In the race to create brand fame, advertisers often lose sight of the power of connection and, most of all, authenticity, says Steve Connelly
All of us have a pretty good bullcrap filter. Rolling our eyes comes naturally and easily.
I remember a few years ago when TV host Ellen DeGeneres decided to wade into the fiery ‘should you recline your seat on an airplane?’ debate. She, of course, said on her show that she should be able to push that seat back. She owned the space behind her. My eyeballs rolled so far back in my head I could see my bald spot.
Like Ellen ever flies coach. Yeah, right. She knows what it is like to sit behind an airline recliner. Sure.
I bring this up because the Merriam-Webster Dictionary recently announced its word of the year for 2023 was, wait for it, authentic.
According to the people behind the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a high-volume lookup most years, authentic saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity, culture, identity, and social media.”
For those of us who have long waved the flag of empathy over entertainment in advertising, of real over contrived, of understated vs. “please make sure the product logo is always facing the camera and that everyone smiling like they won the lottery,” I would like to thank Merriam-Webster.
People always debate me, but no one ever argues with the dictionary.
Agencies and clients have been slow to embrace authenticity and generally ignore cries of bullcrap, still churning out work that exists in a world that is light years from reality. Too creatively constrictive. Client will never buy ideas that are grounded in real. Our job is to present the product, not life. The more logos the better and always make sure the package faces the camera.
The rise of authenticity should give everyone in our chosen field the time to pause. Your customer’s bullcrap filter is being upgraded daily. Stop hiding behind the argument that “the number one job of advertising is to be noticed.”
You’re living in the past, friend. Like I always say, everyone notices a streaker but no one wants to shake his hand. Your job is not to be noticed, it is to connect. To be relevant to them and solve the everyday challenges they face.
Now, you may be a big budget brand with media money to make your work unignorable by pounding your logo in front of people at every turn. You don’t care about authentic, about keeping it real, about connecting with people. You market with a sledgehammer.
But for the rest of us with nominal budgets who have to circle a customer’s brain looking for a slightly open window to sneak a message through, authenticity is increasingly effective. Even the dictionary says so.
Now, I am not saying that the ultimate barometer for marketing should be “Would this ever happen in real life?”. What I am saying is that creative and strategy would be well served to consider the rise of Raw, Real and Relevance fuelled by social media and a bullcrap hatin’ customer base. Find that place where your products and services intersect with real life, then get creative.
In my experience, real life is funny enough.
So, if authentic was the word for 2023, it should be the mandate for advertisers in 2024.
Steve Connelly is President and Copywriter, Connelly Partners.