Advertising, Planning

Paul Feldwick does it again

Image: Dunechaser

In the February issue of Admap, Paul Feldwick makes a brilliant bulls-eye comment on the supposedly “new” age we’re living in as marketers and advertisers. Essentially, he says it’s all bullshit. But he does put it a bit more eloquently than that, and since I can’t express his point nearly as good as he does himself (even though I have tried), here are a few excerpts from the article:

“There is a widely repeated narrative that goes something like this: the internet has changed everything. The new generation of consumers is sceptical, ’empowered’, and no longer susceptible to advertising as we have known it. All previous marketing knowledge is irrelevant.”

“But what evidence supports this huge leap to the ‘radical new psychologies’ that supposedly make this group immune to advertising and brands? Are we to believe they no longer buy coffee at Starbucks, drink Coke or PG Tips, wear clothes from Primark or Uniqlo, fly Virgin or aspire to drive a Porsche?”

“A key part of such ‘world has changed’ narratives is the implication that everyone before the present generation (who miraculously appeared last week) were obedient patsies, who responded uncritically to every ‘message’ they received. But I don’t believe yesterday’s consumers – people such as me, you and Richard Scase – were much more credulous or naive than today’s.”

“Let me suggest, instead, that advertising as always worked by a more complex process of suggestion and seduction. Successful advertising may have influenced our choices, but it never ‘told us what to buy’. We may choose a brand that comes readily to mind, or one we associate with positive feelings: these factors can be influenced by advertising.”

Read that last paragraph again. Please. And please repeat it to anyone in marketing who doesn’t understand it already. Which seems to mean pretty much everyone in marketing these days.


6 thoughts on “Paul Feldwick does it again

  1. Word! I´ve read a lot of books about advertising that all were publiced before the Internet became available to the public and all theories that isn´t tied to a specific media is very much valid today. To be honest, I sometime suspect that all these new people preaching about social media has not taken a basic course on marketing. Humans have not changed their dna just because Twitter turned up.

  2. Since I agree on Feldwicks’ (and yours) opinion on this, the quote does not make me feel terrible happy. He is, plainly, stating something obvious.

    The methods of persuasive communication, rethorics and such basically hasn’t changed since the beginning of man. We are still suckers of storytelling. We are still suckers of identification, tribe-shaping and things like that.

    Regarding the supporters of the ”everything hase changed”-narrative, we find them in every field and in every evolutionary step. There has been people stating that film is the only effective way to communicate. That virals, pr, design or anything else is the strongest medium for sending a message. Today, there is a strong narrative saying that ”no, we never make rational decisions, it’s always emotional” – which is, of course, also a truth in need of modification.

    What Feldwick does not address is the actual effect of those new medias for communications. Even if realtime services or the net as a whole doesn’t make old knowledge obsolete, it adds new factors that must be considered since they absolutely will affect your communications.

    One is, of course, the rapid speed of word. Today, if you send out a strong message that people react to (in any medium), you can be sure that it will quickly be mentioned and probably discussed in different forums. This affects your communication.

    Another one, is that people know more or can more easily get to know more about you through the internet. Either by asking friends and followers in some social media, or via some information nodes on the net (including your web page). Sure, I could ask my collegues the same question, but it’s a difference between asking ten collegues and asking maybe 300 people you are connected to.

    Being consequent without being static, being honest, doing the right choices not only in a business way but also ethically, producing a good culture inside your company … There are a lot of things that has become more important because of the new tools of communications. Old methods still works – in fact, they are the only ones we have – but you need to work with them deeper into your organisation to reduce the risks of being called a liar.

    So I’d say it has changed a lot. But not how advertising or other forms of commercial communication works.

    (I am sorry for the long comment. Sometimes, good posts have this effect on me.)

  3. kmf says:

    Shoutvertising isn’t working anymore. Ad revenue is down and causing newspaper crashes.

    Stating that “persuasion is still persuasion, everyone back to your seats” is a massive oversimplification.

    The fact that the consumer have gained access to a communication platform that is as powerful as the producers is bound to bring about change.

    See the case of Cooper Lawrence and her failed attempt at promoting her book by doing what people always have done.

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  5. Per: You’re rambling! 🙂 Kidding. You make several important points and I guess my simplest reply is that too much of anything isn’t good for you, i.e. very few things are black or white in this world. I think what Feldwick does is to present a counter-weight to the ridiculous “everything has changed” narrative and to make his point he knowingly exaggerates. I don’t think (but of course I’m not sure, since I don’t know him personally) he honestly believes the net hasn’t changed anything at all. Then again, that’s not really what his article is about. At its heart, it’s about how people are influenced by advertising, and that’s why I like that last paragraph so much (“suggestion and seduction”). In that sense, nothing has really changed – even if it’s probable that the social component of branded communications has been boosted by the net. As for emotional vs rational, I don’t think the current narrative is about people ONLY making their decisions emotionally, but rather that emotion preceeds cognition in ALL decision making. We feel->act->think (or possibly act->feel->think), which means cognition (=”rationality”) is an outcome, not an input.
    Jeez…who’s rambling now?

    kmf: Do you have any evidence, other than the odd case study, for your claim that “shoutvertising isn’t working anymore”? And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t newspaper ad revenue down due to the loss of classified ads, not branded ads? TV ad revenue, on the other hand, is up – just like TV viewing (minutes per day) is.

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