We’re too scared to have this conversation. Because it’s uncomfortable. I certainly feel that way writing this. Especially as a straight white cis able-bodied male. But I’m happy to be a punching bag. It’s a convo we need to have.

In a former agency life, we were in post-production on a million-dollar ad campaign. But after months of strategy, concepting, production, even testing – we got a surprising email.

“The Board has seen the offlines, and they’re cancelling the campaign.”

Seven figures of investment, pissed away. And the reason? “They think the campaign is a bit racist.”

Because we’d cast a person of colour in a major role. Who was holding some gardening equipment. Which the (all white) Board said elicited images of slavery and was exploitative.

But the script had nothing to do with slavery, in fact the character was successful and independent. Oh, and the actor wasn’t from a region you’d historically associate with slavery. We’d made a deliberate effort to cast diversly, and right at the finish line the brand stumbled over its own feet. And there were two fall outs from this.

Firstly, the client, and perhaps the agency, become a little more likely to cast “safer” (read: more straight white able-bodied people).

Secondly, a trend emerges where diverse talent is only cast into “safe” roles. Glorified extras. Often non-speaking. Never the baddie. Or the butt of the joke. Or, god forbid, someone with a flaw. Diverse talent don’t tend to get characters with depth, who are imperfect and interesting. The good roles go to people who look like me, while the paper-thin boring ones are allotted to diverse hires.

This was a while back, but not long enough that it isn’t scary. Particularly given how little has changed.

Just a few weeks ago, Dylan Alcott highlighted just how far we have to go when it comes to representation in advertising. Despite nearly 20% of Australians living with a disability, they make up fewer than 5% of people in our ads.

We need to do better. But, sadly, it’s easy not to.

I’ve been in rooms where there’s been a suggestion to cast, say, someone in a wheelchair. Not for a role which has anything to do with wheelchairs, but because, as Alcott says, people with disabilities “still buy cereal, fast food, toothpaste, insurance, underwear, travel and open bank accounts like every other Australian”.

But the argument against comes in many forms.

Five pushbacks you hear against making more inclusive ads.

1. Meritocracy should win.
How many times have you heard “We should just cast the best talent, irrespective of other factors.” This is super tricky. Because no one wants talent who isn’t up for the job. But this argument overlooks the privilege the “best talent” has been afforded – experience which hasn’t been available to others because we didn’t create the opportunities. It’s paradoxical.

2. It’s too hard.
“Diverse talent is more difficult to find and cast.” Yep. Absolutely. It will take time and money. But there are dedicated partners who can help with this.

3. It confuses the story.
“We don’t want to muddy the water by introducing an unnecessary element to the narrative.” Another one that is tricky. Stories should be simple. But don’t underestimate your audience – they can probably takeout the key message even if someone in your ad is on crutches. Or transgender.

4. It’s token and/or virtue signalling.
“We’re just doing it to be trendy.” No you’re not. This is how change happens. You can’t be what you can’t see. Social norming is critical to behaviour change.

This usually goes hand in hand with the fear of being labelled as woke. And I get it – brands should be cautious of being seen as political, particularly after Bud Light’s debacle in the culture wars last year. But you must understand your audience. If you’re a traditional brand targeting middle-aged conservative white men, maybe there’s some merit here. Sad, but true.

5. We don’t want to accidentally stereotype.
“What if we get it wrong and make things worse?” Well, you gotta do the work. And bringing more diverse people into the process is the best way to catch mistakes or unconscious bias. But don’t let perfection paralysis stop you – you get points for trying.

Sadly these hurdles all add up.

It’s too hard to be inclusive, and that’s why we’re not progressing fast enough.

Humans are creatures of habit. And we’re lazy. Once something gets difficult, it tends not to get done.

Any hurdle is enough to stop change. But many make it nearly impossible.

It’s really not good enough. We can do better.

Clearly whatever we’re doing isn’t working. If we want to see change, we need to disrupt the way we work. With initiatives more substantial than using foreign-sounding names in scripts. Or optional requests to “consider diverse casting here”.

Here’s a few we’ve been talking about. (Which are by no means new, nor mine.)

