Monday, August 18, 2014

Is It Better For Advertising To Be Relatable, Or Aspirational?

Like a planet caught between two suns, advertising is constantly being pulled in two different directions.

On the one hand, we're asked to make our work relatable.

And on the other, aspirational.

Relatable means 'I look at the person in the ad, and I see myself.' 

When this is done well, it triggers that notorious smile of recognition. You feel the brand understands you, and is on your side.

Here's an example where it's been done well. Every one of us can surely relate to one or more of these bank customers.

Aspirational is different. In aspirational advertising, it's not you in the ad, but someone better-looking than you. Perhaps someone famous. Someone you wish you were.

When this works well, it creates a shiny halo of desirability around the product. You make it seem more exciting, more valuable. By association.

Here's a Foot Locker spot in that vein.

So what's better - relatable advertising, or aspirational advertising?

Aha. Trick question. Plainly, either can work well.

In fact, my theory is that each needs a dash of the other, to succeed.

When aspirational advertising fails, it's normally because it doesn't have a shred of relatability.

In these cases, the results can be excruciating. Ferrero Rocher's Ambassador's Party ad, for example, delivered nothing but cheese.

Whereas in the Foot Locker ad above, the script is delivered by legends of basketball, and yet it's also relatable - we've all been given bad advice by some guy at a party.

Similarly, relatable advertising falls flat when it tries for nothing else, when it does nothing more than hold a mirror up to the target. ("As a busy Mum, I...")

With nothing aspirational - no glamour, twist or entertainment to focus on - the consumer has nothing left to do but pick holes in the self-portrait being presented to them. That's not me. And now I feel patronised! 

Feels like I'm coming down on the fence, but hey, that's what I think. That both aspiration and relatability can blow up in your face, if you don't season each with a pinch of the other.

What about you. Ever had a Client who was obsessed with making an ad aspirational, or relatable? What happened? 


Anonymous said...

Casting’s so hard, but so crucial.

Seems a lot of times celebrities work best when they’re given some kind of foible. Like Anna Kendrick in Newcastle.

And if the person is too relatable, you might as well watch real life. And where’s the fun in that?

Had a client who insisted everyone in the commercial be drop-dead model types. It was beyond belief. These people would never be seen in the client's place.

It even went as far as making the production company buy all the wardrobe from a specifc high-end department store. Even checked the labels and would throw a fit if anything else was brought in.

After the shoot she'd put half the wardrobe in her suitcase and fly home with it.

Kima said...

Advertising is often unintentionally aspirational, because the people that create it are naturally far more stylish than the people who consume it.

Anonymous said...

I've opened an agency called Aspilateable. We deliver both so the ad officially pleases everyone on the planet. Quids in.

Anonymous said...

It's better for advertising if it actually starts selling stuff again in a charming witty way, like it used to.