A glass half-full approach to advertising

19 June 2019 / Abbey Gaunt

The Cannes Lions 2019 agenda is brimming with discussions around tech, diversity, the agency of the future and what it takes for a brand to succeed. On the subject of brand, the IPA and Advertising Association hosted a panel session, Rebuilding Public Trust in Advertising, stating that in order for the industry to reignite trust in consumers, it needed to rethink its behaviour. From reducing advertising 'bombardment' through to considering advertising frequency, re-targeting and data privacy; we need to re-evaluate how we do things in adland. 

During the presentation, The Advertising Association reminded marketers from the world's leading agencies and brands, how advertising can or should drive social change. Commenting on the issue, Brand Planner, Abbey explores how brands can demonstrate brand purpose and drive positive social changes at a time when the industry is being strangled by negativity. 

Last month, Mark Ritson wrote about how people hate ads (read here) and whilst doing so managed to crush my ‘millennial’ optimism flat out. Despite another discouraging article about the divide between the consumer and the marketeer, I know the situation can and will change.

“People don’t care about ads. But by accepting they don’t, you’ll better understand how to make an effective one.”

We know all too well that consumer trust in marketing professionals is at its lowest. The UK Veracity index reported last year that we are in fact perceived worse than politicians - and just to cut deeper, the research was carried out during Brexit.

We’re not here to change the world. But if you still think our only job is to sell, you’re wrong. Why? It all comes down to a beautiful philosophy from Wieden and Kennedy.

Hate something? Change something.

Over 10 years on, the words from Honda's ad still resonate a glorious truth. Should we use consumer hate for advertising to spark a positive transformation of our industry?

You're probably thinking: “Our clients won’t give a damn about this.” or “Yes it’s all good and well, but being nice won’t hit sales targets.” But maybe it could?

Cynicism matters. Accenture published a stat earlier this year which shook marketers. 54% of companies have experienced a drop in consumer trust over the past two years, contributing to a combined loss of $180bn in revenue. Behind every cynical person is a disappointed idealist. We’ve taught society that the only way out of feeling like a total failure is through a sense of belonging attached to a Yeezy shoe or beauty blender. Our tactics have become more manipulative and deceiving.

How are these any different?

Advertising needs to re-evaluate its role in society. Authenticity is not just a buzzword. Anti-advertising highlights our current defeatist approach, reinforcing the idea that we are the public enemy. Gone are the mad men days, we are slowly, but ever so surely, distancing ourselves from culture and creativity.

Why are we sending out disingenuous apologies for who we are, when we can simply pledge to do better? Our industry should not have to stay this way. It’s not going to last. With a sense of complacency and relying on our heritage to justify why it’s okay to stay dishonest. It's clear that the divide between marketers and consumers will widen if we don't change.

The cynical consumers we’re struggling to sell to today are breaking into our industry with fresh idea’s that could knock your outdated tactics out of the park. Experienced advertisers have the responsibility to stop using quick wins and take the pledge to be better for consumers. Young advertisers need to speak about the flaws they see in the industry to add a new opinion to the mix. If we do this, I’m certain we can evoke change.

We have to start listening to our fellow marketers who genuinely care about consumers. Who believe in brands. Young or experienced, tall or have scales. If we represent who we sell to; we are able to consciously make the pledge every day to do better.

Here is my 5-step starting point to begin this change:

  • Be less intrusive.
  • Say sorry when you need to. We're human; sometimes we mess up.
  • Clean up your act. When you make a claim, make sure that your brand behaves that way. Change needs to come from the inside out.
  • Carefully choose your platforms.
  • Select values which make sense to your brand and not because you'd love to partake in greenwashing.

But if you’re to take one thing away with you - remember to question the hate.

Can hate be good? Can hate be great? Can hate be something we don’t hate?