1. Mandate options.
Require at least one in three proposals aren’t from cis men – director’s treatments, crew, talent, etc. Make diverse casting options a requirement, not a throw away comment. And put them in front of clients.

2. Bring more diverse people into your team.
Hire people who don’t look like you, in your teams and in your crews. Take meetings with new partners and suppliers. This comes with the added benefit of making better work too – with more diverse insights and being able to tell more diverse stories. Set quotas.

3. Acknowledge it will take work.
A new generation of talent (in agencies, on camera, and behind it) aren’t coming from the same sources as the last. We’ll have to work harder to find them, convince them, and cultivate them. Start mentor programs, allocate resources and investment, and be willing to get it wrong.

4. Track objective data.
Audit your employment records and call sheets. Collect better data moving forward (ask people for their pronouns and background). Set targets, publish them and hold yourself accountable. Transparency matters.

5. Start having tough conversations.
I can’t tell you how many productive conversations I had just writing this. These topics are messy. There’s nuance, and grey, and emotion, and politics. But we need to start talking about it. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s uncomfortable.

It’s time to move beyond wishful thinking. Because there’s too many barriers in the way, and it’s too hard to break through all of them. Instead we need more substantial efforts if this is something we really want to tackle. And it starts with a convo.

Maybe then we can drive change, to reflect the real face (and body and mind) of Australia.

Zac Martin (he/him) is a Planning Director at TBWA\Melbourne. This article was originally published on Mumbrella.

We’ve been trained to fear wear out. The premise that at some point, consumers get tired of an ad so much so it becomes ineffective. Or even damaging to the brand.

We spend a lot of time talking about it. And money measuring it.

Wear out is not a bad thing.

We know marketers get sick of things long before consumers do. When we work on it every day, of course we do. But consumers don’t get that kind of exposure to your brand.

Research from Analytics Partners tested more than 51,000 ads and found only 14 of them showed signs of wear out. And most of those were announcement ads which naturally lose relevance.

Even if punters do supposedly get tired of ads, it doesn’t adversely affect buying behaviour. In a recent Reddit thread, Aussies were asked “Which advertisements do you hate so much that you wouldn’t buy their product?”. Popular answers include KFC, Crimsafe, Budget Direct and National Tiles – some of the most effective campaigns running at the moment. In fact, KFC was just crowned Australia’s most effective advertiser at this year’s Effies.

Don’t worry about wear out, worry about wear in.

As humans, we like things that are familiar to us.

It’s why bold work can tank so badly in pre-testing research. Unfamiliar = scary. Advertising is the same. Ads grow on us, and often so does attribution and message take out.

Building memory structures (muscle memory) takes time.

Many ads actually get more effective the longer they run, not less. Research from System1 found the worst-case scenario for long running campaigns is they maintain their effectiveness, but where they use characters or slogans, results actually improve over time.

It’s hard to imagine now, but Yellow Pages’ Not Happy Jan ran for four years in the early 2000s. And this was pre-fragmentation. Now with so many channels, and divided audiences, it takes even longer to culturally imprint something.

Do you think we’d still be quoting it today if it ran for 12 weeks?

Good ads age like wine, not milk.

Of course, time isn’t the only thing that matters. This isn’t an excuse to be terrible at your job. Bad ads that run for a long time are still bad ads. Disruptive work, which breaks conventions, works. A 2013 paper found “creative ads that are more liked, demonstrate wear in effects more quickly, and are less susceptible to wear out”.

In 2022, NAB relaunched their brand platform More Than Money – disrupting the category by acknowledging how wild the world was feeling. By giving new meaning to the line they’d been using since 2016, they delivered a 5.1x profit ROI, and the highest consideration for the brand ever.

So, what did NAB do in 2023? They kept running the same ads. Attribution and message take out improved over time, not declined. And because the campaign ran again, it allowed for optimisations to drive further effectiveness.

Or take a more extreme example – Irn Bru in Scotland have been running the same Christmas ad since 2006.

