Those who know me will know that I love advertising (I’ve worked in advertising for seven years now), perhaps like many of you do too here today otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But here’s the real dagger in the heart for me – the number of consumers who don’t trust advertising is now alarmingly close to 100%. And because people don’t trust advertising, they listen to each other more and more. So today I’m going to look more closely at this issue of trust from an industry standpoint, i.e. what can people like me and you actually do about it…
Now as this is the so-called “planning perspective”, I thought I’d start with a little bit of theory. So, I’m going to introduce you all to something called “Trust Equation” (developed by some psychology guru’s) – which is essentially a rule of thumb to help us understand all the factors involved in trust. It’s really important to understand how trust works, because the word “trust” is a loaded word – we often intend more than one thing when we use the word trust. And the equation goes something like this…
Trust equals reliability plus credibility plus intimacy. They serve to increase the extent to which people trust you. You need to grade high in these factors. Reliability all about your dependability – so, can we depend on your actions?Next up is credibility. Now this is all about your knowledge and expertise - can we believe what you say?And then intimacy (I know it’s an odd word in the business sense) - this is all about the closeness of your relationship. And the question here is, do we feel safe and comfortable sharing things with you?And the theory goes that living these factors will help to build your trustworthiness.
So far so good? Except, there is also a diminishing factor, something that takes away from your trustworthiness - and because there’s only one diminishing factor, that means it’s more important that the other three…
The diminishing factor is self-orientation. So the full equation is reliability plus credibility plus intimacy divided by self orientation. Self orientation is a measure of how much you focus on your own needs versus others. It’s all about where you focus your attention. Or in other words, is your focus on yourself, or do you truly and honestly put the needs of others above your own. An advertiser with low self orientation, is free to truly and honestly focus on the customer. Such focus is rare in this industry, because the very nature of advertising is putting your own interests first in order to gain something in the return. But the truth is, if we as advertisers are going to re-build trust in advertising, we cannot have high self orientation. It is the most important factor in building trustworthiness, and one that is hugely over-looked…
And so, this is the big point I want to make today – and that’s as an industry, we pay too much attention to ourselves. We’re trapped in high self-orientation, and most of us don’t even realise it. Because we’re too busy listening to ourselves, and not paying enough attention to what really matters. We’ve spent years even decades putting our bottom lines first and our customers second. This notion of high self-orientation (as the enemy of trustworthiness) is the core theme running throughout.
To look at self orientation more closely from an industry standpoint, I think the majority of us live in this sort of make-believe advertising bubble. And one of the biggest problems with living in this bubble, is believing that people care a lot about your brand. When in actual fact, they don’t. I think we’ve reached a point where the industry has mutated into a self-obsessed bubble. And the bubble is total bullshit.
I’m sure most of you have come across this already, but I got a good chuckle out the tumblr site called… “Things real people don’t say about advertising”. It’s essentially a collection of cheesy stock photos poking fun at the world of advertising. While it’s sure to make you smile, there is a very real point in that we are so often disconnect with reality. It’s a clever little reminder that for all the time we spend debating fonts and calls to action and modern marketing practises, that the real people of the world (outside of the bubble) aren’t likely to care about our efforts nearly as much as we think or hope they will. We’ll debate stuff for hours on end, when the reality is most people couldn’t give a toss about it. They really couldn’t.
And another thing that is deeply apparent in the advertising bubble, is buzz words. I think the only thing that buzz words do for us is make us seem less intelligent than we truly are. Buzzwords are just an excuse to talk around what we really mean to say. I’m sure if you sat down with your audience and asked, “what do you need?”. The answer wouldn’t be…”a bunch of words that sound awesome”. If we can’t explain things in plain simple English, then it’s probably not worth saying. I think people in advertising often hide behind buzz words when they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Another website that gave me a chuckle but that really brings this point to life is “what the fuck is my social media strategy?”. It’s a tool that uses buzz words to generate social media strategies, so you don’t have to do a thing. And if you’ve used it before, you just click “I’ve already fucking used that one”, and it’ll serve you up another. I was once in a client meeting with so-called social media strategist or guru or whatever, where not only was the presentation littered with useless buzzwords, it even had the wrong client name on the presentation. In front of the client no less! I think we need to be aware of the dangers of using too many buzz words within the advertising bubble, and use language that real people not use in order to help lower our self-orientation.
