Automatic Audience Interest

“As automatic audience interest declines,
our only currency is to be interesting”

I really dislike statements like this. Not because I want to encourage people to be boring, but because it suggests that perhaps there was a time in the past where we could afford to be boring. Like the idea of being interesting is somehow new.

It also implies that at some stage before this decline, we the audience were just slaves to the ITV ad break, waiting like dribbling zombies to senselessly consume whatever was served up to us.

Yet perhaps kettle spikes at half-time of the FA Cup final suggests otherwise. Perhaps we’ve always been able to find something to do other than sit through the ads.

When I was a kid, I used to race my brother to the toilet during ad breaks in Star Wars. Later at university, I used to smoke a quick cigarette during the ad break in Babylon 5. There has NEVER been such a thing as Automatic Audience Interest, and interesting has ALWAYS been the only currency of any value.

There are certain ads that I always remember, that work so well I still talk about them today – the Audi ad with the dislikeable yuppi, the Levi’s ads that sent one-hit-wonders to the top of the charts, the Heineken Water in Majorca ad. Good ads worked. And good ads still work – think the Cadbury’s Gorilla or the Old Spice ad (which people forget worked pretty well as a TV ad before working pretty well as a social media campaign).

The point is that lines like this are often used as a criticism of advertising, to suggest the old world is dead, and build up a hype-fear to drive whatever the latest buzzword consultants and experts are trying to push. It doesn’t actually help move the industry forwards. Sometimes I think we need to acknowledge that advertising has always been interesting; has always needed to be interesting.

The question really is why? Why is some advertising, or any other form of communication, interesting? And I think the answer lies in an understanding of culture. Understanding culture lets you understand how to make something that resonates with that culture. Something that people want to talk about, pass on, be part of. And good advertising has always managed to do this.

So if we understand the culture we’re creating for, we can begin to produce something that’s interesting. Something that people will talk about, will call up radio shows to debate, will chat to colleagues about whilst they’re waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning.

But like I say, that’s not a new idea. That’s always been the case. In the rush to embrace all things new and shiny, we should be careful not to forget some of the things that came before them.