It was disruptive then – emotional storytelling for the holidays long before John Lewis made it a thing. And it’s still working now – between 2014 and 2023, ad testing metrics improved by 30%. In 2021 it was voted as Scotland’s most memorable Christmas ad.

It helps if your brand hasn’t changed in decades. And you’re not releasing a new car, a new phone, or a new burger. You probably won’t run the same ad for 18 years. But it might stretch further than you think.

So, we say pray for wear out. Because it means it worked. It means you had a disruptive piece of creative, and the media investment to achieve enough reach and frequency. And you stuck to your guns long enough that you didn’t leave anything on the table. It’s bloody hard to do.

If you achieve wear out, pat yourself on the back.

Zac Martin is a Planning Director at TBWA\Melbourne. This article was originally published on Mi3.

I grew up poor.

Three boys on a Dad’s single-parent pension.

In my final year of high school we didn’t have car. Which sucks when you live in the country. I would have given up hockey, which was a 45-minute-drive away, if not for one of my teammate’s Mum. She offered to take me to games every Friday evening, and stay overnight at her house. I’d never met her or her son before that year. She was just a generous person.

My school shoes would wear out halfway through the year, in the middle of winter. But I had aunties who wouldn’t blink in buying us a new pair. Or paying for hockey fees. Or paying for repairs on the car when we had one.

But many kids aren’t so fortunate.

That’s why I’ve long been a supporter of State Schools’ Relief. They’re an incredible Victorian charity – helping kids in public schools by discreetly providing shoes, uniforms, iPads, glasses, and more.

Last year they assisted more than 67,000 students. That’s 1 in 10 public school kids in Victoria.

And I’m pleased to say that I’m joining their Board as a Non-Executive Director.

For 15 years I’ve been volunteering on the Board of my hockey club. (Funny how that one Mum’s generosity kinda kicked off this whole thing.) But for a while I’ve been thinking about doing something with more impact and scale.

So I applied for The Observership Program. It’s an initiative designed to bring young (ish) people onto Boards – providing training and experience observing a non-profit organisation in action.

I’ve spent this year observing the very well run non-profit Regional Arts Australia, sitting in on Board meetings, seeing the concept of “noses in, fingers out” in action. Which gave me confidence to build a game plan for getting onto a Board officially.

And State Schools’ Relief just happened to have an opening.

If you’re interested in joining a Board one day, I can’t recommend The Observership Program enough. Applications open in July each year.

In a cost-of-living crisis, more Victorian kids need more support. Please donate to State Schools’ Relief.

Despite the fact it’s our bread and butter, as an industry we don’t talk enough about how advertising works. Like, how does seeing an ad actually process in your brain? And how does this ultimately influence buying behaviour?

And these are important conversations. The way you think ads work will shape the concepts you turn into campaigns. Or what your clients will buy. Or what creative teams are trying to sell.

So how do ads work? Let’s propose two opposing schools of thought. One which punches you in the face, the other which slowly wears you down. And interestingly you can almost perfectly determine which philosophy you subscribe to based on one question…

“Was Mouldy Whopper a good ad?”

It picked up a suitcase of awards, including the Cannes Lion Grand Prix and an Effectiveness Lion a year later. Here’s why it might just be the most debated ad of all time (at least among marketers).

Is a good ad one which grabs your attention?

The first school of thought suggests the ads that win are the ones which grab attention. They stop you in your tracks. You don’t ignore them because you can’t. And maybe you’re inclined to share them or talk about them.

Their mission is to make the brand famous. Often using that moment in the spotlight to communicate a key message, after you’ve grabbed someone’s attention.

Like this incredibly insightful work from Ikea. It takes a moment to click, but you’re rewarded for doing so.

Since The Long and the Short of It was published a decade ago, we know campaigns which aim for fame outperform those that don’t on all business metrics – sales, markets share, price sensitivity, penetration, and profit.

Salespeople have known this forever. The AIDA Model, which first surfaced in the 1890s, suggests before you can ‘sell’ to someone, you must first do something to grab them. Attention first, then comes Interest, Desire, and Action.

