You know how salad ingredients are pretty boring on their own?

Lettuce, tomato, cucumber.

On their own they don’t have much taste.

So we add some mayonnaise, and pretty soon we have a tasty salad.

Fresh and crispy and flavourful.

But now we decide, since all the taste is in the condiment, we don’t need the boring part of the salad.

No boring lettuce or tomato or cucumber to get in the way.

All we really need is the tasty part that everyone loves: the condiment.

So we get rid of the lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and just serve up a plate of delicious mayonnaise.

But would we really expect anyone to eat a plate of mayonnaise?

Well we’ve just used exactly that logic to get advertising into the state we’re in at present.

Advertising started off with boring product claims.

Straight ads about why one product was better than another.

But this was dull, no one wanted that.

So everyone decided to make it more interesting.

We added nice music, beautiful photography, some jokes.

And when we added all that, people liked the advertising much more.

But then we figured, if people are enjoying the beautiful photography and the nice music, we don’t need the boring bit.

We can get rid of all the product information, all the logos, the voice-overs.

So we began serving up advertising that was nothing but beautiful photography and nice music.

Pretty much like serving up a plate of mayonnaise.

And we wondered why it wasn’t working.

If we were serving up nothing but the nice bit, how come nobody wanted it?

How come ad-blocking grew by 30% in 2016?

That’s 615 million people who can’t bear to watch this new advertising.

And how come everyone agrees advertising is worse than it’s ever been?

We’re serving up the part everyone likes, a nice plate of mayonnaise.

No boring logos, or information about what makes the product different.

Just the nice part.

Because we’ve all read the books that say emotion works and reason doesn’t.

That people respond with the emotional part of their brain, not the rational.

So we’ve thrown out the rational part.

And we’ve filled the entire space that’s left with nothing but emotion.

Nice music and beautiful pictures.

But we forgot one thing.

Take-out isn’t the same as what’s put in.

Martin Weigel, of Wieden & Kennedy, put it succinctly.

“Sometimes nothing is so effective at evoking an emotional response as a ‘rational’ message.”

The audience may not take on board everything we say, but they can still be swayed by how we say it.

The rational is what we say the emotional is how we say it.

In advertising, as in food, we need to flavour the what with the how.

If we throw out the what we are left with just a large plateful of how.


A large plateful of nothing but mayonnaise.