On Advertising

I heard someone the other day say “the bloody ad’s ruined it” while discussing some television program or other they found enthralling but was interrupted a number of times by breaks for advertising messages. They, as so many do, describe advertising as a whole with an expletive attached, which is a shame. There is much rubbish advertising rubbish of course, maybe even most of it. However I’m not here to examine in minute detail the wrongs of an entire industry but if you just lump all advertising together with a dismissive description you are doing one of the most powerful forces in the world a disservice. I’m going to have a look at why advertising is truly awesome in great and terrible ways. I’ll finish up with what I think is about the coolest recent advertisement I’ve seen, so stick around

If you know anything about me you’ll know I do not have any sort of qualifications other than experience to discuss this of course so some students of marketing and so on may have an opinion, I hope so.

I made up my own variation on a similar quote I’m sure was once uttered.

“Advertising is the bastard child of marketing”

In simple terms Advertising is just the result of a marketing exercise. Marketing is the science of making you want to buy the wares of a particular corporation over another whose marketing is less effective. Why is it awesome though?

Look around you!

That Sony television, why did you choose that over the Samsung? Anything to do with the Iconic Sony Walkman forming the way you thought of a corporation when you were first able to carry your tunes around in your ears as a teenager? Think about it! Why do you think Gap is cooler than Boden? The clothes are pretty similar. For a more extreme example, Abercrombie and Fitch over Marks & Spencer’s Blue Harbour range? Different planet of perception based upon what is written upon the clothing. There are a million examples of how your perception of a product is based on an advertising campaign or marketing message. You have altered your lifestyle or movements, your needs above the essentials are formed by your wants and your wants are formed by the advertising messages, the siren call that few can resist no matter how much you might think it doesn’t influence you. Rubbish, look around your home and surroundings. Everything you own was bought and decided upon based on the image that a marketing campaign created and an advertising campaign delivered for good or for bad. Let’s look at the insidious power of advertising and marketing first.

When I was a boy I thought the coolest image ever was the black John Player Special Grand Prix racing cars. I had no idea that John Player Special was a brand of cigarettes but when I started smoking I went straight for the black pack because it was the coolest. I had made my decision on which cancer delivery system I would choose based upon some black branding on a Racing car. I soon learnt that the cigarettes weren’t any good though so I switched to the new coolest ones. Marlboro Reds because they were the most manly and cool. We don’t need to talk about the power of the cool imagery of cigarette smoking over the years as now we know they are a fatal choice. But not so long ago even a dying or about to be executed man’s last request in block buster films or even real life was a cigarette! Meaning having a smoke is the most important thing in the world! Advertising convinced us of that!

The most successful and largest brand in the world is Apple. Everyone (apart from those who work in IT departments who pretend they don’t) wants an iThing. They queue up in cold streets for days to be the first to have the next iThing. People forget that in the 80’s Apple McIntosh was almost bust, an insignificant wart of the buttock of IBM who ruled the worlds computerisation. Then in the 1984 Super bowl, the single most watched television program on Earth, Apple put a television advertisement in a break in the game. A lady threw a sledgehammer through a ‘1984’ style movie screen and Apple was reborn. It is regarded as one of the greatest advertisements of all time, it changed a way of thinking and as a result of the saving of the Apple brand we now have iThings. Apple is now twice the size of IBM. (There is a post script of the departure of Steve Jobs the following year as well but this isn’t an Apple history lesson.)

There are jingles from Ad’s you heard as a kid you can still recall now, that’s actually amazing. We talk about the great ads we saw over time still, we actually buy old fashioned advertisements and put them on our walls! Guinness Toucans? Michelin Tyres? Iconic television advertising is talked about forever. The Guardian ad, the Guinness White Horses, look at the fondness for Hamlet cigars based on Rab C Nesbitt with a comb over being amusing. Hamlets are crap! You can suck one inside out in seconds but everyone loves and remembers the Hamlet ads and as a result they buy Hamlets over Waterman’s or Cafe Crème’s. Look at some truly terrible lager being drunk because the ads were cool! Carling Black Label and the Dambusters? Castlemaine XXXX and the Outback campaign. To be fair to Castlemaine XXXX though, which is widely regarded as weasels piss in Britain, it’s natural home is not in a pint glass in a pommy pub. It belongs in the Queensland heat and I can promise you that when it’s 40 degrees in the shade on a dusty day in outback Australia, an ice cold Castlemaine is nectar.

Yes the man shouting about his cheap sofas detracts from our enjoyment of our favourite television shows. You wonder who could possibly have approved some of the advertising messages beamed into our consciousness but so much of advertising is truly awesome in how it has completely transformed our thinking. Thanks to the incredible creativity and cleverness of a tiny few people we look at so many things about us in a way they have influenced rather than the opinions we may have had on our own, for good or for bad that’s an impressive achievement. The power of brand positioning, marketing and ultimately advertising influences so much of what we do during our day. A final example. You could not pay me to have a Samsung anything, if you gave me the most amazing piece of incredible Samsung gadgetry I would sell it or give it away, why? Because when I was young the house electronic brand of choice of that purveyor of poor quality household tat, Woolworths, was Samsung. To me Samsung is Woolies own brand electronics and I could never shake that knowledge. Any of their gear might as well have Woolworths written on it as far as I am concerned so I will never own a Samsung anything.

So there you go. Advertising, just view it!  See what I did there?

Now, as promised, the coolest recent advert on the whole internet. Turn your sound up, sit back and enjoy!

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12 replies »

  1. Horses for courses. As a contrarian I have never owned and never will own an i anything. But as a matter of principle I own a Samsung phone and a Samsung laptop. No kowtowing to the Californians!
    advantage, eh? advantage eh?)

      • I hate to be part of the crowd especially when it’s a large US multinational. No coke in my house, never visit McD, KFC etc.

        • Very sensible. next time you fancy a burger and won’t go to the usual suspects. I can recommend a visit to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Guildford. A Kiwi burger and L&P. Happiness!

      • The wife has an iPad which she is now surgically attached to. I have an iPhone (but I really could have had a ‘droid phone of some sort.)

        But I do have an iMac, and two MacBooks. And Windows runs better on those than on the Dells they replaced. I also like that I do not have to rebuild them once every 6-12 months to keep them working properly. And if I feel the need to really geek out, I go to the Terminal app and start tapping out Unix commands (something you can’t do with Windows machines.)

  2. Sorry about the error at the end. I was refering to Apple’s home court advantage in its court case against Samsung. Something got dropped.

  3. The point about (a lot) of advertising is that it is aimed at one particular demographic, a powerful group of people who decide family budgets, spending, holidays, clothing and even which car to buy. That group, white women aged 35-44. Which is why I want/need an iPad for Christmas 🙂

    Great post, Sandy. Hope you are well x.

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