Can You Hear Us Now?

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(By Bob McCurdy) WARC last week had another interesting article worthy of note, titled “Advertisers Are Shouting at an Audience Who Can’t Hear.”

It summarized the findings of Andrew Tenzer, Head of Group Insight at Trinity Mirror, who presented recently at the Media Research Summit in London, where he outlined why advertising might be resonating less with consumers.

This assertion was based on evidence from psychological tests of 2,400 adults from middle-income households and 150 interviews with employees representing all of the UK’s major media agencies. The main takeaway was that there’s an apparent disconnect between those creating and selecting media and the intended “receivers,” with both groups differing psychologically.

One of the differences Tenzer highlighted was that agency employees exhibited a far greater psychological need to “belong,” meaning simply that self-image is very important to them. This might actually provide some insight as to why so many in advertising tend to dress similarly and seemingly speak the same “language.” While the “birds of a feather flock together” axiom might apply here, the danger lies in believing that all other flocks are a mirror image of themselves.

Tenzer points to three ways in which the agency psychological profile could affect its “output,” suggesting:

— That too much emphasis is being placed on new technologies and media platforms.

* This might be one of the reasons why there’s an apparent infatuation with all new media, no matter how unproven.

— While advertisers might think they’re being relevant to the mainstream population, the subconscious motive might be really to impress co-workers.

* Not good for generating a media plan that delivers the most bang for the client’s ad dollar.

— Advertisers are projecting brand relationships onto people who don’t really care about having a relationship with products.

* Most people don’t aspire to have a “relationship” with their soap or toilet paper.

Tenzer concludes, “Our view is we need to manage this subconscious bias, because otherwise this chasm that’s occurring is going to get wider and wider until we’re shouting out to our audience and they can no longer hear us.”

This brings to mind a bestselling book series from the ’90’s called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It delved into the differences between the sexes with the premise that if the genders began to understand and appreciate the differences between themselves, they’d be able to communicate more effectively. If a similarly themed book was written today about advertising, based upon Tenzer’s findings, an appropriate title might be, The Ad World Is from Mars, the Rest of the Country Is from Venus.

We’ve long understood that there are differences between those that plan and create advertising and the mainstream consumer, as other studies, such as the Westwood One Perception/Reality studies and the Media Behavior Institute. have already demonstrated. But Tenzer’s work approaches these differences from an another angle, providing a different “take” as to why these differences exist.

The bottom line is that it’s always a good idea for all involved with media selection and creation, and even those of us selling it, to periodically re-evaluate what we “think” we know. This might assist in keeping any personal biases/perceptions in check and result in better decisions, as no matter how smart, it’s human nature to usually only see what we’re already looking for and little else.

Bob McCurdy is the Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]om

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