The Advertising Apprentice

November 24, 2009

Ask the Ad Man Part Two

Welcome back to part two of my WordPress exclusive interview with Terry O’Reilly, co-author of the recently released The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture.

You’ll note that this second part is void of any You Tube videos and includes just a handful of external links. This was done intentionally because I want you to really read the insightful, information-rich answers Terry O’Reilly provides.

Its been a long five days but it’s finally here, you’ve made it to the second part of the interview! Without any further ado back to the interview:

You put a lot of emphasis on the importance of “the contract”, this concept is the focal point for chapter 2 and throughout the book you refer back to it. Is the unwritten contract your way for marketers to be taken more seriously and earn respect? (You can hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in October 2006.)

Actually, we think of the Unwritten Contract as a way for advertisers to respect consumers. Not the other way around. We feel all ads should give something back to the public. The least of which is to be smart and entertaining, the best scenario is if the ads underwrite the programming, or bring ticket sales down in cinemas, or pay for the editorial content in magazines and newspapers. It was a good deal back in the 1920s when it was first struck, and it’s a good deal now.

Since becoming more involved in advertising I’ve heard the term “under promise, over deliver” countless times. It’s a phrase you use in chapter 2 on page 42. It’s a concept I’m just amazed by as it makes a lot of sense. Can you elaborate a bit further on this idea for those readers that may not have previously heard this phrase?

Basically, don’t overpromise. Not delivering on a promise breeds cynicism. People lose faith in brands and companies as a result. If you make a promise, make it attractive, but then deliver way above and beyond the call. The impact of that will never be forgotten. That kind of over-service leads to brand loyalty – that ever so fleeting, but vital thing.

Focusing on your quote from chapter 2, page 45: “toning down ad creative can be like giving a speech to an audience of a thousand without a microphone”. How do you tap into that creative aspect of your brain, that is how do you get the creative juices flowing? (Would a book like Roy H. WilliamsMagical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads, be useful in getting people into that mindset?)

It’s a process, like all creative endeavors. You train your mind to be able to look at a marketing problem like a puzzle. You absorb all the research, work it, re-work it, tear it apart, turn it upside down, try coming in the back door, make odd connections, and suddenly forget all about it. Then, while mowing the lawn, the idea appears, courtesy of your subconscious. I don’t think you can teach someone to come up with ideas. It’s an inherent, intuitive skill set. It’s not magic. It’s hard work. I know very little about Roy Williams. Neither does the ad industry at large. He is a very small peripheral player with regard to the ad industry. Way, way outside it.

You describe in chapter 11 on page 251 how a lack of time in building relationships by the brand between themselves and the consumer is leading to “advertising is shallow, meaningless, and just an annoyance.” Is this a trend where if continued you see as having deleterious effects on the industry?

Yes. A true customer-advertiser relationship needs time to develop. And smart advertisers nurture that relationship over the long haul. So the less real time devoted to cultivating brand loyalty will have huge detrimental effects over the years, for advertisers specifically, and the advertising industry in general. That relationship between customer an advertiser is the most important thing in marketing. Period.

In the first paragraph of the Furthermore chapter you state:

“I’m often asked about what’s ahead – about the future of persuasion. I’m somewhat wary of taking on the challenge because so many who’ve snapped at the same bait have been hooked, played, landed, stuffed, and mounted as monuments to humankind’s inability to look forward.”

So I won’t ask you to describe for us what you think is in store for the future of advertising. Instead I’ll ask you about the list of “Things I’d like to change about advertising and marketing” found in this same Furthermore chapter. They include “no more junk mail”, “no more telemarketing” and “banish commercials from movie theatres”. What do you have against these three forms of marketing? (You can also hear more on this topic on The Age of Persuasion’s website in an episode originally aired in March 2008.)

They don’t honour the great “Unwritten Contract” we reference in Chapter Two. Mike and I feel all advertising should give something back to the public. At the very least, ads should be enjoyable. But on a greater scale, ads on radio should underwrite the great music you hear. Ads on TV should underwrite the great TV shows you watch. Ads in newspapers should underwrite the journalists salaried. Ads in magazines pay for the editorial content. But telemarketing gives nothing back. It just wants to take. Junk mail and spam are in the same category. Cinema ads should be making ticket prices come down, not sure that is happening. I think cinema advertising companies can figure out how to honour the contract. And they should. Every time the advertising industry doesn’t honour the contract, the public’s annoyance with advertising grows.

Discuss your thoughts on the challenge faced by reaching an audience that is becoming increasingly more fragmented day-by-day and that is so hard to reach on a mass level.

That problem is not going away, in fact, it’s getting worse. In the 1960s, if you advertised on Bonanza and the Ed Sullivan Show, you reached 80% of the North American public. Those days are long gone. So now we don’t rely so heavily on demographics, which tell us age and income level, and rely more on psychographics, which tell us about the state-of-mind of the target market. Once we know more about how they think, what they like to do, what TV shows they like to watch, what movies they like to see, what their values are, it gets a bit easier to create commercials that they might like. But that still doesn’t solve the media problem of trying to find them. It gets very, very expensive to advertising, because the audience is spread across so many TV shows, and magazines, and websites. Especially if you want to reach them with any frequency. I suspect the web will provide some of the answers. The greatest thing about the web is that it creates communities. So that, at least, gives advertisers an address.

Provide some tips for people looking to break into the advertising industry. What can and should they be doing from a practical standpoint to work their way to getting a job at prominent agency in Toronto?

If you’re interested in the creative end of the business, you must read and absorb the award annuals. They are the “How-To Manuals” of the business. Young creative people should be devouring them. Many of the award shows feature work from around the world. So, so important to gain that perspective. There is a great store in Toronto called the Swipe Store, and they only carry ad books. It’s fantastic, and I could spend all my money in that place. Creative people should also be working on a great spec portfolio that shows a creative director how their mind works. Remember that creative directors are looking for “idea” people, not writers or art directors. Ideas are the currency in advertising.

If you are interested in the account service side of the business, study great strategy. Find books and pour through the Cassies website (the award show that awards results) for great case studies of outstanding strategies. I always say his business has enough good creative people, what we really need are great strategists.

If you do have any of your own questions that you’d like Terry O’Reilly to answer, post them here or send me an email and I will be sure to forward them to him and when I get a response I’ll update the post.

(A sneak peek for next week’s entry: subliminal advertising, is there such a thing?)


1 Comment »

  1. Hey Adam, great 2-part interview. As big fans of The Age of Persuasion we did a video interview with Terry on AdHack Live from the Pirate Toronto studios.

    Here’s the archived video if you’re interested:

    Comment by James — December 12, 2009 @ 6:32 PM | Reply

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