Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why People Like Advertising

People all over the world enjoy advertising. In the past year, people from 70 countries have been reading my comments on the psychology of advertising.

Several of my posts have focused on the concept “attitude toward the ad.” Under this theory, the likability of a commercial as an enjoyable experience in itself can produce a positive effect on attitudes toward the brand or sponsor.

But, there is a broader point about advertising’s personal connection with people. Audience members give their attention to advertising. Their continuing interest is encouraged, indeed rewarded, by advertising that delivers an enjoyable experience.

This is why so many people like advertising as an institution in and of itself, quite beyond the attitudinal benefits for individual advertisers.

A recent commercial from India demonstrates this effect of enjoyable advertising as a reward to the audience.

The commercial is a mini-movie, billed in a teaser print campaign as “India’s official entry to Cannes.” In less than a minute and a half, it tells the life story of a Gujarati girl whose life (and afterlife) is changed by the strength of the adhesive used to apply a fake moustache.

This commercial shows why people like advertising. It is an extraordinary production, telling a charming story while reminding viewers of the sponsor’s significance.

This work was done in Mumbai by Ogilvy & Mather, India. The client, Pidilite Industries, presented the commercial as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of their Fevicol brand of adhesives.

For more perspective on psychological theory and the development of persuasive advertising, please see Strategic Power of the Theory of Planned Behavior.

Copyright © 2010 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Sunday Advertising Theory

There is a conventional “learning theory of advertising.” In this view, the message content informs audience beliefs which then resolve in positive attitudes toward the advertised brand.

But, Super Sundays involve an alternative theory, known as “attitude toward the ad.” In this view, the message content is designed to be enjoyable at high levels. These feelings of enjoyment can resolve themselves in positive attitudes toward the brand. There may even be a “halo effect” on beliefs about the benefits of the brand itself.

The Snickers “Betty White” commercial won out over all the rest in the USA Today Ad Meter ratings of Super Sunday commercials.

The spot is highly entertaining, thereby enacting “attitude toward the ad.” This commercial also conveys a strong message about the benefits of the product, thereby showing the “learning” model of advertising. It is an admirable piece of advertising.

Interestingly, the psychologist Harlow Gale first suggested these alternative theories in 1900 with a concept he called “attractive ad.” You can read more about Gale's work in the article by John Eighmey and Sela Sar, "Harlow Gale and the Origins of the Psychology of Advertising," Journal of Advertising, (December), 2007.

Copyright © 2010 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Sunday Advertising Prep

It's Super Sunday. About 40 advertisers will soon vie for your attention in between the football plays.

After the game (maybe even during), I'll post highlights comments on the Psychology of Advertising.

And, here's the link to the Ad Meter where USA Today will post the results of its viewer panel and provide copies of the commercials so you can see them again.

Copyright © 2010 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super Sunday Advertising Humor

Super Sunday is just ahead. The teams come and go, but advertising is always there to keep us entertained.

We like to be entertained, and fortunately fun is a good formula for persuasive communication. Humor is the most popular approach in television advertising, nowhere more evident than on Super Sunday.

To help you sort it all out this Sunday, here is Eighmey’s Typology of Humor in Advertising. The approach I call “Slap Shtick” is typically the most often used, but watch for the four others, too.

1. Slap Shtick: Stupid People Tricks

Last year, Doritos topped the USA Today popularity poll for Super Sunday commercials with a spot showing what happens when people take the power of a crystal ball into their own hands.

2. Ripping Off the Arts: Parody Can Pay

GE employed the Scarecrow from Oz to playfully envision the need for a smart power grid

3. Altered States: Rules of Everyday Life Need Not Apply

Coca-Cola told the story of a youth who finds friendship in a world of strange personas.

4. Exaggerated Claims: Hyper Hyperbole

Pedigree encouraged adoption of dogs by showing pet owners who had made highly inappropriate choices.

5. Strained Expectations: Take a Genre and Bend It

Hulu hired a movie star to turn a conventional celebrity testimonial into a monster movie.

So there you are. Have fun watching commercials this Sunday, and keep my typology on hand to score them.

For more on the Psychology of Advertising, please see Advertising and the Arc of History.

Copyright © 2010 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.