The magic in advertising has changed over the years in many ways, now you see it, now you don’t, but some ads seem to be created by Hou-dummy instead of Houdini.
It’s arguably said that the golden age of advertising was in the ’50s and ’60s. After all, there are some iconic ads that are brought back time and time again for their timeless message. Some of the greatest ads would be Volkswagen’s “Think Small” ad and Alka Seltzer “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz” ad. These ads are timeless and can make a sale today. That is pure magic in advertising. Those ads answered three main questions: “What is being sold?”, “Who would use this product?”, and “What is this product for?” Today, sometimes you watch a commercial and can not even figure out what company is distributing the product, let alone what the product is. That doesn’t mean the magic is dead; it just means the rabbit wasn’t pulled out the hat.
One of the most common mistakes modern advertising agencies make is that they sell the ad and not the product. The result is a commercial that no one understands. That used to be frowned upon in advertising, but now seems to be almost encouraged. These ads fail to answer any of the three main questions. This is typically done with insurance commercials, like State Farm, where the ads are so overdone, you don’t even know what they are advertising, but you see the name and logo. There is no art or magic in that type of advertisement. If anything, it is dark magic. It’s a sleight-of-hand to distract you from something they don’t want you to see. It’s really just a mind game, a play on words, or an entertaining scene. One way or another, it plants the seed of an encrypted message that will hopefully brainwash you to buy whatever it is they’re selling. It’s nothing personal; it’s just business.
These pointless ads are not entirely the fault of ad agencies. Rules and regulations of what can be said on television create a roadblock for certain ideas when it comes to advertising. Of course, some rules are there for a reason, and some rules seem to be in place for no reason at all. But nevertheless, they are there and must be followed.
However, a rule book is no excuse. An advertising agency’s job is to provide its clients with quality work that means something and will improve product sales for that client. This isn’t the first time rules have gotten in the way of ad agencies, though. In the ‘60s, tobacco companies were told they could no longer make health claims for their products. Yes, doctors were once sponsors for the leading brand of cigarettes that killed one out of every five of their patients. So, false claims like that in advertisements led to the need for rules and regulations as to what can be said in ads in order to protect the public.
(Childhood ruined, by the way.)
The client always comes first in advertising, like in any business. Granted, the client doesn’t always know what’s best, but that is why they are seeking an ad agency’s aid in the first place. The client, however, does have the final say, and nothing pleases a client more than an increase in sales. So, even when you think, “Wow, what a stupid commercial,” that commercial is on TV for a reason. That reason is that the client’s wallet gets a little bit thicker every time that commercial airs.
There are still plenty of ads that are considered art, particularly if a product has a great slogan or has been around for generations. For example, motor companies like Ford, Chevrolet, and Lincoln can advertise based off their past success. But a modern company like Subaru bases their advertising off of a different slogan like “Love, it’s what makes Subaru a Subaru.” A motor company that possesses both factors would be Volkswagen, with their “Think Small” ad and the history that ad has created for them.
Will this art form disappear? The answer is no, because people are still making history and coming up with new slogans and new ways to entertain us into spending our money. A recent AT&T campaign, for example, makes viewers feel things are simple and basic with AT&T by showing that even a child could choose what’s better when it comes to cellular coverage. United Airlines make you feel that you will have no stress in flying with them, because their staff relieves it.
As said from the popular character Don Draper from AMC’S Mad Men (a show based around the life of a Manhattan ad agency creative director in the ’60s.), “Advertising is based on one thing… happiness.” And, there’s always the promise that there will actually be a rabbit in the hat.