Monday, November 22, 2010

No one believes in advertising anymore.

There's a myopia running around that is nearly as virulent as small pox was in 1918 or the plague was in the 1300s. It's the notion that now, today, lately, no one believes in advertising.

I'm not debating whether or not this statement is true. What I am debating is the notion that no one believes in advertising is a new one.

It seems to me that Generation End of Alphabet has this misguided view of the world before them. That they somehow conceive people of my generation, or my parents', or my parents' parents' generation were without cynicism and doubt when it came to advertising. They were fools, don'tcha see, who couldn't see through the blandishments and come ons of Madison Avenue.

All they had to see on TV was a little hammer knocking inside someone's head and they imagined they themselves had a headache and they went out and bought Anacin or some such. We were dumb, docile and dupable. All you had to do was tell us to buy something and we bought it.

The fact of the matter is, people have always been skeptical about advertising. Certainly when I grew up in the 60s and 70s, we were probably more questioning than today's generations. When Vietnam was raging, we heard government death statistics on the radio every evening--statistics that tried to tell us the US was winning the war. We knew those were lies. We weren't stupid.

If anything, I'd say that today's generations are more susceptible to advertising than previous generations. For instance, they seldom go anywhere without being festooned by logos, mini advertisements for brands they support.

I know of no evidence whatsoever that today's consumer is any more or any less resistant to advertising than any previous generation of consumers. What's different is there is now a generation of know-it-alls who seem to take particular delight in telling the world that they are smarter and better than every previous generation. (This is the same generation that wears wool hats when it's 80 degrees out, spends $7 for a cup of slave-labor coffee and sports flip flops in the city filth in the rain.)

It's so much blather. Another chapter to file under the heading "This Will Change Everything."


Tore Claesson said...

I have four children. Various ages. The youngest just turned 11. What I have noticed is that they are indeed making fun of advertising. Like we did when I was young. They neither hate it or love it in general. If they watch TV they do use the fast forward button on the DVR skipping ads if the program they're watching has been prerecorded. They watch very few programs on TV. They don't just sit back and watch whatever's on as we often did when younger and there were less choice. They have video games and hulu and youtube if what's on tv isn't exactly what they want to see.
They play a lot of sports, real sports, outside too by the way. Just like we did. But there is a big difference between them and my generation growing up. We were indeed more questioning. The whole society was. Today questioning anything comes with punishment. While we questioned everything including the teachers in school they are not encouraged to. Today questioning a teacher in school has dire consequences it seems. Grades go down. Notes are sent home. Warnings handed out. So the kids learn not to question. And last but not least. As you point out, George, they are indeed walking advertising boards. They don't question that. We actually did. I guess we grew up in politically more aware times, for some reason, which also meant advertising was questioned as a manipulative tool. That also made the creative revolution possible. The society on the whole didn't respond well to silly frills. We wanted intelligent information served without trickery. Although we welcomed wit. As a matter of fact, the first agency I worked at didn't even call itself an advertising agency. Under the name it said "selling information". No, the hipsters of today are rather shallow compared to the youth of our day if you ask me. As someone said, they haven't produced anything worthwhile to read but the typography is excellent.
That the industry love to claim nobody believes in advertising today is the result of believing that the web gave us, the consumer, more control and therefor advertising can't work. Consequently pure manipulation is the only way to go, if you believe that. Trick us into to participate and interact. Embed, hide, strive for viral, make it a game nobody can resist, etc, etc. Sure, with uncontrollable spread of information online it may seem as the consumer is now in control in a way they were not before and therefor also in control of the messages. That is partly true. But the real truth is probably that we pay neither more nor less interest in advertising as such today. We're probably neither more nor less impressed by it. That goes for hipsters too. Or maybe, despite their cynical mask, they may the most impressionable lot out there.

Anonymous said...

MIllenials certainly don't buy into it the way their parents did. They watch very few tv shows so screw Neilsen data. They can be influenced but not in the same wayd (TV. PRINT). SO yeah, advertising continues but not as before.