In his book Anatomy of a Humbug, Paul Feldwick explores the many ways ads can influence. He would call this school of thought “advertising as showmanship”. You arrest public opinion and entertain the masses. The results come thereafter. Mark Ritson might call these campaigns “empty but effective“.

When most ads aren’t remembered, this advertising fights to be noticed and recalled.

And if you’re nodding along reading this, you probably like Mouldy Whopper. You believe that being noticed is half the battle. A good ad is one that gets people talking, at almost any cost. You applaud brands like BrewDog, Nike, and Apple.

But there’s a second school of thought.

Are good ads processed implicitly over time?

The challenge with aiming for fame and grabbing attention, is it’s really bloody hard. And often asks a lot of the audience. Which is difficult when you’re driving past a billboard at 110km/h on the highway.

Even when we’re stuck at a bus stop – it’s rare we stop and actively process something. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman suggests we spend most of our lives in autopilot.

But this doesn’t mean the ads we ignore don’t work. Maybe good ads are the ones which lean into the zombie mode? In their 1997 paper The Attentional Blink, researchers found “Advertising has the potential to affect future buying decisions, even when subjects do not process the ad attentively and do not recollect ever having seen the ad”.

This philosophy is better aligned to the Associative Network Theories of Memory (Anderson and Bower, 1973), which suggests the brain builds associations slowly over time. For advertising, ideally, it’s connecting your brand to a need.

It’s not an argument for wallpaper. You still want these ads to be disruptive. Break conventions, be creative and elicit emotion.

But these they tend to be simpler. Easy gets. Your brain processes them implicitly. Only if they’re well branded (which is why Distinctive Brand Assets are so critical).

Consumers don’t have to be leaning in for ads to work.

And this can be contentious. Byron Sharp of How Brands Grow calls this ad “an excellent example of how great branding and creativity can work with a mere second of attention”. This ad doesn’t stop anyone in their tracks. But it’s not meant to.

Personally, I don’t see a lot of great creativity here. But the argument is for clarity and branding, connecting to a need.

Insurer AAMI have, for decades, been creating mildly amusing ads. None of which aim for fame, but slowly and surely build associations between the brand and insurance needs. They’re incredibly well branded. And they work hard.

In this school of thought, you embrace the fact that advertising is a weak force, which works very slowly.

And here, you probably don’t like Mouldy Whopper. The compelling argument against is that it simply builds associations of mould and disgust. The key message is buried behind a wall of attention your average punter won’t break through.

So which one is right?

You need jabs and right hooks.

The answer is both. The ideal marketing plan allocates opportunities for both schools of thoughts. A mix of hard-working-but-slow-and-steady ads in the background, and big moments in the sun which aim for fame (which are also hard working).

KFC have the right balance. Their marketing plan is built on ongoing campaigns like Did Someone Say KFC? (brand = long) and Shut Up And Take My Money (sales activation = short). And sprinkled between are big culture grabs like Michelin Impossible and KFC Weddings. And they can’t seem to stop winning effectiveness awards.

But most importantly, whichever school of thought you subscribe to, let’s talk more about it. Have a conversation (or debate). Ask your clients/agency where they stand.

Don’t try to pack a punch if your client is looking for something that simmers. Or vice versa.

Zac Martin is a Planning Director at TBWA\Melbourne. This article was originally published on Mumbrella.

Last month, Netflix released Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?, a documentary series on the infamous Harrier Jet consumer-promo-gone-wrong scandal.

It’s a real David and Goliath story. Deep into the Cola Wars of the 90s, Pepsi launches a loyalty program, and jokingly advertises the opportunity to purchase a US$23m military aircraft for 7,000,000 Pepsi Points. One enterprising young man discovers you can buy the required points for just US$700k, and a very public legal battle ensues.

The marketing industry has been quick to criticise Pepsi, suggesting the negative PR back then, and now with the doco, could easily have been avoided by ponying up for the jet. Spin a negative into a positive. But does the scandal actually harm Pepsi? Or help them?

Indeed, Byron Sharp suggests in How Brands Grow to never give people a reason not to buy you. But we might be stretching the definition of “a reason”.

