Here we are now, entertain us

As a person who has worked in the advertising industry for about 10 years now, there are few things that bug me more than being bored by an ad. It bears remembering that most people, when engaged by a brand are going to feel a sense of intrusion. For that reason the onus is placed firmly on us in the industry to be interesting, engaging and entertaining. It’s the least we can do after all. Bore me, and you’ve insulted me. Insult me – and you’ve lost me.

Time is precious. And the time of our customers is the most precious of all. Don’t think so? Of course you do, you’re smart. How many times have you been trying to enjoy a video on YouTube when a Pre-Roll comes stomping on into your life? I don’t know about you, but I actively try not to take in anything that a Pre-Roll says to me. I actually try to impose temporary amnesia so that my brain does not have to absorb its message. Why? Why the reaction? Because the vast majority of Pre-Roll creative executions are not bespoke to the format and generally offer me very little in return for my attention. To quote the late great Kurt Cobain, “Here we are now, entertain us”.

Some brands get it right – some, not so much. When Kmart told their agency Draftfcb that they wanted to promote the fact that they were offering free shipping for trousers bought online – the agency took that rather sedate message and injected humour (albeit a little low brow) into the ad. This was perfect for the brand audience and was pretty entertaining. Hence – the brand get’s engagement and then a receptive audience for their message. It’s not really rocket science is it? Entertain me, and I will listen, repeatedly.

Another example, which I’ve enjoyed in the past 12 months, was the WestJet Christmas Miracle campaign. I was torn between highlighting this, or the excellent Volvo Trucks campaign featuring Jean Claude Van Damme – but let’s focus on WestJet for a moment. Firstly it’s good to remind yourself when you watch this ad, that it is a full 5 mins 25 seconds long – something that online offers you, which TV cannot. But not only that, this is an ad that holds your attention from start to finish. Why? Because it shows you something you’ve not seen before, but which is familiar. It taps into the shared experience of Christmas time and the sense of family, gift giving and childhood wonder. But more importantly the ad makes you feel something. It does not need to tell me that WestJet have beautiful planes, attractive staff, great online deals and so forth. As a customer I assume as much and frankly, I don’t really care. I do however care about family, Christmas joy and seeing loved ones excitedly opening a much-wanted gift. Hence, I’ll open myself up to the brand and allow them to whisper their message to me at the end. I’m accessible, I’m pliable, and I’m listening – why? You know what I’m going to say here don’t you? Because you’ve entertained me.

Let’s compare this to the Hotels4U ad, which entered the collective sphere of consciousness for many at the beginning of 2014. This ad takes the approach of irritating you to provoke a response. I can applaud the lateral thinking and the reverse psychology of such an approach – but fundamentally an ad like this will only be remembered for being annoying. I have no doubt that there are particularly masochistic prison guards in Guantanamo Bay that would love to have a copy of this in their back pocket. But primarily, Hotels4U was trying to sell a product here. They have spent good money to engage with and communicate a message to an audience. Personally I believe their approach is as much an insult to the brand as it is to the customer. It’s wasting everybody’s time.

This might all seem blindingly obvious. But if so, then why the proliferation of such pointless advertising – which let’s be honest, customers aren’t even listening to. The reason, in my opinion is probably a mixture of fear and short sightedness. Fear to try something different, coupled with a lack of respect for audiences and their desires.

Advertising will always be, to our customers at least, the unwanted guest crashing their party. But it can choose to be an exciting entertaining stranger or a boorish irritating klutz with gravy spilled down its shirt. I know who I would rather have a conversation with.

Kevin Hanrahan

Image: © Anky10 | – NYC, Times Square Advertising

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