So that was a ratherscary glimpse inside the advertising bubble that we operate within, but there is a better way…
And quite simply that is the real world. I think one of the biggest problems that I see in our industry, is that we tend to look within the advertising bubble for inspiration. And that’s probably the last place you should be looking, because you end up focusing on your own needs versus the needs of others. In order to lower your self-orientation and build trust, we need to think of advertising less, and the real world more. Don’t expect people to care. And don’t expect people to be interested. Think beyond your brand in the advertising bubble, think about how and where that brand lives in society and culture as a whole. Don’t think outwards from the bubble, think outwards from culture.
So, when developingthis idea about lowering your self-orientation, I disregarded the advertising bubble, and looked much more broadly in the real world. At popular culture – the things that people actuallychoose to trust and choose to engage with.
And on my search about trust in the real world, I came across this. You Gov ran a poll to determine the most trusted Briton. As voted by the people, of course. Any guesses as to who this might be?
A man that needs no introduction (as he is everywhere). Stephen Fry is the person that us Brits most trust. This is a man that went from spending three months in prison for steeling a family friends credit card,to becomingthe most trusted Brit.But what’s really interesting is the way he describes (or rants rather) the character and qualities of successful people in the world, and it plays right back to high self orientation as the enemy…
I won’t play the full clip, but you get the idea. To get where we want to be, we need to use our eyes to look out and not to look in. Look around you at other people. We should be interested and curious in other people outside of the bubble. Which is of course the very nature of planning. And so I’m going to spend the last few minutes (and I need to get through this quite quickly), introducing three ideas to help lower your self-orientation.
The first idea is to hire misfits. Or in other words, at least 10% of your agency hires should be non typical advertising people. Interesting people who have never heard of or read “truth in lies, lies and advertising” for example - they could be game developers, fashion experts, people from the music industry, psychologists, - just interesting people from outside the typical advertising bubble. It is rarely a good idea to hire your clone, and yet I see it happen a lot. And that’s probably because it is human nature to gravitate towards people that are like you, when you’re hiring for your agency. But what this industry really needs is people from different backgrounds with different ideas and different skill sets. For example, so much of what we do or at least should do these days, is about creating entertainment and contributing to culture in real time. We should be looking to other entertainment industries, because if we just carry on talking with advertising people, you’ll get nowhere. But if you hire interesting people you wouldn’t naturally talk to, then you’ll be more interesting and unexpected opportunities will open up. Agencies need to break away from the past, and learn to cast their talent net wide wide enough to catch a few non conforming fish. Worry less about job titles, it’s more important to be an expert in something but have your heads in other departments too.
The second idea is simply getting out and about. That means spending less time in the advertising office, and more time in the real world engaging with real people. We should have a positive interest in others outside of advertising.Technology means that we are no longer constrained by the rigid formats of time and location, so there really is no excuse. Don’t work in the office full time – I don’t know about you, but I find that I do my best thinking when I’m out and about, amongst the people we are trying to understand and influence. Don’t spend your time in office talking about stuff, or staring at PowerPoint and venn diagrams, get out there and actually do stuff. We need to be curious in the world, experience new and different things, observe behaviours, and be actively involved in stuff. Truly expose ourselves to popular culture. Digital downtimeDon’t just look at advertising, look at other people looking at advertisingIf any of us, client or agency side, lose sight of the human insight or motivation of other people, we’ll never be able to add value to the businesses we’re trying to drive forward. The cliché of being interested and interesting is unfortunately true.
And the final idea is this – abolish the case study video for awards entries. I’m sure you all know the ones I mean. Kill the awards entry video / case study addictionWhile at times useful / nice, has got totally out of hand. Advertising for advertising’ sake – nothing to do with the consumerManipulative and self-obsessed.Heineken Star Player – for awards (not even during football season)Pink ponies – a satirical take on how the creative world sells itself. “In a crowded birthday market, we didn’t just create a birthday party, we created a birthday movement”. It serves as a good reminder that your idea doesn’t deserve a Cannes lions just because the office manager re-tweeted it. Payment by resultsI would love to get back to the power of great ideas, not the slickness of the awards entry. Selling their own advertisingBonuses when you win award, bonus for Don’t polish a turd and put glitter on it…Case study script written before you’ve even made the idea. As an industry we need to be more results driven, not driven by shiny new gongs. How we get rewarded / incentivised could have real impacy on agencies. I’m still astounded by the amount of award shows there are today, how many websites that cater strictly to advertising folk trying to show off to one another. And, the pathetic lengths that even senior creatives will go to to get fake ads produced solely for awards.
Nicola Davies, Planner @ Cake@diginic
Introducing…the “Trust Equation” Source: Galford and Drapeau