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What Comes First: Good Advertising, or an Informed Public?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We and our AdLand colleagues have been going around in circles trying to make sure that the consumer is engaged, that the consumer knows what is going on, and that there is so much information out in the world about our products and services that there is no possible way that they missed any content.

Yet many consumers suffer cognitive dissonance because they believe they were forced to believe they were getting something else, or the product didn't live up to their wildly high and often unrealistic expectations, or that they were just flat out wrong.

Our question is, then: Does our advertising, our act of messaging, need to get better? Or is it up to the consumer to meet us halfway and actually take the time to be accurately informed?

In a perfect world, the responsibility would rest on both our shoulders. Yet in this litigious and consumer-oriented economy, the bulk of the blame will fall on the marketing and advertising professionals.

So it goes.

But why? If Americans are freedom-loving people, then why don't they use their free time, use their own information-seeking talents, and become informed enough consumers that a slightly misinformed ad isn't going to cause consumers to not think?

Ah, yes! We forgot. That's not how it works. Instead, U.S. consumers rely on all advertising and marketing materials, in addition to word of mouth and referrals, and expect that everything that they hear is 100% true.

Come on, now. Holding an entire industry to the same standard that English teachers use for online citations is silly, and just as impractical. Just like students shouldn't believe everything they read online, consumers can't believe every marketing or advertising piece — and not because the information is false, either. They could not be in the suggested target market, or the number of variables in the environment is just enough to make a poor decision.

Good advertising is good advertising when the right people see it at the right time, and it stimulates the desired action. That's it. Get one confused consumer in the mix, or if the right consumer sees it at the wrong time, undesirable results are bound to happen.

Perhaps this question is more than two-pronged. Thoughts?

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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