"The Perils of Advertising By Committee"

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Jul 1, 2009 by Mark Maier

"Mama's, Don't Let Your Ads Grow Up To Be Camels" caught my attention, it uses a very common problem we encounter with clients..."Let's have everyone in the business look at this and see what they think".  How many times have you heard that and by the time you get onto actual production, the simpleness of the campaign is gone in a barrage of details, phone numbers, and directions that nobody is going to remember....

"Released earlier this year, Creating Results Photo Finish survey looked at what styles of imagery were most effective with mature consumers. From the just-turned-40-Gen Xers to the nearing-their-90s Greatest Generation, the majority of respondents agreed on one thing:

Single images are more effective than collage-style layouts.

As Baby Boomers have grown up, so has advertising. This was one of the first generations to be mass marketed to. (Heck, given the size of the Baby Boom, it was mass everything.) They're savvy consumers -- seen and heard it all. It's easy for these mature consumers to tune out the painstakingly created and pricy advertising.

To engage Boomers today you need to appeal to their brains as they are today.

In his seminal book, Ageless Marketing, David Wolfe beautifully explains the changes that happen in our brains, bodies and behavior as we age, and what that means for marketing. For example, Wolfe shows clearly that verbal memory declines faster than visual, and that consumers become more right-brain oriented. The right brain is where emotions and memories reside. The right brain works in sensual imagery, not words.

What does that mean? A picture will tell your story far more effectively than words.

Photos do tell a story -- a complete story that is more quickly perceived by older customers than younger customers. This is one of the great benefits to the way our brains age: mature consumers get the gist faster.

In our research, 66% of all respondents chose single-image ads over those featuring multiple photos. This preference grew stronger with age, education and income level.

So why are many marketers still churning out ads chock full of small images? Reasons include:

We can relate.

We once had a client who asked us for truly break-out creative. They said they didn't want to look like all the others in their space, running filmstrip ads with lots of small pics featuring posed, smiling (stock) older couples. Let's be bold. Let's be different, they urged.

Our design team answered the challenge with a concept that featured single, large photos. These were sensual images that evoked an emotional reaction. A chair by a pond. A painter's easel in a meadow. The ads invited Boomers and beyond to put themselves in the picture.

The concept tested beautifully with our client's target audience. Yet, the client was actually a committee of five. Each had their favorite picture, each had their own biases. The final published ad was a filmstrip with four photos of posed, smiling (stock) older couples.

In other words, the final ad was a camel."

Interesting example yet very consistent to what we see when we visit with Broadcast and Interactive clients, too much detail in too little of a space.  I think of the most successful ads and they typically are the simplest at communicating one message and doing it very well.  Let's help our clients understand this.

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