People with screens are blasted by the advertising firehouse all day, every day. Thus, people with screens are conditioned to resist advertising. For buyers of advertising, and would be buyers, this built-in resistance must be overcome. The idea that advertising is annoying, a waste of money, or worse, needs to be put aside and the focus shifted to the long-term impact brand communications will have on the company’s bottom line.
Of course, there’s a chasm to cross…
I wonder, have you had the chance to experience The New Awkward? If you’ve entered a boardroom with clients who are spending money on advertising, even while they dismiss its importance, you have experienced The New Awkward. It’s not that clients have lost faith. They remain faithful, but faithful to a new master—data.
My suggestion for clients is communications pantheism. In advertising, there is no Almighty.
There’s a clear need to mine data for valuable insights, but until those insights are actionable and actually making the creative better, data is a promise unfulfilled in the ad business. The act of moving a person to care and then to buy is not logical. Clients wish it were so, but wishing does not make it so.
Ian Leslie, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It writes about the spell that technologists have cast:
Something in the mindset of technologists makes it hard for them to see or admit the value of advertising. Engineers tend to conceive of advertising – insofar as they think about it at all – as a mere conduit for information about the product, which in their mind should speak for itself, without the superfluous operating system of a brand.
Engineers, it appears, are moved by facts alone. Be that as it may, the rest of humanity is moved by the persuasive presentation of facts.
Peter Thiel, one of Silicon Valley’s more unconventional thinkers, once observed that “nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you.”
To be fair, it’s not just nerds who reject advertising’s power to move the needle. Non-profits and political campaigns often believe their cause is powerful enough on its own to move people. It rarely is, but they continue to believe the lie because it’s not a lie in the bubble they happen to inhabit. For instance, political candidates and their staff are surrounded by and influenced by party activists who reinforce their point-of-view. The same is true of entrepreneurs who hear mostly from investors, early adopters, and their peers in the startup community.
The Problem With “Product Love”
Product love is the diseased state of mind that leads founders and others to believe people care. One of the hardest things people in advertising do is help their clients see that next to no one cares. Naturally, many advertising practitioners want to skip this step. That’s why so much advertising is shit—zero accountability and an absence of truth.
It’s the people who are willing to deal in hard truths that win, and the truth is smart teams approach marketing problems from the customer’s POV, not the brand’s. To create great advertising, the client must be willing to step outside of herself and slay assumptions. A commonly held assumption today is that shoppers want information about products and services where and when they need it. This makes perfect sense on paper, but it fails to allow for the irrational mind.
People don’t purchase goods, vote or give money to a cause with their purely rational mind leading them through discovery, trial and adoption. People stumble from one interest and one object to the next. Therefore, no algorithm will ever predict what a person wants or what they’ll do next. When used properly, an algorithm provides clues that a team of creative human beings can use to entice other humans.
In summary, the research department has always been essential to the making of compelling advertising. This continues to be true today. Also, raw data is not knowledge, it’s a directional sign that says, THIS WAY.
Previously on Adpulp: Data Is The Machine-Fed Marketing Narcotic…Drip, Drip, Drip