Monday, July 28, 2014

Emotions, Weird Shit, And Babies.

Effective because it makes us feel fear.

As we all know, emotional advertising is far more effective than rational advertising.

Many clients have read about this, and are now specifically requesting emotional advertising.


Except, there's a problem.

Of the six basic human emotions... five are negative. Namely anger, fear, disgust, contempt, and sadness. (The only positive one is 'joy').

That's right. It's a pretty dark place, down there in your unconscious.

(Side note. Why are nearly all the basic human emotions so negative? There's an article on FastCompany here that explains it a bit. "It’s not that nature inclines us to hate. We’re profoundly social creatures designed to protect: our kin, our tribe, and ourselves." In other words, negatives resonate because we're wired to watch out for threats).

Hat tip to the writer, Douglas Van Praet, who is also the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. 

So what are we to do with this information? Make all our ads as bleak as that scene in Terminator where the mechanised forces of Skynet crush human skulls beneath their wheels?

Um, yeah. Basically yes. I've written before about the power of the negative. At least start negative, before you end on a positive. Or in marketing terms, create a tension, and resolve it. That's how you generate some charge.

But we should also be aware that it's not just emotions, that our unconscious mind pays attention to.

According to Van Praet, our threat-obsession has also imbued us with a powerful (and pre-rational) 'startle response'. That's why surprising advertising works. Hence the power of 'prankvertising.'

And finally, we're obviously attuned to anything related to our survival and reproduction. Hence our love of food porn, and any ads with babies in.

In short, our unconscious minds are not turned on by facts and figures, but by primal stuff - emotions, things that are new and different (and therefore worthy of our attention), and anything to do with passing on our genes. 

In really short, if you want to do good work, fill your ads with emotions, weird shit, and babies.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Is It Okay If An Ad Means Different Things To Different People?

We studied a poem once in English class at school.

Can't recall which one it was now. Anyway, we all had to write down what we thought it meant, and it turned out that different kids saw the meaning very differently. I remember asking the teacher what the 'right answer' was, and him saying there was "no right or wrong," and it was an achievement that the poet had created something that was "open to multiple interpretations."

I was pretty sure at the time this was bollocks... but now I'm not so certain. 

Take last week's new IKEA ad, from the UK. One of the Creatives behind it, quoted in Creative Review, explains that it depicts "all the beds you sleep in at different times in your life."

Meanwhile, the website of the Agency - Mother - states that it's something to do with holidays: "The TV spot is based on the truth that there’s no bed like home; we spend all year thinking about a summer holiday but actually we’ll probably have no better sleep than in our beds at home — it’s the bed in which we spend the other 51 weeks of the year that really matters."

And personally, I thought it was about dreams. (Have also discussed this with Dan & Kev from work, they thought 'dreams' too).

We have it comprehensively beaten into us that an ad has to be clear, on-brief, and express a single-minded proposition.

But does it? I think the IKEA ad is pretty cool. Even though I didn't fully understand it, and even its creators can't agree on what it means.

Just goes to show how poetic the spot is, I guess.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beware Of Nice People

DDB has a philosophy of hiring people who are "talented and nice."

And I agree with it.

I've worked at agencies in the past where some people weren't nice, and it's a ball-ache.

The theory at these places goes something like: "All we care about is the work, and if a few people have to swim through mud and broken glass to make the work good, then that's cool."

It's not cool.

In fact, creating a stressful work environment may one day be a criminal offence, just as mining companies today face lawsuits if their staff get poisoned or blown up.

And actually, striving for great work at the expense of niceness often makes the work worse, since it makes people angry/bitter/afraid, and good work rarely co-exists with those emotions.

On the other hand, excessive niceness is a major problem.

Nice people who fail to kill ideas because they don't want to hurt the Creatives' feelings are a semi-regular hazard in our industry.

If you are someone who has the power to kill an idea - a list that includes (but is not limited to) CD's, Planning Directors, Agency CEO's, and Clients - please be aware that the No.1 thing Creatives most want to know after presenting work is, quite simply, whether their idea is alive or if it's dead.

And if it is dead, we would rather know straight away, since this gives us time to come up with another one. There's nothing worse than someone trying to be nice, telling you that they'll like it if you make 'just a few tweaks', when in reality they'll never like it, and you waste a week making meaningless changes.

So if I believe that niceness carries a risk of not being able to deliver a clear 'no', how come I still believe in "talented and nice?"

Simple. The really talented people do know how to say no - and they know how to do it in a nice way.

And the exceptionally talented ones, in an inspirational way.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Dear Google: Thanks For The Ad, I Was Gonna Buy It Anyway

When you get the results of your Google search, do you click on the sponsored link (the top one) or the regular link (just below it)?

I asked this at a lunch the other day, and some people said they deliberately click the non-sponsored link.

Personally, I always click the sponsored link, because I like Google, and I'm happy for them to get the money.

But the question remains - do they deserve that money?

Let's say I owned an online cat store called TopCats. I buy search advertising for my store, on Google. The next day, someone searches for TopCats, sees the sponsored link, clicks on it, then buys a cat from my store. Google can then tell me "See, search advertising works brilliantly!"

But here's the thing - that person was going to buy a cat from me anyway.

Yes, I understand if someone searches for "buy high-quality cats online" it would be worth me showing them an ad for TopCats. But when someone searches for my store by name... aren't Google simply doing the equivalent of slapping an ad on my front door? Sure, people see it, and then afterwards buy, so it might look effective. But the only people who see the ad are the ones who were going in anyway.

This phenomenon is apparently a real thing, called 'endogeneity'. If you want to read more about it, there's more in an article by The Atlantic here.

Just to be clear, I like Google a lot. I use their product multiple times a day, and I think it's awesome. It's fairly certain I couldn't live without it. Since I'm a sucker for gadgets, I'll probably even give Google Glass a go. And since I'm shit at driving, I'm really looking forward to driverless cars.

So I'm not wanting to criticise Google, in any way. They should get lots of money for what they do. Lots.

But $60 billion* a year - is that fair?

*Google's revenue was $15.4 billion in the most recently-announced quarter. More than 90% of this revenue comes from advertising. The company doesn't break out search from display and other forms of advertising, but it's safe to say that search is big.