The Promise of Advertising

I watched an interesting School of Life video the other day that struck me because it touched on a nagging doubt that plagues me as a marketing guy. The thought that I’m pouring all my creative juices into helping convince people to buy more stuff. Is buying more stuff really what anyone needs? Is this really helping people?

Here’s the video:

I love a good heart-warming, story-based ad campaign. I love being told a story that connects on a deeper level than simply “here’s our product, buy it now”. Don’t you?

A couple reasons why these kinds of campaigns are used:

  1. Brand alignment. Brands say, “you love family, we love family, let’s be friends!”
  2. Adding symbolic value. Attaching a story to a product makes the product more valuable. When the white earbuds came out, people snatched them up and wore them proudly, not because of their superior audio quality, but because they were a symbol of the kind of person they wanted to be.
  3. Making a huge promise. “This cologne will solve all your relationship issues.” This is the kind of campaign the video above is talking about. It sounds ridiculous when you think about it that stuff could really do what ads sometimes promise, but how many of us turn to things we can buy or consume when dealing with completely non-stuff-related issues?

I hope that great stories continue to be told in ads, not only because they’re enjoyable to watch, but that they might serve as a beacon to remind businesses of their greater “why”, and motivate companies to truly help deliver on the promise they’re making to the world.

Cause we all know that cologne won’t help you, you’ve got deeper stuff going on.

“We should be producing and selling stuff that we really need rather trading nonsense under the cover of our highest dreams.”