Rory Sutherland on the vocabulary of advertising


Rory Sutherland on the vocabulary of advertising:

I think that all people in advertising have the worst vocabulary in the world that, brilliantly described by a colleague of mine in London as ‘It’s like the vocabulary of astrology.’ If you use phrases like ‘You’d expect them to do that because he was born on the cusp.’ Or ‘His behavior was typically Sagittarian.’ Now, if you use that phrase to a fellow believer of astrology they all nod along and go ‘ you’re absolutely right.’ Its wonderful and we’ve created a vocabulary with which
when we talk to each other we all nod along happily, outside marketing and advertising that vocabulary is both terrifying and ridiculous. If I’m talking to a finance director about brand iconography it’s like going to the head of thoracic surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and saying you must trust to the healing power of the crystal! I think we can actually borrow from a language of network theory from economics, Punk economics from social sciences and use that vocabulary rather then the ghastly vocabulary we use now, if we could do that I genuinely think it could change our world.

Cake and Icing:

Quite a lot of the work we do now is a mixture of cake and icing, “The Barbell theory” which is where you put 80% of your budget into things that you know work and that are proven and you put 20% into sort of experimentation. There’s
advertising that actually carries the load and there’s stuff which add the magic, and there’s a danger that whenever a budget gets cut by 20% it doesn’t get cut proportionally, but that everyone kills the icing and leaves the cake, and without that you’ve got a workable solution but the chances of massive upside has suddenly disappeared. The experienced suit will say “well that’s fine, we’ve still got 80% of it”, the really good suit will say no you need to preserve 5% of these experiments as a bit of icing alongside the cake, otherwise basically the cake is inedible.”
Good science is your friend:

Good science is your friend. Classical economics which is based on the idea that every consumer makes a decision based on perfect information, which is a situation which in the real world occurs never. That is the dominant model of
economics taught in business schools, and it’s poisoned the whole thing. The good science, the people who actually question this model, the punk economies, other people like that, are actually to an extraordinary degree, friends. One of the interesting arguments from science is that actually advertising, to be effective needs to be –apparently- expensive. Sometimes there is a value to media expenditure that actually the perception of something that appears on television is not the same as something that appears on a viral ad.

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