WHY WE’RE CONFUSED ABOUT MEDIA
Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, unfortunately it must be lived forwards.”
Obviously, we can’t understand something that hasn’t happened yet.
The nearest we can get to that is called prediction.
Years ago Mike Greenlees predicted what would happen to advertising.
A fashion started for very expensive commercials no one understood.
Beautifully made, but dull and invisible to anyone outside advertising.
Mike said “That’s the way it’s going to go. Because it takes less courage for a client to approve an expensive campaign that says nothing, than a cheaper campaign that has impact.
For a cheaper campaign to stand out it would have to be controversial, confrontational, and daring.
There’s a lot of risk in that for a client.
For a client to approve an expensive ad that says nothing is much less risky.”
To me, that seemed silly.
The real issue, surely, was to do advertising that multiplied the advertising budget in terms of visibility.
Getting noticed, getting word of mouth, getting repeated.
If you did that you were creating free media.
Mike said, you just wait and see if I’m right.
Well I did, and he was.
Here’s why I think it happened.
It’s about lack of confidence and risk avoidance.
Broadly speaking, people are divided into two groups.
Opinion Formers and Opinion Followers.
If you look at any group of men, in a pub for instance, you’ll see one guy doing most of the talking and the others listening.
He’s an Opinion Former, they’re Opinion Followers.
One Opinion Former can influence many Opinion Followers.
So if you want to get into the language that’s how you do it.
You get Opinion Formers to pick up your message and repeat it.
That makes sense, right?
That’s the real media we want to trigger, right?
Now obviously Opinion Formers are a different kind of people to Opinion Followers.
They are more confident, more independent, more outgoing.
They like to stand out in a crowd.
So that’s the sort of advertising they like.
Opinion Formers look for advertising that is more unusual.
More original, ads that gives them something they can talk about.
But Opinion Followers aren’t like that.
They are quieter, less confident, wanting to fit in, happy to be led.
So Opinion Followers prefer advertising that is less challenging, more conventional, more predictable.
What sort of advertising should you do?
Well it depends on what effect you want.
Opinion Formers influence many Opinion Followers.
So that’s who you talk to if you want to go viral.
Not just internet ‘viral’.
Real viral, via the real social media.
If you want to get your ‘idea’ spread by ‘word of mouth’.
But that’s the problem.
The words “idea” and “word of mouth”.
To get picked up and passed around in the real viral media of people you need ‘ideas’ and ‘words’.
Not just executions.
Expensive executions don’t get spread by ‘picture of mouth’.
That isn’t how people work.
So visual advertising doesn’t get word of mouth media.
It can only be passed on via electronic media.
It can only be viewed via electronic media.
So it doesn’t live outside electronic media.
In other words, not in our real media: people.
It isn’t passed on at the pub, at Starbucks, on the train, in the street, in conversation, or anywhere our real media interacts.
So why do we do advertising like that?
Advertising that can’t get passed on outside the world of electronic media.
Well, back to Mike’s original point.
There are many more Opinion Followers than Opinion Formers.
So naturally, in advertising and marketing, there are also many more Opinion Followers than Opinion Formers.
People who are risk averse, who seek comfort and conformity.
And that’s who creates and approves most of the advertising.
Which is why Mike was right and the balance has swung away from ideas, towards expensive executions that don’t mean much.
And that’s why our media has changed.
From Opinion Formers to Opinion Followers.
And, although it feels safer, it’s actually a lot more expensive and a lot less effective.