Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ad industry, have you met your audience?



I still get chills watching the Levi's 'Go Forth' campaign spots from W+K. 

Yes, the campaign was criticized for not speaking to the Levi's-buying audience. Or for being "too good" in execution. (If that's a bad thing?) In spite of the critics, they had a bigger idea here. They captured an idealized, yet gritty America. Blurring stereotypes and encouraging us to go forth with purpose. However, to move forward, we must first look both ways and behind us.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." – Soren Klerkegaard
A 3six5 post by Rishad Tobaccowala reminded me of that insightful quote. He also inspires the idea that today is the culmination of many other singular days. Significant or insignificant, these days combine. They affect who we are and influence what we will do with today. It's almost subliminal.

As I think about my audience and an angle for a campaign, I realize we don't really understand ourselves. Well, not today anyway. We have to look backwards first. That's how we got here and that's what's driving today's decisions. And likewise, our audience comes to today's table with their own unique set of yesterdays.

Sometimes we generalize, thinking that everyone aspires to live or be a certain way. That's not really the case.

Your utopia may be another's nightmare. Ad Age wrote an eye-opening article on how the advertising industry sees pop culture. It's littered with assumptions. Assumptions we all occasionally make. Some things to consider for that "integrated" campaign pitch.

AdPulp referenced the Ad Age article and offered Congress contender David Esrati's advice. He suggested that ad people get into politics. That we should step off our pedestal, swim in real mainstream America, and better understand our actual audience.

Though I've always considered myself urban-minded, I happen to be a product of Middle America.

In fact, my hometown deemed itself "America's Home Town." My mom could care less about technology and admits she has no idea what I do. I may as well be speaking another language. She smiles and nods as I update her on what I'm working on. I do the same as she tells me the latest high school sport news and small town happenings. My parents were always very supportive of our crazy whims and ambitious endeavors. That's what Middle America is built on – community, hard work, and possibility. 

What you think people think is not always what they think.

Middle America or Manhattan, we need to start seeing our audience as a group of individuals.

That's what we are. That's what they are.

People with unique stories and important opinions. People that are passionate about beliefs today that have grown out of the culmination of their yesterdays. People dealing with internal and external conflicts that we can't imagine. People that see themselves differently than others see them.

Now get to know each other and behave. 

As in politics, it's one thing to say something and another thing to do it. Can you inspire your audience to change their behavior? Can you entice an individual into becoming part of something bigger? After all, as Faris points out, we are in the business of behavior. And with motivation, behaviors can change.
"Behavior is motivation filtered through opportunity." – Clay Shirky

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