Friday, February 2, 2007

The devil is in the detail

This is a prescient and alarming story about American overreaction to what was intended as a harmless advertising stunt.

What is really interesting to me is how this supports a long-held belief of mine - that what we think consumers will respond to and what we think will excite them is often so so wrong.

In this case, some simple neon signs were interpreted as bombs!

How many groups have you been in when the respondents say "will it be illustrated like that on telly" or "why is it green" or "well the waves made me think of storms and that made me think if sinking ships"?

And we sit behind the mirror and laugh at them for their failure to get the point, or their preoccupation with irrelevant details, or their stupidity at thinking such things matter.

And yet these details are relevant; they do matter. Respondents are assessing the stimulus not as marketers, but as people, with all the rich complicated interpretations and analysis that we give to our own lives. How many times have we got the wrong end of the stick over some random detail?

Respondents are no different. We pretend that their mistakes are irrelvant but often they are the most revealing thing they say becuase they reveal how small, minture details can have such a big profund effect. The colour of the clothes, the type of kitchen, the way the product is held - these all send strong cues that affect take-out in ways we might not be able to predict, but which we should never ignore.

And thats why I think its crucial that planning maintains its involvement throughout the creative process. We cannot hand over responsibility for casting, music and direction to the creatives in the beleif that because the strategy is sound, the advertising is bound to be effective. The slightest, most trivial details can have the most incredible effect and we must have a point of view on how these will work. By absconding these details to the creatives we run the risk of alienating the consumer through an apparantly trivial oversight that has profound implications on how they assess the work.

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