Magazine article Marketing

The Essay: Admit It - You Just Don't Know What You're Doing

Magazine article Marketing

The Essay: Admit It - You Just Don't Know What You're Doing

Article excerpt

Most people have never applied much critical thought to ads, with their efforts to make the very best work being hampered by ignorance, writes AMV BBDO's Craig Mawdsley I'm a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, and attend a lot of football matches at Molineux. Every so often at half time, a couple will be on the pitch, and a guy will propose to his girlfriend in front of the whole stadium Inevitably, the South Bank will then begin to chant 'You don't know what you're doing!' and everyone laughs. It's an adaptation of the refrain that targets the referee following any perceived miscarriage of justice for an offence on the pitch.

At that point I often reflect on how lucky I am to work in a profession where I can go about my business without 30,000 people howling in derision at the quality of my decisions.

But maybe I'm wrong.

Perhaps the quality of work would be improved by more regular reminders of fallibility. And of course when it comes to advertising, in all its forms, whether traditional or modern, fallibility is common and certainty elusive. We really don't know what we're doing.

At the moment I'm reading Paul Feldwick's excellent new book, The Anatomy of Humbug, which I would urge you all to read if you're in the business of choosing and paying for advertising. It's required reading for anyone who wants to understand where all the concepts we discuss in advertising originally came from (did you realise, for example, that the models many of us hold in our head about how to make advertising were designed for direct-response press ads? And we're applying them to 30-second TV spots ... perhaps not the best idea).

It also highlights eloquently two kinds of ignorance that hamper our efforts to make the very best work.

The first is the more obvious one. Many of us (and I include my agency colleagues every bit as much as my clients in this) have never really devoted much thought to how advertising is intended to work, and why. Often we make multimillion-pound decisions, simply following the process from brief through to execution, with very little critical thought about how the work is actually going to create the change we seek in the real world. The ugly truth is that we are often creating and buying things on the basis that they are a bit like what we did before, or a bit like something someone else has done. …

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