Only 4% of Americans believe that the marketing and advertising industry acts with integrity, according to a 2015 study by the 4As entitled “Sex, Lies and News.”
News is beyond my purview, so let’s start with sex. Consumers who see sex in advertising say it cheapens products and makes them question the creative abilities of the advertising agency. Who knew?
Don’t feel too badly about the lack of integrity thing, because the U.S. Congress only has 2% more credibility points than the marketing industry.
I’d say that makes consumers pretty astute.
So what happened? With social media, review sites and easy access to information, the baloney churned out by agencies has been exposed, if not blown up.
It’s ironic that everyone is racing to make their brands more authentic, when the public thinks we’re lying to them. What happened? I’d say our work has turned into 50 Shades of Fudging It. The reasons are plentiful:
- Pressure internally and externally from clients to amp up claims and language.
- The misperception that we work in a Mad Men Style la-la land, which encourages us to take poetic/artistic license.
- Other brands are lying, so we need to lie just to keep up.
- We’re kidding ourselves that we know the consumer. And why is that? We believe that research has all the answers.
- And finally, I think it’s laziness. We don’t fact check, consult multiple sources, go out in the field and interview consumers, and we take our clients’ word for it.
If authenticity is the benchmark now, how do we turn this around?
- Hire journalists. They’ve been trained to search for truth, and a lot of them are unemployed.
- Use facts instead of adjectives. Prove that a product or service works in the way you’ve claimed, or don’t make the claim. The last line in most pharmaceutical ads is “may cause death.” This is very disturbing. At least give me the Vegas line on surviving.
- Understand that great branding is based on reality, communicating it, and integrating it throughout a company. When advertising is more enticing than the consumer experience, watch out. You’re about to take a hit in the integrity category. BP has a beautiful tree-hugging logo, but it sure doesn’t make them environmentalists.
- Use facts in advertising, and, when you can, cite your sources. And give credit and links anytime you borrow anything you didn’t produce.
- Know that consumers are way smarter than we think. We need to get closer to them. The annual focus group isn’t enough. We need resources to get to know and observe them.
Aren’t these just common sense ideas? Then let’s make it an industry goal to body slam Congress in 2015.