People don’t walk through the supermarket debating the morals of brands. In fact, we don’t really make rational decisions at all. For the most part, we’re in zombie mode, not overthinking, grabbing whatever is easiest.

Our brain doesn’t like to think too hard. We like choices, and brands, which are no-brainers.

In that way, brands are like safety nets. Rory Sutherland says “brands don’t exist to make you think a product is excellent, rather to reassure you it won’t be terrible”. If it does what it says on the tin, and if I believe people like me won’t think I’ve made a bad decision, it’s a no-brainer.

Of course, for brands to be a safe choice, they must still tick the right boxes. You don’t want to be famous for unsafe reasons. When Vodafone’s poor network trended in Australia as #vodafail, it became a lot less choosable.

But is the questionable moral behaviour of a company really enough to make a brand unchoosable? And does it affect purchasing behaviour?

How does Volkswagen fare when they’re outed in the 2015 emissions scandal? Four years of consecutive growth (disrupted only by COVID-19).

Likewise, what happens after the Pepsi scandal plays out in the media over years? US market share grows +0.9pp between 1995 and 2000. Can’t have been too harmful, hey?

The best marketing science tells us humans choose brands which easily come to mind. Ehrenberg-Bass Institute calls it ‘mental availability’. Stand out, be noticed, and be recalled when needed.

Years of media coverage over a scandal which isn’t really a scandal, may have only helped Pepsi. And when millions of people spend hours once again with the brand watching the doco, I suspect PepsiCo won’t be too upset.

Of course, the lesson here is not “Do bad things”. As a general rule, people and brands should live by the motto “Don’t be a dick”. And there’s plenty of research suggesting consumers increasingly seek brands which align with their values (although I remain cautious of stated behaviour).

But we must be careful in overstating the extent to which a brand acting like a dick adversely influences buying behaviour. Unless it breaches the ‘safety’ requirement with something truly heinous, some bad PR and a few negative tweets likely help a brand in the long term. Not harm it.

BrewDog has largely built its business on this approach. The latest is a campaign calling out the World Cup. Cue massive criticism once it was revealed they’re still streaming games in their pubs.

This is the BrewDog playbook. Do things which stand out, even if it means some backlash. Maybe, in hope of some backlash. And it works, they grew 31% last year.

It’s a good reminder of Les Binet and Sarah Carter’s research in How Not To Plan: “In over 30 years of evaluation research, we’ve not seen a single example of an ad campaign that’s been shown to have a negative effect on sales. Not one.”

So, what is the lesson? Salience really matters. Do things to grab attention and disrupt. Push your brand into culture. Create work which people talk about and share. Aim for fame.

And yes, do good as well, but don’t forget the getting-noticed part. Heck, maybe even do both.

But there’s no point being right if no one notices.

Zac Martin is a Planning Director at TBWA\Melbourne. This article was originally published in Mumbrella.

There’s a tradie at my house. We’re talking about a local bar, who have gone full QAnon. Like, anti-vax posters in the windows.

“I guess we’ll have to hit up the other pub from now on” I say.

He looks at me and shrugs: “Nah, as long as the beers are cold.”

It was a good reminder we don’t spend nearly enough time talking to real people. Desktop research and bouncing ideas around your marketing/agency bubble really is a dangerous place to view the world (to butcher a quote from John Le Carré).

Real people don’t overthink brands. Only marketers and their agencies worry about “being authentic”. Or changing the world. Or whatever the latest white paper is claiming based on stated behaviour supposedly representing an entire generation.

People don’t need more purpose from their brands. Yes it can be a valid way to position your brand, or to build a campaign around, but it’s not the only way.

When you talk to real people you find it’s not that they don’t spend time thinking brands should be doing more, it’s that they don’t spend time thinking about brands at all.

In his book Decoded, Phil Barden shares a study where people were asked to purchase either their favourite brand or their non-favourite brand. Which one lights up the brain like a Christmas tree?

Despite common rhetoric, those buying their favourite brand are the ones who don’t light up (the left). Choosing something familiar to you is easy and doesn’t require thought. That’s how we like it. When we have to process the decision, we have to change gears. Which is hard.

