mercoledì, settembre 20, 2006

Napalm in the morning

Fuck, I'm pissed off. Yesterday’s conference was awful in its repetitious quality. Maybe I went too soon after reading Brave New World. Like all of them always are, it was about Engagement – Audience Engagement, that is, and how to both measure it and create it. That’s pretty self-explanatory, right? Advertisers want a way to figure out how much money should be payed for such and such an ad’s ability to create an emotional or ‘engaging’ relationship between a potential consumer and a potential buy – that is, a relationship ‘engaging’ enough that the viewer will go out and buy the product advertised.

People don’t shut their bloody faces about this because television advertising used to work (and still works to a certain degree) on the Reach and Response model. That is, advertisers pay for the number of people they think they are showing their ads to by advertising on such-and-such a channel at such-and-such a time (which is why we have things like Nielsen ratings to measure show’s viewership), and in an airy-fairy hypothetical type way for the number of people who will probably go out and buy the product.

Obviously the Reach and Response model has some big problems. It was invented back in the 1950’s, when you could ‘reach’ 85% of the North American market by advertising on a total of three shows. Now even basic cable packages offer such a plethora of themed choice that audiences have become segmented, particular, grouped in new ways.

And this is what is getting people’s nipples in a twist about Engagement. For media buyer types its important because it’s just common sense that advertisers are going to push for new buying models now – wanting to advertise during a particular show, for example, rather than a particular time slot, making things like sponsorship and aggressive product placement more important.

What’s driving me to distraction is the degree to which Engagement is being taken over the top by both advertising creatives and executives – creatives because they want to build a special media identity for the brand they’re advertising, and executives so that they can find a flattering measure letting clients know how great the ad is and how many millions upon millions of dollars the advertising agency deserves for making it. The problem with both takes-over-the-top, the big fucking rabid elephant in the room that’s steadfastly ignored at all these fucking conferences, is that advertising probably doesn’t work that well, or certainly not in this ‘engagement’ sense.

Consumers buy products because something sets that product apart from competing brands and makes it unique; be it the appearance, the functionality, a low price, ease of access, or things like that. Red Bull’s ‘guerrilla marketing’ campaign, which everyone is always jizzing themselves over, had the effect of making Red Bull a lot more accessible than most energy drinks at the time it was launched. iPods, something else they won’t shut the fuck up about in terms of the marketing behind it, made programming a huge tracklist an absolute piece of piss that anyone picking up the highest-memory device could figure out in 45 seconds.

The idea behind engagement is to make the product unique through clever, targeted marketing that creates a ‘unique’ emotional connection between the potential consumer and the brand being advertised. It assumes consumers are stupid enough and superficial enough to allow an advertising experience to morph into some sort of love or loyalty for a product. It, to paraphrase Figaro’s summation when I whined at him endlessly last night about what a wicked, parasitic and unnecessary industry I’m analysing for, assumes you can package turds well enough and make people think they need them.

I’m a misanthrope and I think the worst of everybody, but I don’t think that’s true. Which annoys me, because it means that our society invests millions of dollars and thousands of white-collar college grads in an industry that is essentially a wasteful exercise in disrespect. At this point the advertising juggernaut has become a self-perpetuating industry, like the arms industry, and while the results haven’t been so spectacularly inhuman there’s certainly a sickly dehumanizing element to it that has filled me with fury.

Ah, fury, better than coffee at waking me up.

12 commenti:

Sugarplum ha detto...

Our only hope is that we teach the industry a lesson by renting the movies and TV shows we want to watch, downloading stuff off the internet and not falling prey to the boob tube. That way they'll be forced into inventing new ways (such as product placement - but I'm not convinced that works) to get our attention.

Melbine ha detto...

I'm amazed that they still consider television the top avenue to advertise. And I pay even less attention to the advertising on the Internet. They're really going to have to work hard to come up with something better!

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

NO. NO, THEY DO NOT HAVE TO WORK HARD TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER. The only really useful purpose of advertising is informing the consumer of the existence of a product they may have a need for. And if an advertiser succeeds in making someone buy a product by giving it more visibility than competing products, BUT that advertised product is substandard, then the bad word-of-mouth generated will sink any benefits brought to the brand by the advertising.

ADVERTISERS DO NOT NEED TO TRY HARDER. Producers, manufacturers, distributors, sure. Not advertisers.

