Blogs & Comment

Did you hear the one about the cows and the orchestra?

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“Apparently, you can make cows produce better milk by playing classical music to them. This is the kind of info that’s invaluable to anyone who works in dairy advertising. Indeed, you can see the headline from here: “We love our cows and it shows!” “Milk that’s music to your palate!” The trouble is, well, it would be a lie. You see, truth and advertising have always been strange bedfellows. In fact, you could describe them either as the best match since yin met yang or the kind of couple that makes a Hollywood marriage look like a model of stability. Indeed, in consumers’ minds, an advertising truth represents the kind of contradiction in terms that gives our jobs the credibility rating of a con artist.

In the past, people used to look to ads to decide what will wash whiter and what will make indigestion more manageable. Now they are better informed, not by the companies themselves but by other users and their experiences, so much so that, with the industry relying increasingly on metaphors and exaggeration to differentiate their brands, ads became more a source of ridicule than, well, info. Indeed, if you want an insightful look at how people actually consume advertising, just do a search for “honest ads”.

And it is not getting any easier: today nobody can hide. There are apps that rate a brand’s eco-friendliness, others that give you instant user experience feedback and ones that allow you to uncover ethical manufacturing issues by simply scanning the barcode with your mobile. Dammit, at this rate we will have insider info on a manufacturer’s new year party and video content associated with it.

The implications of this should not be underestimated. Advertising has become the kind of legal minefield that makes a foray into the Afghan outback look like a romantic picnic. With consumers now armed with an arsenal of democratised investigative tools, you bend a product truth at your own peril.”