I often talk about advertising that sells, and what we can learn from it to make our own advertising better.

There’s always someone who responds with “Why are you always defending bad advertising?”

This is the equivalent of Churchill saying we need to learn Rommel’s secrets in order to beat him.

And getting the response, “Why are you always bigging-up the Nazis?”

This is the lazy mind.

The mind (not just yours or mine: everybody’s) always defaults to the easy solution: the lazy solution.

This is because the mind is basically a pattern-making machine.

How the mind works is called “Gestalt”.

There is way too much information all around us all the time.

The only way to deal with it all is to group it into large, distinct collections of similar stuff.

So for instance, you don’t walk along the street analyzing the difference in the hundreds of cars you see (make, colour, occupants, number plate, age, condition).

If you did, you’d never get to the end of the street.

You just have the broad grouping “cars”.

And these broad-groupings (cars, houses, politics, food, shops, people, time) allow you to handle what would otherwise be a literally infinite amount of information.

So the mind is a pattern-making machine.

That’s its job, and that’s how it helps us survive.

That’s what’s good about it.

What’s bad about it, is when we need it to delve a little deeper into the patterns and actually notice the differences on a subtler level.

The mind doesn’t want to do that, that’s not its job.

No one wants to re-invent the wheel every time.

That’s way too much like hard work.

So let’s just default to one of the broad groups: Good or Bad.

So left to itself, the mind can result in bigotry.

By grouping things, and never questioning the grouping.

(That red vehicle is a car. Cars are bad. Therefore that red vehicle is bad.

Without ever bothering to find out that the red vehicle is actually a battery driven car, used by a paramedic to get to emergencies.)

Delving into subtler differences isn’t the mind’s job.

The mind is too lazy for that, it just likes big, easy groups

Orwell parodied this in Animal Farm.

“Four legs good. Two legs bad.”

That’s how propaganda works: oversimplify.

But propaganda, like anything else, isn’t necessarily bad.

It can be a force for good and, to an extent, it’s what we do.

Understand how the mind works so that we can use it.

Because that’s what we’re dealing with.

Changing and motivating people’s minds.

But before we can do anything with other people’s minds, we have to be able to control our own.

That means we have to investigate and question our own minds.

How does it work, and who’s in charge.

It won’t feel comfortable, because since we’ve been born we’ve learned to depend on our minds.

Probably, right now, your mind is telling you this is rubbish.

So you can switch off and stay with what you already know.

There’s no possibility of growth unless you have an open mind.

That mans investigating whatever’s new before you make decision about it.

The difference is between Skepticism and Cynicism.

Skepticism is where you say, “I won’t believe it until you prove it.”

Cynicism is where you say, “I won’t believe it, even if you prove it.”

All knowledge comes from Scepticism.

Ignorance and fear come from Cynicism.

So, when I talk about what we can learn from bad advertising, please be skeptical not cynical.