Whatever is the current fashion, that must be the right thing to do for every product, in all cases.
First it was yelling and repetition (50s)
Then it was USP (60s and 70s)
Then it was hard-to-understand (80s and 90s)
Currently it’s YouTube.
Well here’s an unusual thought: what if different products and/or brands and/or audiences need different types of communication.
Take the middle class and the working class (think white collar and blue collar, if you’re happier with that).
Most people in advertising nowadays (client side and agencies) come from university.
This means most of them have had middle class upbringings.
This is responsible for the preponderance of esoteric, hard to understand advertising.
In the middle class the responsibility is on the person receiving the communication to interpret it correctly.
The person making the communication wouldn’t do anything so crass as saying exactly what they mean.
This would be seen as crude, and not caring for the other person’s feelings.
So they hint at their meaning in such a way that an intelligent person can work out exactly what they’re driving at.
Without either of them being embarrassed by direct communication.
So how you demonstrate your intelligence is by being able to grasp what someone means, without them having to actually say it.
This is the opposite of the working class.
Here the responsibility is on the person making the communication to get their message heard correctly.
Here simple plain communication is the only sort that has any chance of cutting through.
Subtlety will either be ignored, or not even heard.
So which kind of communication is right for advertising?
Well it depends what you’re selling, where, and to who. If you’ve got a product that you want to seem stylish and exclusive, then the subtle middle class esoteric style is probably best.
Because the audience has to work out what the advertiser is driving at.
Once they’ve decoded it, they will feel more intelligent and therefore the product is right for them.
However, this approach probably isn’t going to work in a commercial break in the middle of Coronation Street.
No one can be bothered, no one cares.
It’s not that one style is good and the other bad, it’s just that they both do different jobs.
You have different styles for newspapers, books, films, TV comedies, art, dance, in every other field of creativity.
So why do seemingly intelligent agencies persist in pushing the view that there’s only one style of advertising that’s right, for all products, in all cases?