Humans are hard-wired to be lazy. We don’t like to overthink. Or think at all.

Tom Roach says we need to “make our brands no-brainers”.

When we’re deciding where to grab a beer, most Aussies don’t have an internal debate about the pub’s position on vaccines. Or any other matter. Most people are ‘satisficers’ – good enough is good enough.

We must remember this when we’re building brands and creating ideas.

Our job as marketers and advertisers isn’t too difficult. Understand Clayton Christensen’s ‘jobs to be done’. Build distinctive brand assets. Connect your brand to a need. Invest in creativity to stand out, be famous and remembered. Then spend as much as you can building mental and physical availability.

Before worrying about your brand’s social cause, or how you might be able to save the world, consider if you’ve done enough to cover the basics needs real people want from you.

Be the car brand who comes to mind most easily when someone wants to keep their family safe (Volvo). Be the thing to bring when you’re told not to bring a thing (Favourites). Be the computer for creative people (Mac). Be the chocolate you eat when you’re not being yourself (Snickers).

Don’t overthink the importance of your brand. Or its role in the world. Because consumers don’t.

Instead, be the brand who comes to mind when someone wants a cold beer.

Zac Martin is a Planning Director at TBWA\Melbourne. This article was originally published in B&T Magazine.

Sometimes you come across something which is so obvious you feel stupid in hindsight.

Like Stephen Fry’s movement encouraging parents to Turn on the Subtitles when children are watching TV. Of course!

Another was when I first stumbled across the forgotten art of Acceptor/Rejector Analysis.

I realised, the way we analyse brand health market research is wrong.

You survey a sample of the target audience to better understand your brand funnel (awareness, consideration, etc.) and brand perceptions. The latter helps you understand how much people associate different attributes with your brand.

Normally it looks like something like this example. Sometimes it’s presented in a fancy spider chart.

The problem with brand associations

When presented with the data above, you might make a decision to double down on your strength (Perception A), or focus to repair a weakness (Perception E). Or if you compare the same attributes with competitors, you might identify white space to go after that.
But there’s two issues with this:

Firstly, it doesn’t tell you which perceptions matter to consumers. Your brand might have strong associations with “is a brand you can share with friends” but this perception might be meaningless in influencing decisions. Likewise you may under-index in “is an Australian brand”, but there’s no value in addressing it.

It’s not uncommon to have complementary research where you ask consumers which factors matter to them when making a purchase. But we know what people say and what people do are almost always different.

Secondly, the brand associations above are averages. This data includes both your most loyal heavy buyers, and those who despise you. Hardly useful.

Finding what matters by analysing the differences

To overcome these issues, we do Acceptor/Rejector Analysis. Rather than look at brand associations as whole, we split the data into two cohorts:

  1. People who are aware of you but not buyers, let’s call them Rejectors.
  2. And buyers, let’s call the… Buyers.

To turn the Rejectors into Buyers, we look at what makes them different. And we close the gap.

Here’s what the same data above looks like when it’s split out:

We’re less interested in the absolute numbers of each cohort, but rather, the biggest gap between them.

In the case above, a new insight emerges. Perception C was something we’d ignored to date – not quite a weakness and not quite a strength. But once we split it across the two cohorts, we see it is our most polarising brand association. The biggest difference between Buyers and Rejectors is the one we want to focus on.

So you would build a campaign to tackle Perception C.

The best part, this analysis you can often do for free using an old brand health study. No extra cost, just 15 minutes to cut the data in a new way.

Watchouts on Acceptor/Rejecter Analysis

There’s two things to keep in mind when looking at the gaps:

Firstly, sometimes people have a good reason to reject your brand. If you’re a brewery you probably aren’t interested in perceptions among Coeliacs. Avoid this by filtering responses for people who aware of you AND who don’t buy you AND who buy your competitors.

Second, as Jon Bradshaw reminded me, behaviour isn’t linear. People don’t always think or feel first, then act. Often it’s the other way around – your thoughts and feelings change after you take action. Cognitive dissonance means we’re great at post rationalising, and why some suggest the fastest way to change behaviour is action first, then thoughts and feelings take care of themselves.

