View From the Consumer

Whilst I have spent half my working life as a client, and the other half in agency land, there is a role that I’ve played a full 100 percent of the time – I am first and foremost a consumer.

I buy things. I subscribe to services. I run a business that requires B2B interactions.

So when I step out of the ivory tower that sometimes is Ad Land, I have a different perspective on the work we all sweat, swear, and stress over. From the outside looking in, here are some observations from the consumer in me.

1. I don’t care about 99 percent of the ads that gets produced.

Quick – name five ads that you saw yesterday.

Harder than it seems, isn’t it?

Considering we are bombarded with 3,000 ads a day, you’d think that it’d be easier to recall just a handful. But the problem is with so many messages, I have become desensitised to it all.

So the next time you create an ad, or ask for the 14th round of revisions, ask yourself – will this truly make a difference? If not, a reconsidering of your approach may be in order.

2. If I do pay attention to your ad, it’s because I’m entertained, informed, enlightened, or amused.

I don’t want to be surrounded by your 360 degrees advertising (see point 1 above). If I didn’t care for your TV ad, I’m certainly not going to want it in print, online, mobile, outdoor, or ambient form. Unless you want me to really hate you.

But give me something that entertains me, makes me smile, enlightens me, or moves me – then I’m yours. You have earned my attention. Bill Bernbach (the legendary B from my agency network) once said that “no one was ever bored into buying a product”. I would much prefer a world with less quantity of ads, but much greater quality ones.

As Bernbach also said, “properly practiced creativity can make one ad do the work of ten.”

3. I don’t want to create your advertising for you.

And it’s not because I normally charge for that. It’s because in this high-pressured, time-poor world, there are other things I’d rather do with my time (even if it’s just spending three hours tending to my virtual farm on Facebook).

Sure, you can bribe me with prizes and incentives, but user-generated content is doing what the advertiser wants me to do, not what I want me to do. If I do participate, you can bet it will be to make fun of you… or you have a truly brilliant campaign that speaks to my natural interest.

4. I will not jump through your hoops, so don’t even bother asking.

If you want me to participate, you better keep things simple.

I don’t want to create a custom video, or spend 20 minutes interacting with blatant advertising. I don’t even want to watch a two-minute video intro, or click through 10 pages to get to a point.

Where I will put some effort into my interactions is with people I know. So if you want me to participate, you better make something I would consider worth sharing with them.

5. Simple does not mean dumb.

I am all for simplicity – but this does not mean that I want everything dumbed down to the point where I’m being treated like a six year old. What I’m really looking for is clarity – tell me clearly what you’re selling and why I should be interested, without overcomplicating the message.

I may not rush out and buy your product after seeing your ad, but at least it will have a much greater chance of being remembered when I do need your product.

So, am I hard to please? Of course I am. And so is every other consumer. And it will only get harder.

But that’s why we are paid to do advertising as professionals, right? We are supposedly experts at the art of influence, with access to the most creative minds the world has to offer. So what will you be doing the next time you get a brief that targets someone like me? How are you going to dazzle me into submission? How are you going to use your powers of persuasion to get your client or agency to do something that stands out, rather than formulaic?

After all (as the giant words on my office wall remind me everyday), “If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.”

Related reading

Glittering cloud with electric neurons