Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Advertising, love it or hate it, it's here to stay.

Advertisements have always fascinated me. The variation of graphics and photography used, the different messages and media.  All components fitted together in either an eye catching, innovative or irritating package.  Advertisers utilise endless methods to plead with us to buy 2 not 1, change supplier or upgrade, all in an attempt to encourage us to spend more.
As much as I love them, certain ads still make my blood boil.  A typical case in point; the recent Co-Op’s ‘Ethics and Values’ tattoo commercial, trying to convince me that they do have some, whilst all it does is remind me they’re still reeling from a recent drugs scandal.  Highlighting for me how misjudged and untimely the ‘Ethics and Values’ premise is.  However, advertising done well, aimed at the right audience is based on a carefully crafted science.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent every year on “Customer Focus Groups” where individuals, who represent you, me and the man next door, spend time answering questions, viewing creative concepts and responding frankly.  Whilst researchers analyse their responses in order to shape the form of advertising you see today, developing messages that will slip into your subconscious “because you’re worth it” or “every little helps”.
Before you know it, it’s affecting your retail experience, encouraging you to change supplier and believe that you really do have a need and only they can fulfil it.
Advertisers may appeal to the greedy, ambitious, aspirational side of your nature or in the case of a charity may be attempting to shock you into action, pleading with your sense of decency and fair choice or simply encouraging you to act quicker. 
For example; Cancer Research UK’s ‘Let’s Beat Cancer Together’ slogan recently changed to ‘Let’s Beat Cancer Sooner’.  A subtle difference but an urgent one.
My advertising training ground was McCann Erickson, an advertising agency operating 180 offices in more than 120 countries, responsible for some of the world’s most iconic advertising campaigns.  For example; commissioning Haddon Sundblom to paint the 1931 Santa Claus in red for the festive Coca Cola campaign, an image which has become synonymous with Christmas ever since.

When McCann Erickson opened their doors a century ago, they did so with the creative philosophy “Truth Well Told”.  An enduring commitment to the power of truth transforming brands and building successful business in the long run.
 On one hand you may believe that advertising harms society and the planet by increasing consumerism, manipulating cultural values, and invading all aspects of our lives, on the other you might be happy to embrace freedom of speech and choice.
As Rory Sutherland (former President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) acknowledged “The truth is that marketing raises enormous ethical questions every day—at least it does if you’re doing it right…”
Over the years advertising has highlighted many social and environmental problems we confront worldwide; from climate change and global warming to famine, disease and child abuse, whilst also positioning campaigns for social or health improvement.  The British Heart Foundation’s commercial featuring Vinnie Jones doing ‘Hard and Fast’ CPR to the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ resulted in at least 28 people in the UK being pulled back from the brink.

Whilst Sainsbury’s controversial Christmas ad commemorated World War I with all profits from the WW1 chocolate sales going to The Royal British Legion.  In 2013 alone Sainsbury’s raised around £4.5m for the charity.  Not to mention the ads promoting public health warnings; “Think and drive”, “Smoking kills” and “FRANK confidential drug advice”, all tackled via traditional and social media, surely these messages are aimed at social improvement?
 Love it or hate it, advertising continues to seep into our lives, it’s here to stay, so why not enjoy its Technicolor, stand by your freedom of choice and join the debate.
AUTHOR: Victoria Ward, Footprint Marketing

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