As George Box said: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

Zac Martin is a Planning Director at Ogilvy Melbourne. This article was originally published in CMO Magazine.

If you’ve been around advertising long enough, you’ve probably seen (or written) a slide which says: “They won’t remember what you say, they’ll remember how you made them feel.”

But it’s wrong. Our understanding of how emotion is used in advertising has been ill informed and poorly applied.

Let’s rewind. It begins, like most strategy presentations, with The Long and Short Of It. In their seminal book, authors Peter Field and Les Binet suggest there’s only two types of advertising: sales now or sales in the future. Direct response, or brand building. Short, or long.

With this came the 60:40 rule of thumb (60% of your advertising investment in long, 40% in short) and direction on how best to execute in both. Short tends to be most effective when it targets tightly with rational persuasion. Long works best when it reaches broadly with emotional priming.

Those last two words are where the trouble begins. As with most business books, readers jumped on the headlines and pretty charts, but overlooked the detail.

The word ’emotion’ is not well understood. “Our brand ad must be emotional” is a generic statement that leaves too much to interpretation. Let’s bust some myths of what ’emotion’ in advertising isn’t.

Three incorrect uses of emotion in advertising.

#1 Ads do not need to make people feel something for your brand.
It sounds nice in the boardroom, but real people don’t ‘love’ brands. Most people don’t even ‘like’ brands. Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts has long been debunked, we know loyalty is a symptom of penetration. An emotional connection with a brand is rare, and certainly should not be an objective. Aim to get the people who don’t buy you at all, to buy you occasionally. Hardly a love story.

#2 Ads do not need to communicate an emotional benefit.

For this I think we can blame the Benefit Ladder.Many of us were taught to climb as high as possible when writing briefs, beyond the product’s features to the rational and emotional benefits. While a helpful tool in unpacking the consumer problem, there’s little evidence to suggest the benefit being communicated must be emotional. The best ad of all time is a product demonstration, the message is rational. “Our trucks are really stable.”

#3 Ads do not need to show emotion.
Having someone cry on camera can elicit emotion (more on this below) but it’s not the only way. Having a killer soundtrack works too. So does telling a good story. Or a joke. Even a rational message or fact can cause an emotional response. Your ads don’t need to show emotion to trigger emotion.

Emotion is a tool that makes memories stronger.

The intention of long advertising is to establish and refresh memory structures. You want to build mental availability, allowing people to easily recall your brand in future buying situations.

But consumers don’t really ‘think’ through most purchases. They run on autopilot.

Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, would call this System 1 Thinking – instantaneous and driven by instinct. Here is where we process and recall memory automatically. And here is where we absorb messages not through deliberate and conscious processing, but rather, emotional response.

Emotion is a tool which helps encode memories.

An emotional response is not the goal of long advertising, but a means to an end. Getting people to feel something helps them build memories. Ideally attaching your brand with a Category Entry Point (a fancy way to say need-state).

Emotion builds muscle memory. Or as Claire Strickett, whose tweets largely inspired this article, explains more articulately: “Emotion is the ink memories are written in.”

Consumers won’t remember the ink, but they will remember the words. Likely without realising it, on autopilot. So no, consumers won’t remember how ads made them feel, but moving them is how you build strong brands that are recalled easily and often.

We need a better word than ’emotion’.

The word ’emotion’ figuratively comes with baggage. It’s a big concept, not easily defined, and therefore easily misused and abused.

Rather than ’emotion’, I propose we use the word ‘reaction’.

If the objective of short advertising is action, then the goal of long advertising is reaction. An emotional response to build memory, associating your brand with a need.

Next time someone says we need to use emotion in our ads, ask them for a definition first.

Zac Martin is a Senior Planner at Ogilvy Melbourne. This article was originally published in CMO Magazine.

The world around us is riddled with signals. As our industry continues to turn its back on traditional channels, we cannot overlook their value.

In Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari points to our strange fascination with lawns. They are expensive, especially difficult to maintain before mowers and sprinklers, and serve no functional purpose. Instead, gardens told locals the owner must have been rich to afford such a green extravaganza. If you visited a Duke and saw his lawn was in bad shape you knew he was in trouble.

