I have always used the word consumer somewhat sheepishly. What does it say about the way an ad agency looks at people?
Consumers acquire and ingest. Their process is strictly functional. He consumed his dinner. It doesn’t offer any hint about what degree of pleasure he sought or took from the effort. He simply processed the meal.
Consumers are chiefly concerned with fulfilling their needs. They are not into the experience of consumption by definition. Very much like zombies come to think of it!
Is this a good word to use to describe the intended target for our advertising?
John Hegarty, the renowned leader of London stalwart ad agency BBH, recently opinioned in his new book Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence Into Magic, that agencies must be creative-driven in the manner of maverick film companies and record labels. We need to think like them and reach out as they do.
Too often agencies have just been businesses driving a bottom-line. The business happens to be advertising and the folks wear black turtlenecks and jeans.
The endemic use of the word consumer reflects that business focus.
What if we changed the word to audience? An audience, participatory or passive, is there to be engaged and entertained. They are there for an experience, driven by a desire to enjoy life or learn something – not to merely subsist, as the word consumer suggests.
The word audience reminds the ad agency that their work has to drive an emotional response. It has to entertain, hold attention, be memorable, have substance.
How much advertising have you seen lately that passed that test?
I watched a run of ads last night during the hockey game that gave us one stinker after another, each with smiling actors spewing out pap about the business they were selling. Only the Honda Civic spot with the ninja, the lumberjack, the wrestler, the furry beast and the zombie appeared to recognize its requirement to entertain us with something different.
Advertising needs to get better. Do you think changing the way we speak of, and think of, the people we are advertising to will be a helpful start?