Adam Morgan is the author of Eat the Big Fish, the book that introduced the concept of the Challenger Brand.
Like the rest of us, Adam is aware advertising has become very, very boring.
Unlike the rest of us, Adam is doing something about it.
He’s made a series of podcasts called Let’s Make This More Interesting, and he interviews people from other walks of life to see what we can learn from experts outside advertising.
One of these is Maz Farrelly, she’s produced TV shows with a worldwide audience of BILLIONS and, in 45 minutes, she gives an advertising master-class.
She says dullness comes from laziness: “Thinking is harder than not thinking.
Everything has an interesting story but most people are too lazy to ask the questions to find it.”
She gives a simple example, going to get a coffee she passed a young boy with a tray full of Legacy Day badges, the Australian equivalent of Poppy Day.
He said to her, “Wanna buy a badge?”.
She couldn’t help herself, she said to him, “You’re not selling badges.”
He said, “It’s true, I haven’t sold many so far, wanna buy one?”
She said, “No, I mean you’re not selling badges, you’re selling thank-yous.”
He looked confused, so she explained:
“You’re selling thank yous for people like me who are too scared and lazy to go to war.
I have no discipline, I will never go to war, you don’t want people like me fighting to keep this country safe.
I want someone else to do my dirty work so I can live in a country that is free and safe.
And I think what you’re doing is you’re selling thank yous to someone who’s been to war for you to keep Australia safe.
I don’t think you’re going to sell many badges, but I think you’d sell a lot of thank yous.
I’m going to get a coffee and on the way back I want to see all those badges gone.”
And she came back the same way and sure enough nearly all his badges were gone.
She asked him what about his pals, and he said, “They’re still selling badges, they’ve got loads left”.
Maz says that’s the problem with the way most of us do our jobs.
We think we’re selling badges, but we’re not selling badges, we’re probably selling something much bigger than that.
By ‘making the effort to think’ she means asking questions.
Over the course of her career she reckons she’s interviewed around 12,000 contestants for her shows.
She says, when asked how they feel most contestants always give the same four-word answer: “I’m excited but nervous”.
Lazy producers let it go at that, but a good producer bothers to ask questions.
For instance, one producer asked a contestant, “What are you nervous about?”
The contestant said, “Well, I’m a lawyer, all my family are lawyers: my mum, my dad, my brother and sister, they don’t know I want to be a singer.
I gave them tickets for tonight but they don’t know I’ll be on stage, singing.”
The producer then found her relatives in the audience and asked them if they had any singers in the family, they said: “No we’re all lawyers, even our daughter. She can’t be here tonight but she sent us these tickets.”
The producer told the cameraman to stay on the family while their daughter took the stage and sang in front of the huge TV audience.
The family’s astonished reactions made great television, but it wouldn’t have happened if the producer hadn’t asked the question.
Maz’s main message is people won’t be interested unless we’re interesting.
And we won’t be interesting unless we make the effort, which is why most advertising is dull.
We just accept whatever dull brief we’re given without questioning it.
And, as Maz Farrelly says, “Dull doesn’t convert”.