Sugarplum is right: the only way we can help sink this ridiculous tail-eating-snake of an industry is to ignore their avenues so they can't argue Reach at all anymore.

calisaurus ha detto...

I agree with you, Mistress, that advertisers don't need to work harder. Advertising clearly works. I see a new febreze scent on TV and I want it. I don't see any competitive brands on TV therefore I don't want them when I see them in the store.

I don't know why everyone complains so much about commercials. How would we know so much without them? And I believe that a lot of commercials and other forms of advertisement have strong artistic or comic value - like those commercials where the men are acting like cats - ha! Although I don't shop (too much) at the GAP I respect their ads and know they're working!

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Actually, the performance of the Gap has been declining almost in tandem with the increase in its commercial budgets. Remember that campaign with Sarah Jessica Parker? Sure you do. It was great. But that didn't stop the plunge in its business numbers.

I agree commercials inform us of products we'd like to have and that's fine (and those commercials with the men pretending to be cats are frigging hilarious, especially the kitten one), but in the end a crappy product is a crappy product and commercials don't stop that. If the new Febreze smelt like poo you'd be telling us about that now and I would never ever buy it. And fewer and fewer people shop at the Gap because it hasn't positioned its INVENTORY properly - places like H&M beat its price, Zara beats its quality, and the space in between is too small for it to be special anymore.

It's all about the product. Huge advertising projects are like an incredibly complicated and expensive effort to cheat that doesn't work and is probably more trouble in the end than actually creating and distributing a product that sells itself once you adequately inform consumers of its existence.

Melbine ha detto...

Of course I didn't really mean that they're going to have to work harder! You would have had to hear it come out of my mouth to hear the's true, some commercials become pieces of art in their own right! Especially in the realm of comedy - remember that Halls commercial where the guy hits everyone in the head with golf balls because his throat is sore and he can't yell "Fore"?! Sorry, getting away from the main point of what we're saying here..

Sugarplum ha detto...

Febreeze is a good example of the harm that the advertizing industry does. Consumers have been taught that they need to buy all these smelly things to make their lives cleaner when in the end, these products are very closely linked to asthma and other breathing problems caused by inhaling harmful chemicals. Not to mention that covering up stinky smells keeps you from dealing with the problem which may mean, moldy carpet and furniture etc and what is really needed is a good old fashioned cleaning (not with harmful chemical cleaners I must say) and to take the goddamn garbage out!

But Febreeze kills dustmites which cause allergies - no, the only thing that kills dustmites is washing in hot water. If you cleaned your bedsheets once a week you wouldn't need to spray them.

There's my rant. I'll stop now.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I don't think we can blame advertising for Febreeze. That's some deep-seated social conditioning going on since before the Victorians about how we should smell like flowers even if we've just had marathon sex after eating a meal slathered in garlic.

Sugarplum ha detto...

Did the Victorians have marathon sex and did they eat garlic? I remember when garlic was exotic (yes, I'm from a small town in Northern Ontario and there is no garlic in Finland - I didn't think it was common in Britain either until the Italians shared their delicious bounty).

I blame advertising. Why do people buy Glade Plug-ins? Because we watch so many commercials where people are walking around sniffing the air with a dumb-ass smile on their face. Now they switch between two scents so that you will always smell it even if your natural senses get used to the odour, it will always keep you on your toes. We're so afraid of smelling funny.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I don't know about garlic, to be honest, but I hope Victorians had marathon sex. I read in a John Fowles book London had way more whorehouses per capita then than now. But then ladies are giving it away for free now so the comparison doesn't stand up when you factor in economics.

You know, if you watch most ads for shit like Glad Plug-Ins, it isn't so much 'this will make your house stop smelling like shit' as 'this will make your house smell good without messy pot pourri or incense or fresh flowers or candles whatever else people have been mucking with in their environs to rid themselves of the possible whiff of a stench of mortality for hundreds of years'.

Product planning and advertising doesn't create needs, it caters to them. I think that's a fact that the advertising industry and its critics refuse to believe, because if they did the ad industry would dwindle to a fifth of its size and we as consumers would have to take accountability for our own rampant consumption, archetypal paranoias, and inter-personal social pressures.

Sugarplum ha detto...

Good point. You've got all the answers, Mistress.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

What I've got is a boring job in a corrupt, hollow parasitic industry . . . but thanks!

The indignation makes sense, though; it's just plain bad form to make money exploiting human weakness. Hateful.