Advertising Should Inform Not Entertain

Subject: Advertising Should Inform Not Entertain Bob Lamon’s February 15th Marketing News article “Sales Pitch Often Gets Lost in Ad’s Creativity” bemused me. I found it unfortunate for Mr. Lamon to dogmatically proclaim “advertising should inform, not entertain”. To be fair Mr. Lamon did acknowledge the" place in advertising” that entertaining creative serves. However Mr. Lamon’s essential observations of the role of entertainment in communicating were from my view somewhat flawed. Informing and entertaining are not mutually exclusive activities, as he has postulated. In today’s marketing Blur Age (not the information age) the need to inject brand or product information into customer consciousness often requires high attention engagement, i.e. intrusive, permissive, creative entertainment that informs. Not all products have the unique attributes of a Dyson vacuum cleaner. By the way, the spots entertain as much as inform because of the charismatic chemistry of Mr. Dyson’s broadcast persona. This is not new in human cognition. Studies and common observations show that we retain more when we are engaged through music, chant, storytelling, than through direct factual presentation. It is how information has been handed down throughout human history from cave painting to illuminated cathedrals. From the storytelling of the bible, the Koran and the Torah, knowledge has been passed down in engaged experiential storied forms. A Harvard study concluded that indeed, individuals do retain more information when that information is set in song, rhyme, or storytelling as opposed to expository articulation. Mr. Lamon’s assumption that product feature/benifits are not being explained carefully enough, is faulty. When companies, like Wendy’s, Coca-Cola, Kmart, Budweiser, and Sears, spend multi- millions in mainstream mass media and get a measly 10% to 1% recall of their taglines, something is broken. One can only assume the feature/benefits of their products and services must also be consciously invisible. After all it’s only a brand name and a three or five word phase we’re trying to recall here, let alone the features/benefits. Don’t bother to test us in the morning, we aren’t retaining much. In a marketing world where audiences cannot recite the most rudimentary message after a brand name you cannot expect them to act on your brand’s value and promise. Mr. Lamon has the problem right, it’s just that his view for the solution is skued. Yes, a lot of marketing is ineffective, yes entertainment at the expense of strategic communication occurs and is a waste of money. But that is only looking at the problem and concluding that all marketing is on equal footing. No human endeavors are equal; there are degrees of effectiveness in everything we do. The problem lies in the tonnage of information that we, the target of brand messaging must absorb, retain and make preferential choices from. Entertainment in communication is a very legitimate, very effective tool to penetrating and actuating conscious preference. Persuasion occurs more readily when we experience information than when we are in a passive state and intruded by it. That is why consumers have cynically tuned out most of what is advertised to them. Marketers must look beyond finding simple critiques to the complex barriers of marketing effectiveness. The understanding of contemporary forms in communication and the relevancy of new mediums has eluded Mr. Lamon. Mediums that provide rational and emotional experiences in an active, personal way and not intruded from a passive state, are more and more becoming a marketing reality. The demise in effectiveness in traditional mediums has less to do with creative entertainment and more to do with with the mastery of what was once called alternate marketing. It’s all marketing and not alternate any more. Effectiveness in marketing requires an holistic view of all brand touch points and marketers must adapt to the challenges that the blur age presents and not succumb to tactical solutions of content.