How the Work Works

All of us harbor a theory about how advertising works because when asked, we all have an opinion. But we’re not always aware what our theory really is and how it found its way into our heads. For a vast majority, this theory is predicated on the assumption that people’s behavior is rational and largely driven by reason – a rather self-comforting thought. Hence, we spend most of our agency conversations discussing ‘message’ - the most tangible thing to reason around.

Now, I'm not saying we should stop doing that, or that such conversations are obsolete. Not at all. But I firmly believe they attract a disproportionate amount of attention from both brand owners and agencies. Or put differently, they draw attention away from the strategic question about what the audience outtake ought to be in a much wider sense than a verbal message.

Most of planning processes and tools in the agency world today are constructed with the underlying assumption that their job is to help brands implant messages into the conscious minds of people. And in a majority of cases, this turns out to be verbal messages. A few personality attributes may also be injected as wrapping paper for the “core message”, but often as an afterthought. This is stifling Viagra-potent original ideas that can literally transform the fortunes of businesses.

The Audi commercial below was developed from the insight that compact SUV-inspired cars are often perceived to be boxy. This isn’t the case at all with the streamlined Audi Q5. But while this perceptual barrier is being addressed head on in the creative with the message “unboxing the box”, you decide whether the effectiveness of this spot hinges on the rational, conscious understanding of this message or should rather be attributed to how the commercial makes you feel, and makes you associate this feeling to the Q5. 

In their article “50 years using the wrong model of TV advertising” Robert Heath and Paul Feldwick say the following: “Clients and agencies must take on board that advertising can be effective without “message”, “proposition”, or “benefits”, and recognize that attempts to impose these may reduce not increase effectiveness.” Does this scare you? Good. Find out more about why they say what they say
here:

-    Exploding the Message Myth
-    50 Years Using the Wrong Model of TV Advertising.

Fredrik Sarnblad