Implications for Creative

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how Marketing in the Age of Distraction® affects where and when you reach your audience. But it also has a tremendous impact on how you reach them. In fact, it influences every aspect of your creative approach. So I asked Slingshot Senior Creative Director Julie Bowman to cover a few of the philosophies we’ve developed to deal with the creative issues we face every day.

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Are you talkin’ to me?

In a 2006 USA Today article, J. Walker Smith, CEO of the consumer research company Yankelovich & Partners, stated that the average person in the United States was bombarded with between 3,000 and 5,000 brand exposures each day1. In 2014, studies supported numbers ranging as high as 20,0002.

Granted, these exposures include everything from the tags on our clothing to the emblems on our cars to ads in all kinds of media, but whether it’s a logo, tagline or full messaging, every marketer is striving to imbue them with meaning.

But common sense tells us we don’t ingest all those messages; the mental overload would put even the strongest of minds into a cerebral fetal position. So which communications do we choose to tune in to? And which do we ignore? 

It’s human nature to be intrigued by communications that speak directly to us — the ones in which we see ourselves or our current interests. At Slingshot, our theory of passion points applies to content as well as environment. We believe your audience’s passions should factor heavily into the way you write your communications and conceive their visual aspects. After all, if you’re talking to athletes, you speak differently than if you’re talking to moms. Or, say, NASCAR enthusiasts. Bottom line: to break through the clutter you have to know how to connect with your targets, no matter who they are. 

Avoiding the Sea of Sameness

Have you ever tried to recall an ad you saw but couldn’t remember which brand it represented? There are several reasons for this. Perhaps you’re not currently in the market for the product or the ad is targeting a different audience than you. But often, it’s because these messages are falling into what we call the “Sea of Sameness” or S.O.S. for short — a nameless, faceless, brand-less swirl of indistinct noise.

So what causes the dreaded S.O.S. and why do so many advertisers fail to avoid it?

Some categories have long-standing conventions, whether it’s the language they use or the visual tactics they employ. Many brands don’t establish a defining voice or personality that helps consumers recognize their ads versus their competitors. And many executions simply fail to offer anything attention-worthy. To consumers, these ads start to swirl together into forgettable dreck. And heaven help the marketing manager who’s spending good money to bob around in it.

Could anyone confuse this for another car ad? MINI created a look and voice that was unmistakably theirs. (CP+B, 2003

In the Age of Distraction, your communications must be disruptive. You have to look different, talk different and defy convention or you simply blend in. When others zig, you have to zag. You have to do something that captures attention or you’ll never be heard.

Information is no longer king

Gone are the days when you could just tell consumers what’s better or different about your product. Information, while vital for the purchase decision, often falls on deaf ears with those who have not yet entered the buying process. In essence, a majority of your future customers just don’t care yet. And they might not care until the moment they’re standing at the shelf.

So what’s a good communication to do? Truth is, advertising that informs is only doing part of the job — it also needs to provoke an emotional response. It must make consumers feel something about you or you risk having them feel nothing at all. Whether you make them laugh or think or aspire doesn’t matter; the important thing is that they interact with your brand on an emotional, non-rational level. If you want them to choose your brand, they must be able to do so with their guts, not just their brains.

This internal gauge plays a far bigger role in the decision-making process than most people know. When asked why they purchase the products they do, many people can’t back up their choices with any real facts. They speak in the language of perception. “It feels more substantial,” they’ll say. Or, “This one seems like a higher- quality product.” Whether we want to admit it or not, human beings are not entirely rational. We are intuitive beings who often make decisions based on sensory and emotional perception. And smart advertisers know it.

Marketing in the Age of Distraction<sup>®</sup>

Case in point: in the Advertising Age Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century3, eight of the 12 campaigns for products or services (versus non-profit messaging) contain little to no messaging on product features or benefits.

Because as Nike has proven time and time again, you don’t always have to sell the shoe—sometimes, you just have to inspire the runner. 

Marketing in the Age of Distraction<sup>®</sup>


  1. USA Today, 10/10/2006
  1. SJ Insights, 9/29/14
  1. Advertising Age Top Ad Campaigns
Posted Mon, Mar 21, 2016 by Owen Hannay in Marketing in the Age of Distraction®