Today is the final part of a 3-part series in which I attempted to derive a theory about how consumer behavior works and how that might affect the creation of advertising.
The first part dealt with the duality of consumer behavior. In the second part I tried to develop some principles related to the uncertainty of consumer behavior. And today we're going to talk about what all this theorizing means to the people who create advertising, if anything.
Despite all the bullshit about digital technology changing everything, a TV spot today looks frighteningly like a TV spot of 20 years ago. A radio spot of today is not much different from a radio spot of 20 years ago, and a print ad... you get the point.
Digital has changed delivery systems -- pipes -- but it hasn't changed what's going through the pipes.
All the palaver about "interactivity" between consumer and advertiser has turned out to be hogwash, with consumers showing no interest at all in interacting with "interactive" advertising.
More than ever, we are locked into a way of thinking that slices and dices people into cubby-holes of age, supposed psychological profiles, and presumed areas of interest. I think it was Don Marti who said "targeting to demographics, psychographics or stated interests (as Facebook does) works marginally better than not targeting at all."
The addiction to targeting, which digital technology has only amplified, has derailed the advertising industry from concentrating on its real job -- creating interesting messages.
We have made no progress that I can see from the decades-old push-pull of emotion vs. logic in the strategic approach to the messages we create.
If my musings this week about highfalutin stuff like "behavior-plasticity" and "quantum advertising" have any value, they ought to lead us to some way of thinking about creating more effective messages.
A few months ago, I wrote the following:
Great advertising transcends strategy. It's great for all the wrong reasons -- the reasons we never talk about in new business pitches, or mention at client meetings, or have break-out sessions about at advertising conferences. It's great because it's great. Period.
It doesn't matter if it differentiates the brand, or delivers a benefit, or has a call to action.
Good ads need strategy and benefits and differentiation. Great ads don't need any of that. They appeal to us as humans, not consumers.When we're writing for "consumers" we act reflexively. We shoehorn in our benefits and we show scenes of Timmy and grandpa going fishing. In other words, we default to the cliches of the logic/emotion framework.
But if we don't start with logic vs. emotion as a foundation -- if we start with "let's try to sound human and talk human" -- and treat logic and emotion as byproducts of an interesting message, we will be far more successful.
The problem is this -- writing advertising that sounds human, and not like advertising, is really hard. It's not difficult to write logically. It's not difficult to write emotionally. But there are very few copywriters who can make advertising sound human.
I've come a long way around to discover something I think I've always known. The best advertising will be great because of an indefinable quality that communicates with us as humans, not consumers.
One of the things I especially like about this "quantum" theory of advertising is that it recognizes the mystery of the "human" factor. The fact that we cannot define it is not ignorance, it is an inescapable condition of the probabilistic and contradictory nature of human behavior.
This is what makes creating advertising an interesting, fascinating -- and frustrating -- occupation.