Advertising Industry Turns to Neuroscience For Next Paradigm Shift

If the words "paradigm shift" make you roll your eyes and puke then you best be near a toilet when you read this. A bunch of neuroscientists are marching on Madison Avenue with "revolutionary" research about how people think claiming consumers are becoming more active in the processing of commercial messages.

At yesterday's Advertising Research Foundation conference in New York, "chief mystic" and McCann Worldgroup VP Director of Research and Insight Joseph Plummer said, "I see a new power emerging. The customer, the consumer, or the public is emerging as a power." Well Seth Godin's been saying that for years. It's not new. Oh, but let's not spoil the party. Plummer went on to say the industry is entering the third of three paradigm shifts in mass marketing. The first was the advent of mass marketing controlling information flow. The second was the growth of megalopolies that controlled media and retail. The third is this apparent consumer uprising and claiming of power.

Who knows. Maybe it's all true and I should go back to posting pictures of Britney Spears but let's continue for a bit just for fun.

A new research effort will be launched by both the Advertising Research Foundation and the American Association of Advertising Agencies in three phases. The first will involved the collection of existing data on how the mind works which will be completed by Harvard guru Gerald Zaltman. The second will compile new research being done by a dozen firms that "measures of story-telling campaigns," which, by the way, is how researchers hypothesize we like our campaigns. Sort of like that Folger's coffee romance. The third will be comprised of what researchers are calling the "co-creation of stories" which gets into the heady notion of consumers processing commercial messages through their "existing thought structure" and then "create new meaning" from that message exposure.

Whoa. Kinda makes one long for the days of the door to door Fuller Brush dude who could sell all kinds of weird household stuff to seemingly gullible housewives. Oh don't go having a "politically correct" fit over this. It's just the way it was. Go ask my Mom.

Predictably, it was a creative person who had a problem with this psycho-babble. DDB Worldwide Chairman Keith Reinhard said scientists should stay in the lab and let the creatives worry about the best ways to communicate with consumers claiming, "Artists have always intuitively known this. That's why they are artists." Oh, please. Advertising creative is not art. It's creativity for the sole purpose of moving product from the warehouse into the consumer's hands.

To be fair to both sides, this is a worthy conversation to have. The control over how media and advertising reaches the consumer is changing dramatically and so must the methods by which marketers deploy marketing to consumers. The old ways are dying. The new ways aren't quite here yet but it's going to be fun watching all those PowerPoint presentations from people who think they have all the answers.

by Steve Hall    Apr-28-04   Click to Comment   

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