The Fundamental Reason Advertising and Advertisers are Failing

Advertising is failing as a whole. Recent research says you are 457x more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. describes the state of the advertising world quite eloquently with their video 8 reasons why advertising doesn’t work anymore. Even cracked in all its wonderful comedic glory doesn’t strike at the heart of the matter.

The fundamental reason advertising and advertisers are failing is simple, they are thinking like an advertiser.

Advertisers and advertising fundamentally have a simple concept. How can we sell our product? This isn’t to say they haven’t changed some in the overall strategy. Advertisers now talk a lot about telling their brands story.

But in all reality Levi’s are just a pair of jeans, there is no real story behind the brand. The brand is there to make you think that buying these jeans are somehow different. That your identity will be better defined and expressed with these jeans. There is no added value in buying Levi’s over Armani Exchange jeans.

The only real value is an intrinsic perception of the company, how have they made you feel over the years. Sure one might cost less than the other, but they are all made in the same manufacturing facilities in China.

How much value did they add to your life?

Why do we consume content from one news source vs another?

Google the latest trending topic and you will see at least 10 different stories about that topic. All 10 of those stories will say mostly the same thing, and do an equal job delivering the overall message. Sure Fox news is extremely conservative and CNN is more liberal leaning but the basic info is overall the same. This leaning one way or another creates an added value to the readers. It states that YES what they already thought was true.

Value can only be measured in emotions because we are emotional creatures. We use logic to justify our emotional decisions, but in the end all logic is gone in an emotional reaction.

Your advertisement is not adding real value.

Great advertising can create value, they make us laugh, they entertain us, they educate us. After they do that, they earn the right to natively pitch to us. Let me say this again. After they add value by eliciting an emotional reaction do they EARN THE RIGHT to pitch to us NATIVELY. When this is done effectively viral campaigns like Poop-ouri, Dollar shave club, or even Dove’s real beauty sketches happen.

Most advertising dollars are wasted because they are thinking quantity, not quality.

If you were to start a business what is rule number 1? put the consumer first, make a product they care about and solves a real need. Why would advertising be any different?

If you were to make an advertisement what need are you solving for the consumer? What emotions do I the consumer want to feel? Apple made us feel like being different was ok in the world of corporate conformity.

Advertisers resort to two base emotions “Sex and Fear.” Want a product to sell? Then put some hot half naked women on it, but really does a half naked women really make you want to buy a Budweiser? If I wanted to drink swill water I would ask the barkeep to ring out the bar rag into my mouth. No amount of half naked women would make me choose to drink a Budweiser over another.

How to fail at your advertisement

I just attended Adweek NYC or #AWXII. Looking at the roster I expected great things from the presenters. This was after all the best of the best advertisers talking and presenting. Topics ranged in a variety of subjects, but all had some great headline such as “How to build your online brand like an all-star.”

What I expect is very simple, the panel explains their “How to” with a few takeaway points or actionable steps. Then at the end say this is how we as a brand or as an influencer make sense to talk about this subject and this is what we do.

Following the simple formula audience>emotion>earn>native pitch.

This is how it actually went… Interesting hook to get you in the seat> to 50-minutes of straight pitching the company > 10 minutes of Q+A. Inevitably leading me back to one question, why am I wasting my time listening to you?

Want your advertising to work Budweiser’s of the world?

Look at who your real target demographic is and make content that speaks to them. Warning stereotypes are coming out. Budweiser creates an add of some hillbillies driving their pickup truck through some mud, parking deep in the forest, setting up a campfire for a hunt and cracking a 30 rack for the night. The tagline can be “The beer I share with my friends.” Why would this work? Because the demographic would look at the advertisement and say “hey that’s us”, they would get a kick out of it and appreciate it.

Follow the simple formula audience>emotion>earn>native pitch

Simply put, start thinking like consumers and content creators first, second, and third. Stop caring about the pitch at the end, because in the end it doesn’t matter. The audience doesn’t care about your brand if you respect that they will give you their dollars.

The secret to selling to your audience and having them thank you for doing so is storytelling. Storytell to sell is an adage every advertiser must live by. Don’t believe me, look at any Superbowl commercial and you will notice tons of great examples of storytelling.