand that today’s world is
very different from 20 years ago or even 5 years ago.
In order for an ad to work, people have to pay attention. That should
almost go without saying. Today’s consumer, though, avoids advertising
like the plague. We TiVo (or download) our favourite shows to avoid the
commercials. We show up a few minutes late at the theatre to compensate
for all the commercials that run before the previews. We read articles
online rather than in print to save the effort of flipping through
publications that are 80% advertising.
Today’s consumer has been used and abused my marketers for too long. We (the marketers) have been dumped.
And yet, great ads continue to do very very well. Particularly
entertaining ads are shared online like wildfire (yeah, I’m talking
about that viral thing, you may have heard of it).
The problem isn’t with the medium, i.e. paid advertisement. The problem
is most people would rather watch reruns of The Nanny (shudder) than
have to sit through the terrible crap that gets passed as advertising.
We need to think of advertising as we would any pitch we would make to
a client. First, we need their attention. Then, we need to keep it. If
we can manage that and communicate our message in a compelling way,
we’ve done our job.
Have you ever run an AdWords campaign? If your ads do poorly, Google stops running them.
What if the major television networks did the same thing? What if NBC
held its advertisers to the same standards it uses when deciding which
shows to run and which to cancel? What if every commercial you saw on
television was either entertaining, meaningful, or in in some other way
truly valuable to you?
Would you watch them? Personally, I would. If advertisers started
respecting my time and attention, if they made sure they weren’t
wasting my time, I’d watch. Gladly.
“Advertising” today, for the most part, neither “ads” anything to our lives nor does it provide any “zing” (sic). Discuss.