While reading a 2009 interview with Marc Newsom, I was struck by this seemingly innocuous exchange.
Louise Neri: Is the Solaris a unisex watch?
Marc Newson: Yes, I’ve never really designed for men or women but most of my watches tend to appeal to men because of their scale and weight. Perhaps this is the first of my watches that will appeal as much, if not more, to women.
Maybe it's my obsession with the negative, but it seems to me that what he should have been asking why his previous watches had repelled many women. It's a similar question, but different.
That's one of the nicer variations on the inattention blindness theme originally demonstrated in the famous invisible gorilla experiment from 1975. Slickly and amusingly done.
Unlike this new Skoda ad.
The obvious edits are irritating enough, but then what are we left with? Here's a car that holds your attention. That's not even a minimum viable proposition.
I thought we'd all agreed that attention was a given and marketing needed to aim for more than that, but apparently the memo didn't reach everyone.
What's worse is that the experiment shows that people are inattentive. People don't notice things. That's how you should use it in an ad.
You should not use it to suggest that people who are inattentive will pay attention to your car simply because it's parked in the street. There's no explanation as to why they would pay less attention to anything else that was parked there. Worse still, repeated viewings will inevitably focus attention on everything but the car.
The whole point of research is to unearth a new truth, not to underpin a lazy creative idea.
Sometimes, I just don't understand advertising. I get the idea of creating a character to represent your brand - a bit hackneyed, but I get it.
I see that the bottle has a wild boar on its cap (I'd never noticed that before), so I can see the link to heritage and authenticity. I get it.
But what I don't get is this. Gordon the Boar. What does that conjure up? Gordon the Bore, Gordon the Boor, or Gordon the Boar (aka Pig)? He doesn't even transform into a hip sophisticate (as indicated by the use of lime rather than lemon) upon imbibing the gin.
In school, they teach you that the most important parts of essays are the introduction and the conclusion. They even suggest you compose them after you've completed the rest of the argument so that the whole thing flows. Performers know all about this, but many business people seem to have forgotten it.
The most obvious manifestations for me have been innumerable presentations that start and/or end apologetically. Too often, the start is either a fumbled vote of thanks for a pointless, overblown introduction or that interminable rundown of what's about to be presented. The end amazingly is either the self-effacing "that's all I've got to say" or a re-run of that interminable rundown of what's just been presented.
This in an industry where narrative is so loudly touted. So, time for a couple of performers to remind us how to do it.
From Bill Hicks, here's all you need to know about the opening.
"NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that."
In other words, begin like you know where you're going and take your audience with you. Don't ask them a question, remind them of one they want to answer and then tell them how you can answer it.
And from Chris Rock, here's the way to end.
That's not the best example of the mic drop (there's one TV special where I'm sure the camera lingers on it on the stage), but you get the message. There's nothing more to say, it's all been said and there will unequivocally not be a diluting and embarrassing encore.
In other words, end on your terms. Get your points across, have the confidence that that's more than sufficient and don't be tempted to tag on some parent company logo or rushed details of some new discount.
And don't think that this has just been about presentations. These errors pervade all forms of communication and marketing.
The longest five seconds on the internet are the five seconds you spend watching that tiny corner countdown to the moment when you can skip the pre-roll ad on YouTube and focus on watching what you were looking for in the first place.
So Stella Artois, there's really no sense in serving up a version of your advertising that starts with five seconds of moody silence.
Because if you don't grab the passing viewers attention in those first five seconds, they're never going to see second six. It's basic stuff. Tailor your marketing to where it's received and not to the client's boardroom.
I always think I'm stating the obvious in my posts. It really shouldn't be hard to avoid marketing mistakes. But the "data" so often suggests otherwise.
The latest example festoons the walls of the escalators at the City Road tube station. In the pitch, there was no doubt much talk about leveraging social media. In the cold half-light of civic transportation, this means that every few feet there's a barely legible white on pink mini-poster comprising solely of a tweet from a user. So far, so meaningless.
It's the latest version of the invasion of movie marketing with ever more obscure five star review snippets. Yes, they may be "authentic" and yes they may all be a truthful assessment of the experience but, as with the movie posters, the reviewer has to have some credibility before anyone pays attention. Do the marketers really think that we'll sudddenly give credence to the opinions of strangers like those we've spent our journey ignoring?
Presumably so, because they also know that their escalator audience is literally mobile and yet have chosen colours that make it hard to read in the real world. Not that anybody who isn't a marketer is going to read them anyway because real people are either rushing up the stairs, their eyes focussed on the top, or they're stationary their eyes buried in their device - ironically leveraging their own social media rather than looking at the one they're being expected to admire.
The first rule of behavioural marketing is to market to the behaviours of those whose attention you seek. So, if you're going to be interruptive, you have at least to make an effort to make it worthwhile.
Fish were the fish are is only part of the equation, you also have to fish when they're feeding and make it enticing.
As Bill Bernbach said "If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic." Or part of an overlooked effectiveness award paper.
PS The tweets are for Lumia something - I had to check my notes because I truly couldn't remember.