For a long time now, we’ve been thrust into a mass media where “news” is entertainment and “entertainment” is news.
This carefully-constructed bubble is practically inescapable.
It’s the ultimate bread and circus society. Attention spans are shorter. People are shallower. And the rift between a deep, meaningful life and the garbage spewed by popular ads widens daily.
It’s a dopamine-laden paradise. Fast food, shallow friends, and self-medication. Instant gratification. What ever happened to integrity, individuality, and freedom?
I’m ranting, I know. But there’s a method to my madness. Just hear me out.
My point is:
You Can Hate on Pop Culture as Much as You Want, But Ignoring It is A Bad Call if You Want to Write Effective Ads!
People think coming up with a brilliant idea means locking themselves in an ivory tower or hiding in the woods until “inspiration” strikes.
Look. Distancing yourself from the very people you’re trying to persuade deprives you of the opportunity to tap into their psychology and draw awesome ideas from it!
The “mass market” – the ones who make things viral, who make overnight YouTube sensations – they’re the ones who will ultimately become your customers. At least a segment of them will. Your target market probably isn’t a group of ascetics or monks with zero attachment to popular culture.
Wait. You don’t have to rush over to your TV and set your DVR to record Keeping up With the Kardashians.
But you DO need to keep an ear to the ground when it comes to pop culture. Despite the fact that 99.9% of it out there is total trash, keeping an eye on “what’s hot” can offer you unique glimpses into the psyche of the masses. Glimpses you can’t get anywhere else…
You don’t even have to do much to keep up with this stuff. Coworkers, significant others, and random strangers on the internet are all too happy to go on and on about it if you only listen.
Consider yourself a fly on the wall. Or, if it makes it more exciting for you, an undercover agent on a mission to discover the secrets of human psychology and find out what makes people “tick”… once and for all!
Got your feelers out? Good. What’s next?
Remember Your Goal Isn’t to Create “Popular” Ads Yourself, But to Use What You Learn from Them to Create Effective Ads
I’m not saying you should TRY to create popular or trendy ads. That’s great if that’s what happens. But any trendiness or popularity should be byproducts of hitting on cultural “hot buttons” and focusing on what’s important.
Certain sales appeals are always effective. Studying them and applying them in your ads is a heck of a lot better than trying to guess what might “sounds good” to your prospects.
While it’s true certain appeals are timeless, their individual effectiveness fluctuates. What was popular 30 years ago isn’t as popular today. You can use these cultural “ebbs and flows” to help you choose the appeal to make your ad the most effective right now.
Another trend (at least I hope it’s a trend) is most people are becoming increasingly molded by their culture. “Individuals” are fading into the background. We’re watching the same TV shows, listening to the same “music” on the radio, and worshiping the same celebrities. To the point that we’re literally thinking the same thoughts!
But don’t despair. You can use this to your advantage.
Which brings me to… farmers…
How a Super Bowl Made Farming Cool Again… and What it Tells Us About Pop Culture Right Now
You probably already know what I’m talking about.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a little break and check out this ad:
Pretty cool stuff. I’m not sure how effective it is because I don’t think it will send people running to Dodge dealerships. But it’s definitely a well-done “brand ad” by a company with a big advertising budget.
This just aired during the Super Bowl last weekend… and the reception was overwhelming. It struck a nerve, and a lot of people really enjoyed it.
Let’s dig into this ad for a minute. Its massive popularity is a chance to check up on the current cultural “heartbeat.”
What’s the big draw about it? What’s it all about?
Nostalgia. More specifically, nostalgia for that self-reliance that Thoreau wrote about. There’s freedom, too. And frontier spirit.
Nostalgia is one of those “timeless” sales appeals that’s always a decent option. But the fact that this ad struck a chord at this moment in history, in a place that usually shuns the past in favor of novelty and innovation, is telling.
It’s a nice arrow to have in your quiver. What are you trying to sell? Is there a nostalgia angle you could try? Is there a way you can ride the tide of popular culture to make your ad more effective?
Riding with the tide is a lot easier than trying to fight it. Hate it all you want, but popular culture (and popular ads) aren’t going away. Ever. Might as well use it to gain an edge in your ads…
You don’t have to watch the shows, read the rags, or bookmark Perez Hilton. But you need a presence in the pop culture “scene” so you can measure the cultural heartbeat. And use the insight you find to write ads that sell.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought of the farmers ad. I’d love to hear from you!