Spooner on…how to bring back trust in advertising

spooner 414“Hither cur!” The familiar words bring me instantly to heel, quivering with anticipation, at the side of Lord Charlie McKelvey, Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Sussex landowner, industry magnate and editor of this august organ.
Passing me his Vertu Constellation mobile telephone (RRP £more than you could ever imagine) and tapping at the screen with an exquisitely manicured Anglo-Irish fore-fingernail, he bellows: “See this article in ‘The Drum’, whatever that may be, it maintains that the public thinks much less favourably about advertising than it used to. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT???”
With that, he snatches away the exquisite device, turns, like Lionel Messi and strides off like Apollo towards the Pleasure Palaces of Lancing followed in an undulating, furry carpet by ‘The Water Sausages’ his crack team of highly-trained, sea-otter bodyguards, who accompany him on his daily swim to the Wind Farm and back.
So – or as our Anglo-Saxon forebears would have said ‘Hwaet!’.
My years slaving in the marketing mines should have provided me with the requisite skill to intelligently précis what The Drum reports, so you don’t have to click away from this far-superior, marketing magazine.
Here goes:
The Advertising Association, ISBA and Credos have set up a ‘Trust Working Group’, which reports that ‘public favourability’ towards advertising stood at just 25% in December 2018. The equivalent figure for 1992 was almost double, at 48%. Cue much wringing of hands.
The report identifies five key areas of public concern – and outlines the working group’s responses:
1. Bombardment you may be surprised to learn is number one with folks complaining of obtrusiveness, repetition and volume – apparently the issue will be fixed by encouraging brands to sign up to the IAB Gold Standard
2. Excessive Frequency (I laugh in my sleeve) will be fixed by setting new KPIs for excessive frequency and re-targeting.
3. Increasing Awareness of Self-regulation – apparently everyone has now heard of the ASA (hurrah!) but the solution to this issue will be to spend more on advertising the ASA in a targeted region and ‘measuring results’
4. Data Privacy – relax, because the group is going to support the ICO’s ‘Your Data Matters’ campaign which was launched after the introduction of GDPR
5. Showing how brands drive societal change – this is sure to work, the brand is going to offer more support to activity such as the ‘Eat Them To Defeat Them’ campaign which encourages children to eat vegetables, ‘Media Smart’ which (actually, usefully) helps children understand the online world and the estimable ‘UN Women’s Un-stereotype Alliance’.
So that’s it. Quango begets quango, industry body supports industry body, boxes are ticked and everything will be alright.
You’ll note, of course, that almost everything that the ‘Trust Working Group’ apportions blame to (probably quite correctly) in its explanation for the halving of trust in just over a quarter of a century, is a manifestation of the digital world we now inhabit. A philosopher might laugh and say that it is not trust in advertising that has halved, it is trust in the world and this is just a further manifestation of that lack of trust in things in general. I could not possibly comment, but merely refer you to a greater man than me (aren’t they all?) The Ad Contrarian.
And, of course, it is true that in these dark days everyone consumes everything through their personal device and, therefore, natch, their greatest scorn and mistrust is reserved for the manifestations of advertising that interrupt and blight their access to the things that they want to see, whether those might be pornography, the IPL, B&HAFC, the wonders of the Prado – or indeed pictures of otters that look like Benedict Cumberbatch.
Fear not marketers!
There is a solution. An analogue solution. A cost-effective, analogue solution that delivers proven results.
I can’t believe that I am huckstering for it again but I refer you to a publication on the Royal Mail MarketReach website: The Value Of Mail In Uncertain Times. Having written many of the many drafts of this excellent paper, as I recall, it points out (long before Brexit-Schmexit) that people don’t trust email, neither do they trust digital advertising. I might further add that they consume television in a way that eliminates the ad-breaks, do not read physical newspapers or magazines, listen to very little commercial radio and are too busy staring anxiously at their mobile telephones to notice the forty-eight-sheets or six-sheets that cluster around them as they scurry between their overpriced homes and their ‘zero-hours, portfolio careers in the gig economy’, poor sods.
It’s almost as if we need a ‘disruptive, engaging, tactile medium that people like to receive, which makes them feel valued, which increases their trust in the brand that is communicating with them, which they might keep, refer to, share with family and friends and act upon in both the off and online worlds’.
What medium might that be?
Answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address, for the chance to win the approbation of your beleaguered boss and the plaudits of your colleagues.

Jonathan Spooner is consulting creative director at Spoon Creative Ltd

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