October 17, 2007
Why There's No Love for Ad Pros
DM News is reporting that Ad agency J. Walter Thompson has commissioned a study about people's perception of the advertising profession. It's unclear why they'd want to study this (who really cares what consumers think about ad people - as long as they buy the clients' products), but nonetheless the study revealed that few people adore advertising professionals.
"When asked about respect for the profession, only 14 percent of those surveyed say their fellow Americans respect ad people. The top three most respected are military personnel (79 percent), physicians (75 percent) and teachers (71 percent)."
"Only 12 percent of those surveyed noted improvement of ad people's status. Ad professionals are seen as a "necessary good" by 31 percent of the population (besting politicians and car salesmen)."
Studies like these can be easily misconstrued. But they are valuable for one reason I can think of: they provide an insight into human behavior. And we advertising professionals tend to like that insight stuff.
What's the insight here? This is my take...
What do ad people, along with politicians and car salesmen, have in common?
For better or worse, all three speak to people about their product or service in ways those people want to hear. In that sense, all three are a reflection of the wants and needs of the populations they sell to.
Why does this lead to dislike?
Simple. People buy products or services because they expect them to improve their lives. In general, they won't buy unless they expect a large increase in their happiness as a result of that improvement in their life. And the truth is, no product or service - or very, very few of them - will make a lasting improvement on one's happiness.
Increase convenience? Yes. Decrease frustration? Yes. Make you look better? Sure. Make your life easier? Absolutely.
But make you happier? Not over the long term. Nothing you can buy will do that. So... people are continuously disappointed. They're upset they spent the money and didn't get that lasting happiness out of the deal. They feel duped. That's why they have so little love for ad people, politicians and car salesman.
Contrast this with the top three most respected professions: teachers, military personnel and doctors. With these you get smarter, safer and healthier. Education gives you access to opportunity. The military meets the deep human need for security. And our health - what can we do without our health?
Not to worry though. It would be a mistake for advertising professionals to take this personally. Remember, all advertising is a reflection of the collective consciousness of a society, not the other way around. It's the cart, not the horse.
It's also worth mentioning the element of free will in this context. There are no forced purchases. Everyone can vote with their pocketbook.
Or, their vote, as the case may be!
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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Made to Stick, Heath & Heath
The Power of Persuasion, Robert Levine
Influence: Science & Practice, Cialdini
Words That Work, Frank Lutz
My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins
Or Your Money Back, Alvin Eicoff
Being Direct, Lester Wunderman