"Advertising has lost its humanity and its ability to entertain"

“Advertising has lost its humanity and its ability to entertain”

My new column is live in The Drum:

A golden age of advertising technology has not led to a golden age of advertising effectiveness, according to a new major publication released today (15 October) at the annual EffWeek conference in London.

In Lemon: How the advertising brain turned sour, Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer at market research company System1 Group, argues that advertising campaigns have fallen victim to a large-scale attentional shift in society, identifies a surprising cause and proposes several concrete solutions.

The book was published by the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The IPA provided me and The Drum with a review copy prior to the EffWeek event.

According to Wood, advertising brings long-term growth primarily through creative and emotional brand building. But short-termism and media industry changes have led to a crisis in creativity that is hurting effectiveness. Over the past 30 years, western culture – from music to film to television to advertising – has moved from ‘whole-brained creativity’ to ‘left-brained creativity.’

Today’s ‘left-brain take’ has been inspired by digital technology and focuses on productivity, standardisation, repetition and risk avoidance. Advertising styles have similarly changed so that what contributes most to effectiveness is disappearing, and what works against effectiveness is commonplace.

Within the ad industry, clients now think only in the short term. Procurement is making creativity more difficult. Holding companies want to encourage greater profitability by cutting staff and increasing workloads. Specialists are prioritised over generalists. Standardisation is valued more than individualisation. Reason is more important than emotion.

“Advertising needs to entertain for commercial gain,” Wood said. “When it doesn’t, the whole advertising ecosystem runs to seed. When it does, it unlocks growth and builds reputations. This publication describes how the advertising brain turned sour – how advertising has lost its humanity – and suggests how we might make things right again.

“We now know from new research that the actual divide between the right and left brain is very real. While they don’t do different things, they do and understand things differently. Connecting with audiences requires us to appeal to their right brains. This can only be achieved by freeing our own right brain. In creative development, we must resist our instincts to analyse and devitalise. The future of advertising depends upon it.”

Read the rest here.

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