Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What have we been sold?

Does advertising work? The difficulty with this question is that, if an ad doesn’t seem to work, it can always be blamed on the fact that it was not a very good ad. So the question should perhaps be: does good advertising work? But then, I suppose that one can only really tell that advertising is good when it does work. I feel a headache coming on!

I’ve no doubt that people in the advertising industry will tell you that (good) advertising works – but then they have something of a vested interest in wanting us to think that. They may be right. But I struggle to think of many cases when I have bought an item or a service because I saw it advertised. It could be argued that I have been influenced subconsciously, but it would require some serious scientific research to establish that. Certainly advertising works if we measure success in terms of brand recognition. We all know the Nike tick, but I have never bought a Nike product. We all know Coca Cola, but I never drink it. Toyota ads are probably those I remember best among car ads; but I have never bought a Toyota.

Over the years there have been many great advertising campaigns, many that I have enjoyed enormously. I remember there was a very clever series of coffee ads – unfortunately, from their point of view, I forget the brand – but... I don’t drink coffee. There are great ads that I have watched via YouTube. They are very successful ads... or are they? Have I ever bought a product as a result of watching them? No.

Surely I am not the only one who, when shopping for a product, will consider the price, and whether that particular product meets my particular requirements at this particular time, ahead of considering the brand. It’s true that I might know one brand name better than others, but does that make me buy that brand? I don’t think so. Does it make me notice that brand ahead of the other options? Possibly. Does it make me consider it longer than the other options, before making a decision? Possibly. Does it mean that I buy it? No. Not unless the price suits me and if it best provides what I need. Some might say that advertising has convinced me that it does just that. Well it hasn’t, unless, of course, the price actually does suit me, and the item or service actually does provide what I need! In this case, I can thank advertising for providing me with some useful information. Of course I could have been misled. But surely it is not the purpose of advertising to deceive. Hmmm.

Now I will not claim that advertising has no influence on me or anyone else – I would need to back up such a claim with some serious research of my own. But does the extent of its influence justify the amount of money invested in it? Hmmm. Perhaps the best and most successful advertising campaign in history has been to convince people that advertising works.

Well, let's see if it works.......

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