“The Break Up”

Advertising Rules, News&Views, Strategy, Tips

I stumbled upon this awesome series of commercials developed and produced by the Openhere ad agency and Microsoft’s Geert Desager for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions.

The first one in the series is called The Break Up and tells the story a couple breaking up. She, Consumer, is fed up with his, Advertiser’s, dismissive and self-centered ways.

You’re 28 to 34, your online interests include music, movies and… laser hair removal….

It’s a wonderful satire on the sorry state of affairs in the quality of advertising and how ad agencies and advertisers (that would be clients that pay ad agencies) largely treat their customers as numbers instead of human beings.

If you’ve read through this site, you’ve encountered the frequently repeated credo that advertising should talk To the audience, not At them. This commercial, ironically for a Microsoft product, perfectly encapsulates the negative things that happen when an “Advertiser” assumes they know what tricks and gimmicks they can use to manipulate people to buy products.

While it’s an exaggeration to say that advertising forces people to buy things they don’t need, it’s a fair statement to say that a culture of consumerism, reinforced and possibly created by advertising agencies, with the intimate collaboration of large corporations intent on selling mass-market products, has created a situation where people live beyond their means to have…stuff.

This film perfectly illustrates that at the core of the problem is “not listening.” This applies to small and large businesses equally. If you want to advertise your business, — and advertising really can take any form — then you have to first start by acknowledging that you’re ultimately speaking to one human being, albeit in a process that may be repeated over a million instances.

So, how does an advertiser connect with the consumer if it seems like the “marriage is over?” The truth is that the marriage is never over. There are new opportunities born every second. So, the reality is that each and every marketing effort is really an opportunity to speak to the consumer, to connect to them as human beings.

How does one do that? Well, gimmicks aren’t the way to do it. That’s the number one problem with Promotions as a field of advertising. Apparently companies make money with Promotional Advertising, so something must be working. As The Break Up shows, a lot of money has been made with traditional advertising too. That doesn’t mean that because it works to some degree that it’s not tragically (if not fatally) flawed to another degree.

Promotions that simply bribe a consumer into trying a product, without even bothering to honor the possibility that the product does have some intrinsic value the consumer may want, or advertising that simply dances around like trained circus animals, entertaining a viewer while forgetting to clearly introduce themselves to the viewer so that they can remember what the product is, let alone why they should care, all fail for the same reason. A lack of acknowledgment.

So, how does one apply this to the next great, possibly award-winning campaign (print, TV or online) for your product. Well, that’s what real advertising is. This is not a potion that can be poured into each concoction to produce miraculous results time and time again. This is an approach. In a way it’s really a humility. It’s the notion that you, the Advertiser, are perhaps intruding on the consumer and you should therefore choose your words (and pictures, colors, fonts, etc.) carefully, if you want to persuade them to your side. Not just Pop, and be loud and get their attention!

And ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Advertising is Persuasion, not selling.