How advertising works – consensus anybody?

Donald-trump-bad-hair-day  Drifting across channels last night I found myself watching American Apprentice led by the gruesomely watchable Donald Trump. The two teams had to make a TV commercial about a Norwegian cruise line. The judging was done by a couple of executives. Watching novices make a commercial in a tearing hurry is good therapy when you've had to do it for real because it showcases all the worst aspects of the advertising business.  The strategy wasn't very clear – were these ads or cruise sales videos?  There was lots of fudging and arguing over make or break shots which provided the raw material for stabbing fellow team members in the back (and front)  But the expert discussion of advertising was a reminder of how subjective the process is. The losing ad using superimposed text to make its point.

Cruiseholiday According to the experts this is bad advertising because you need to voiceover the message because not everyone is looking at the TV set. So showing and telling is the best way to get the message across. Similarly showing a castaway was a bad thing to do because it reminded prospective cruise customers that they might be shipwrecked.Now I know that TV is an abbreviated medium which simplifies everything. But at no point did any of these experts provide any evidence to support the theories about what made an ad good or bad. And I'm afraid to say that a ot of internal and client meetings discussing creative work do exactly the same.  Apparently good and bad advertising is instantly recognisable and follows very simple rules. 

Ncl If I were to summarise the conventions which American Apprentice followed they would be along the lines of aspiration and the infantilisation of a cruise experience. Promise the earth, show people having a lovely time and that will persuade people to book cruises. An ad break following these rules becomes a very dull one. Infantilisation drowns in its own babysick.  Being explicit about how advertising is working is painful but useful. Because it makes you ask the vital question – is this what actually happens? Apprentice followed the conventions. Most clients need us to break them.

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