, April 24, 2024

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The Intelligence of the Customer - Part One

  •   5 min reads
The Intelligence of the Customer - Part One
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash
By Vincent R. Pozon

I say it all too frequently: I live in a world of seconds, five to intrigue you enough to stay your hand from skipping the ad and clicking to the YouTube video you wanted to watch; 15 to 30 if it’s a television commercial; a second or two if you happen to be in the bus glancing at my billboard, or my bumper sticker. We work and design and plod and travail, nose to the grindstone, to get your attention, keep it in a grip, even if only for seconds, before other channels of information, what the industry calls ‘points of contact’, distract you. I need my earworm of a jingle ringing in your head when you wake up in the morning. All this in the hope of convincing you to buy the product, pay for the service, believe in the advocacy, vote for the candidate or worry for the country.

In seconds, millions must be sold, products must fly off the shelf, reputations must be strengthened. In seconds. But first I need to extract that thoughtful ‘hmm’ from you.

To produce those short-lived messages, we spend hours and days copywriting, designing, shooting, editing, reviewing, revising. To produce a video, we commission men and women distinguished by many years of experience, scarred by mistakes and lessons remembered, and we ask them to bother over the littlest of details.

To check if we have done well, we darken the room, sometimes pitch black, freeze the frame, twenty or so sets of eyes pour over every pixel, and frame, argue over colors, levels of sounds, timber and tenor of the announcer’s voice.

All that effort and craft, and the customer is not watching. The customer is not even listening.

If it's a television spot, those thirty seconds, what I was allowed to work with, is probably — realistically — 10 or 15. The family no longer sits in front of the television set, agreeing to watch a program, intently.

/cmun_Project via Flickr

Television is background music; now, more than ever, a commercial has to work harder, has to be clearer, in less time. Heads are down, reading other screens. The subtle, the classy do not work. The complicated message, the longer storyline, they die the second it hits air.

If you were wondering why ads, regardless of medium, are so much louder these days, well, now you know. They are screaming for attention.

Yes, the customer has a comprehension problem, and the first filter is time.

THE CUSTOMARY PHOTOGRAPH to commemorate the successful completion of a project.

Oceans of Information

It used to be simpler then — television, radio, newspapers and magazines -- throw in a billboard or two -- and you’re known and heard and selling and ringing cash registers. With the superabundance of news sources and touchpoints, you choose what to read and watch and listen to. You edit; but the reading, watching, listening is hardly undivided or thoughtful.

There’s too much information and too little time to consume, and there isn't just one ocean, there are oceans of information. We’re not just overwhelmed; the word Pew Research used is "fatigued".

On every single screen, television or phone or tablet, on radio and via all your email addresses are news and information and various iterations, and interpretations and analyses of the news and information. They don't knock on your door, they seep into your day and world, via Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and whatever channel or aggregator or news source brand you rely on to keep updated and connected.

You have already started disabling notifications, app after app after app.

You’re no longer scrolling down screens to the point where you were last, because you just can’t. There are hundreds of new email messages flooding your inboxes everyday, and that doesn't include the thousands that get filtered as junk. You have long decided to leave thousands of letters and messages unopened.

Because there are channels galore, and the day is not any longer, we make do with our waking hours. That creates the consumer need to simultaneously use various media forms simply to keep pace with events around them. We call that simultaneous media consumption. No matter how much we want to glorify multi-tasking, simultaneous media consumption simply means you’re skimming; you’re understanding little; you’re making do. And as a way to handle the gamut of channels, you pay attention to one medium more than others, at certain points in time, as you consume them — a television commercial, the message of your friend that popped into your phone’s screen, mail notifications on your laptop, your attention swings between foreground and background touch points. The comprehension of your reader, viewer, listener is weak, needing assistance, stresses and underlining.

You could say that at no other time in history is the ability to shape messages well, to make difficult propositions easy to swallow, almost pre-digested, more important.

Now, more than ever, creativity is king.

In part two, we discuss other factors that obstruct comprehension of advertising messages.

Previously published in the Manila Times

About the Author:

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?”). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.

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