Favourising vs. Advertising: The Worm: Issue 1: 10th February 2004

Who’s to blame for our anxiety-based advertising? Bloody King Gillette that’s who.

Actually, he wasn’t bloody, he promoted an early safety razor. In his book Made in America Bill Bryson describes an early version of contemporary advertising, “… the great breakthrough in 20th century advertising came with the identification and exploitation of the consumer’s Achilles heel: anxiety. One of the first to master the form was King Gillette. Here was an entirely new approach to selling goods. Gillette’s ads were in effect telling you that not only did there exist a product that you never previously suspected you needed, but if you didn’t use it, you would probably attract a crop of facial diseases you never knew existed. The combination proved irresistible. Though the Gillette razor retailed for a hefty $5 - half the average working man’s weekly pay - they sold in their millions and King Gillette became a very wealthy man.”

The fact is that not all the things we find to worry about in life - and there are more and more - are real. Some are self-induced and some are due to ‘managed perceptions’ or manipulation. For the sake of argument let's suggest that advertising services represent the ‘adverse'; wouldn’t a more positive service be favourable?

Advertising in context is a part of the marketing plan, just a part. It may be above-the-line, but like the iceberg it’s only one-ninth of the whole, Advertising is essentially about seeking and confirming consumer preference. Main man, author of the old advertising testament 'Understanding Media', Marshall McLuhan observed that in the electronic age response to stimulus was virtually instantaneous.

And yet advertising itself hasn’t changed for decades. The suits got silkier, and the presentation got slicker, but the poppycock remains about 50% poppy (depending on your drug of choice) and 50% cock (as in ‘and bull’) . Do we expect the business itself to change? Of course not. The same rule prevails as in Government. No-one who has climbed the slippery pole (lubricated with snake oil) is going to change the system which promoted them.

Imagine a new improved 'advertising', called Favourising (favorizing in the U.S.). The idea being that rather than telling people what's good for them, we actually actively express the benefits of a product or service and allow them to make an informed decision. Within advertising and marketing, for all the talk about authenticity and keeping it real, what you get is ‘stuff that is made up’.

The latest industry success story is “experiential”. To quote Raymond Snoddy, ‘the name may be tricky to pronounce and the area of operations difficult to define but it [experiential] is now one of the hottest territories in marketing’. So, we have something unpronounceable, and ill-defined, and yet people still buy into it? But it must be fresh and original right? The glossy brochure suggests not, misquoting a 20 century-old Chinese wisdom: I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.

The Experiential CEO also spouts the old ‘chestnut’ about the consumer getting more and more ‘sophisticated’. Truth is, confuseder and confuseder is what they’re becoming, and it's actually unbecoming. Choice is stress. And the more information we ‘receive’ the more difficult it becomes to make a decision. This stress and difficulty creates greater anxiety and that's the lifeblood of advertising.

We've been programmed to respond to the latest in a long line of shiny distractions. The items we're sold are less and less rewarding and satisfying, and the buying cycle is on a fast spin speed, in ever decreasing circles. Products are proportionally more resource hungry, and yet the end result is products with a shorter useful life, and they lose their desirability even faster.

There are no razors today which costs half a week's wages, but then shaving is a drag in this stressed-out opt-in time-poor age. So we offer cheaper and faster… and no-one sees these as short-cuts. Why?

Because we've been programmed by advertisers to adopt this lowering of the quality of life as 'convenience'. Is it any wonder that our lives are going down the toilet? How long before a 'family company' makes people flushable because they're not convenient and they're definitely unhygienic.

© Jackade 10th February 2004