A Brave New Ad World?

I just Googled “Why do people hate ads?” I’m not against advertising per se. It’s just a bit absurd, isn’t it?

Franco Bonadio

Chief Creative Officer at C Space

Franco Bonadio is C Space’s Chief Creative Officer. Franco finds inspiration everywhere — in film, design, interactive and experiential spaces. He can mould ideas and insights into powerful human stories that make you think, feel and act. He brings that creative flair into his home, too – spinning pizza a mano with his data-obsessed wife (proving once and for all that opposites attract, especially when there’s authentic Italian food for dinner). Before C Space, Franco worked as Global Creative Director of The Body Shop and CEO of Identica Design.

Actors pretending to be customers. Way too much smiling, and everything seems too perfect. Or, perfectly designed to look imperfect. Compare TV ads to social media, where everything feels so raw and genuine and full of life — people sharing the things they do, eat, say, and think. Advertising feels fake by comparison. Contrived and manipulative. Ad agencies have failed to keep up with the zeitgeist of communication – and as such, advertising feels outdated. It’s almost as if they’re afraid to be real.

So, back to my Google search.

Studies say we all hate ads.

We ignore, block, and mock them.

What we really want is a conversation.

It’s hard to disagree with any of that. We’re human, after all. Conversation is what we do. The best conversations aren’t one-sided. But most ads are. A cast of characters talking at you. Except, they’re not you. And you know it. That’s the problem.

One of our clients had this feeling, too. They’re a big retailer who asked us to pitch them a new ad campaign. They wanted it to be different and unexpected. Here’s the thing. We’re not an ad agency. We’re a customer agency. Real life is what we do best. So, that’s what we gave them. Real customers in real situations — clips of film that were more documentary-style than your typical, run-of-the mill type of advertising. Everything centered around customers – not actors pretending to be customers, but the real people, who shop in their stores every day. The client loved it. We won the pitch.

It means we’ll be working with real customers, to produce our client’s TV ads, print ads, and more. Forget actors. Our work will show the realities of life. The people in the ads will be smiling (but not too much). They’ll be funny, sad, rushed, tired, happy, vulnerable people who celebrate the small wins in life using our client’s products. Positive and aspirational people who are also laced with anxiety and pressure — just like you and me.

Our brave client is going against the usual ad approach. It’s a risk, but not too big of one. As the client says, “It’s hard to un-do the knowledge that lots of customers dislike traditional advertising.” Will it work? Time will be the judge of things, of course. I’m confident (and hopeful) however this is going to work. After all we are working with our client’s real customers, putting them at the heart of their business and literally into their work. If these actual customers like the ads (which they star in), then it stands to reason that other people will like and relate to them, too.

It’s much less acting and more reality TV, for the customer by the customer and with the help of a Customer Agency.

I’m excited. This feels like a moment … a profound change in the way agencies and clients work together to produce great advertising that people love.

Fingers crossed real life is just a little bit more engaging; a little bit more real, and a little bit more interesting too.

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