Picture this:

Firstly, you hate skittles. Like, really despise them. Sorry, Mars Inc, but some people do, and my reasoning will become clear in a moment.

You have a bowl of what appears to be M&Ms in front of you, perhaps at work. You reach in and grab three, pop them in your mouth and discover that only one was an M&M, and the other two were Skittles. You’re horrified beyond all reason, and immediately pass out from the shock. Okay, maybe not, but you’re caught off-guard. You realise the bowl contains both M&Ms and Skittles. Over time, this bowl is topped up with either M&Ms or Skittles. You have no way of knowing which, nor how much of either is in the bowl at any one time. On close inspection, the identity of each piece of candy becomes clear. However, you must check each one individually.

What the hell does this have to do with advertising?

Everything.

The advertising marketplace (TV, newspapers, billboards, online, radio, etc) is just like this bowl of candy. There are some M&Ms (great ads, ironically, like the Skittles ads) and Skittles (horrible ads, like this little gem) in the bowl, and consumers must check each one to find out what it is. However, over time, the container (advertising marketplace) has been replaced with bigger and bigger bowls, but primarily filled with Skittles, because they’re cheaper and more available.

Still confused? Let me bring it home.

Sorting is hard work

So now, you’re faced with a huge bowl that has far more Skittles than M&Ms. Can you be bothered sorting through them for the M&Ms? Probably not. It’s easier just to go without. So you start to ignore the bowl of candy. Eventually, you forget about the bowl altogether. So, even though someone might have recently added a ton more M&Ms, you probably didn’t even notice.

Removing ourselves from the metaphor for a moment, the exact same principles apply to consumers in the advertising market. They are inundated with so many awful, obnoxious or just plain boring ads that they begin to switch off. They start to ignore everything, making it even harder for the great stuff to be seen and heard.

So how can I get my candy noticed?

This is the problem that agency-land’s entire creative industry is dedicated to solving. Here are a few basic principles that we employ.

  1. Disruption
    Capture the consumer’s interest by being different. If a TV ad is usually loud, go quiet. If a press ad is busy, go sparse. Try something that no one else is trying.
  2. Humour
    People respond to entertainment. Being funny is a great way to build a connection with someone. The important thing is to know your target audience. If you don’t, you might just end up being offensive.
  3. Shock
    Get their attention with something on the edge of acceptable. Violence, sex, drugs. A risky tactic, but when done right can really pay off.

Good luck, chocolatiers.