Provocative title? Well, I hope so, because that’s what I was aiming for. It’ll make sense eventually, I promise.
For now, a little context.
I hear many professionals in the ad industry try to make an argument supporting the existence of ads in media, outside of the source of their income.
It usually goes something like, “Lots of people read the paper for the ads. They want to know what local businesses have to offer.”
Well that’s just crap. If you renamed a newspaper an adbook, very very few would buy it, let alone read it. They want the news, the stories, the features. The stuff that interests them.
Ok, before I go any further, the voice of reason. SOME people do read the paper for the ads, but it usually centers around very specific interests, such as grocery specials, houses or cars for sale and classified bargains. I will concede that. The things that people need, they will look for.
Right, now let’s be unreasonable. At least, that’s what some would consider the argument I’m about to put forth, but here goes.
People don’t like ads.
There, I said it.
Your average Joe and Jane don’t like ads, at all. They hate them, don’t want to see them and certainly don’t believe they work. Seriously, ask anyone on the street (who isn’t in advertising), ‘what was the last ad you saw that worked on you?’. You’ll always get the same answer, ‘Ads don’t work on me, I’m not an idiot’.
Of course, those of us who do work in advertising know that answer is crap too. Of course they work. Our whole industry would wither and die if they didn’t. There is powerful evidence to suggest that advertising is a major driving force behind a successful economy.
We know that consumers don’t like ads, yet they do read/watch/listen to them. Not only that, they act on what they read/watch/listen.
So where does that leave us? Confused? Frustrated? Perplexed? Pretty much.
I remember a friend of mine asked me once why companies bothered to do all this other stuff in their ads. “Why not just run the price and let customers decide?” Good question. Problem is, only one company can be the cheapest in each category. So what’s left for the rest? That’s where the advertising and marketing set them apart.
For example, you can get cheaper phones than an iPhone. In fact, you can get more advanced, technically superior phones as well. So why are they so successful? Because of their advertising. They created a ‘coolness’ factor surrounding the product that outweighed most logical thought processes. Obviously the product was good to begin with. No amount of hype can save a chaddy product. But they advertised the product and the market responded. Consumers bought it in droves. Not only that, in spite of the product’s various limitations compared to other smartphones, they remain loyal customers.
So effectively, it’s less about the product’s features and more about the culture and attitude surrounding it. An attitude created almost exclusively with advertising.
Just read back over what I wrote, realized I’m waffling on a bit. Back on point.
People don’t like ads. They read/watch/listen to the various media channels, like newspapers, magazines, tv, movies, radio and online because there is something they are interested in. Something that captures and holds their
attention. It might be editorial, jokes, cartoons, pictures, songs, videos or any number of different types of content. Something drew them in.
Referring to my original argument, THAT is what people read the paper for.
So be glad of it. Be happy that you don’t have to do the hard work of bringing in the reader, the viewer or the listener. Media owners spend many many many millions of dollars doing that for you.
Our job is simple. Now that they’re there looking at the media, capture their attention. Show them something funny, crazy, engaging, thought-provoking, or even offensive. As long as it’s interesting and it tells them something they want to know about whatever it is your selling, you’ve done the job. Throw in a call to action if you need to.
If only creatively-driven advertising was that simple. Making it interesting is the hardest, most frustrating part, not to mention the most satisfying. But that’s a story for another day.