Gazelles have been observed repeatedly jumping up and down, an act called stotting. This seemingly strange behaviour makes little sense at first glance. One assumes the smart thing to do when you could end up prey to a hungry lion is conserve energy. But researchers hypothesise the opposite is true – the unnecessary exertion of energy is in fact a warning to predators. “Don’t even bother trying to out run me, because I have so much energy that I can do this all day for no reason at all. Go find an animal that isn’t showing off, because he’s preserving the little energy he has.”

In one study, researchers reviewed a range of apologies to understand which succeeded with positive public reception and which failed. The most important factor in effective apologies? Cost. Not what was said, but if it was hard to say. The apologiser must sacrifice something in the apology – financial, opportunity, or reputation.

How we do the things we do says something about us. Our behaviour transmits, not just the messages we broadcast.

Advertising works the same way.

Rory Sutherland argues costly signalling is what makes advertising effective. Super Bowl ads work not only because of their ability to convey information, but in their inference. Consumers know Super Bowl ads are: (1) seen by many, (2) consumed collectively, and (3) are bloody expensive.

Cost matters. Actions speak louder than words.

It’s why when you get married you declare your love: (1) in front of lots of people, (2) when they’re all together, at what is presumably (3) a very expensive day.

Conversely, digital advertising has the opposite perception. Consumers know when they are served a Facebook ad that it’s: (1) highly targeted, (2) individually consumed, and (3) cheap. Like a bad apology, little has been sacrificed.

In Ads Don’t Work That Way, Kevin Simler suggests advertising is most effective when it achieves cultural imprinting. Here you influence not the association of the brand itself, but of the people using it. If you choose a PC over a Mac, it says something about you. Microsoft can only begin to change this perception through common knowledge – consumers must see an ad, but they also must know (or suspect) their friends have too.

Put simply, we value things more highly when we know others value them too. Brands who spend big signal confidence in future cultural uptake.

Here’s a comment I recently saw on a Facebook ad.

On social media people either know they’re being hyper targeted, which loses its social proof value, or they think it’s underperforming because they can see the crappy view count. This explains why platforms like Instagram have started hiding vanity metrics from consumers – if the signal is weak, distort it.

Sacrifice also brings about reassurance. It infers quality, reliability, and future success. When Uber Eats cast Kim Kardashian, they’re telling us they intend to be around for a while.

The Natural Monopoly Law says the biggest brands attract the least knowledgeable users. Given most customers of a brand are non-buyers or light buyers, it means big brands get bigger. We’re herd creatures who follow the norm. Nothing succeeds like the perception of success.

We’re attracted to the brands with the biggest, greenest lawns.

To get the greenest lawn, you need to waste water. And time. And real estate.

John Wanamaker famously said “I know half of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” In his seminal 2004 paper, Tim Ambler responded “The waste in advertising is the part that works.”

Yes, old school advertising creates waste, but it also signals.

Of course, don’t throw out your digital advertising. Peter Field and Les Binet tell us effective brands think long and short, and digital can be very efficient in driving the latter. But when you’re playing the long game, remember traditional media’s value lies as much as in its signal as its ability to broadcast a message.

Brands who waste time and effort and budget in stotting will be the ones that win.

In February I published a guide on How to Freelance in Advertising.

It’s been downloaded 5,000 times from 65 countries. And I’ve had some really lovely feedback. Just last week I was sent this bloody nice message:

“I’ve just gone freelance and it’s been my bible. I’ve now got a financial framework (I wouldn’t have had the foggiest) and have even upped my rate thanks to you. I just wanted to say a big thanks! Keep doing stuff!”

But something interesting happened as I was writing the conclusion. Getting a little self reflective, it triggered a long term need for something more fulfilling. Clients and projects I could sink my teeth into and do some proper damage with. (Maybe not the best analogy.)

And the stars aligned. After freelancing with Ogilvy Melbourne for a few months, they asked me to come on board. Today I start with them permanently. Still only four days a week, of course.

Time for the next chapter. 👊🏻