Stuttgart, 26. Oktober 2012

Standard and Manipulation. Why advertising must find itself again.

Hippies wanted change standards in the sixties. Not only societally. They broke predominant standards in all political and cultural areas. Until today, a major part of cultural operation are based on the formula “deviate from standard”. 

The joy for standard fracture in the thirties up to the sixties was preceded by the fascistic lust to dictate standards. One generation was persuaded with the possibility to enforce standards with mass media and forced into the 2. world war. After the 2nd world war intellectuals felt the duty to rouse the people. They wanted society to demonstrate its vulnerability to manipulation. The peril of manipulation by mass media was sensed as omnipresent. Everything which isn’t thought through by mind but intuitively absorbed, was noted as suspicious. With it advertisement was among to the realm of evil. Creatives were ashamed in every intellectual round not to be theater makers, Set designer or journalists.

To avoid the public disregard intellectual copywriters and graphic designers developed commercials further into informative “entertainment”. Standard fracture was basis therefore. Consumers shouldn’t no longer attract for a product with persuasive pictures but surprising twists, no longer with dumb penetration but intellectual debate. The Standard fracture was the instrument for. The educational concept debate-with-information was set against the principle people-seducing-underhandedly-for-purchase-of-useless-products. Advertising obtained not only status by this general concept but cult at times. Consumers were delighted. Marketing manager enjoyed the applause. That success remained not without consequences.

People love to emulate successful people. Also if surprising or humorous advertising was hard to convey in its early days it’s generally required today. Most of the people think it must be so in the meantime. What happens if all advertising maker overtrump each other with standard fracture? If constantly everything is disassembled and newly rearranged, newly interpreted or questioned? More and more fragments of one single general concept are produced and with the growing number of variations conformity established. But the method standard fracture needs standards for function. The more fans the principle divergence-from-standard gets the more difficult it becomes to protrude from the mass. The method Standard fracture suffocates on its own success. Standard fracture itself becomes advertising standard.

The clearest it becomes if one come to pass into the central institution of advertising creatives - the Art Directors Club. This club award the best commercially ideas every year. A book with the awarded work is published each year. If one flicks through the edition of 1971 extraordinary and famous campaigns are catching the eye. If one flicks through the edition of 2011 one sees much which seem familiar also if it never was perceived in publicity. Everything seems familiar and already seen. I myself am a passionate creative and designer for advertising; Art Director Club member. I´m convinced to be creative means establishing standards today. Further I´m convinced advertising has to learn to manipulate people again.

What’s manipulation really? We are connecting the term with betrayal, ambush and lie. A brand which lies or tries with other matters to pull a fast one on customers does not last. No, it’s not about taking consumers for a ride. It’s about catching them by their desires. Along these lines manipulation means to give consumers assistance, to do what they secretly want to do. Desires of people aren’t always reasonable: to smoke, to drive to fast, to have too early sex, to play first-person-shooter while to eat crisps, to feed oneself by sweets, to eat burger with chips, to watch TV until dawn, etc.

In a world in which many people see themselves as pedagogue everything should be omitted what people seduce to unreasonable deeds. To deal with secret desires is along these lines reactionary. The pedagogues between the advertisers shouldn’t fail to see one could also nurture with the same mechanisms the desire for more knowledge, to be more sporty, to be more social etc. Advertising is catalyzing only wishes - may be these “good” or “bad”.

With the confession pave the way for low material wishes only the first step is done - although the most important. Why is it beyond that necessary to set up a standard? Or in other words: Wy is it vital for brands to appear uniformly? In information cacophony, which is not only a result of the rising flood of information but a result of the variation of the theme “deviate from standard”, only that is imprinted which is steady repeated.

If everyone tells jokes and twisty stories at a party, one will recognize one who every time recites poems. And because at the party are ten thousand guests he has not to worry to recite always the same. With it probability increases that the poem is heard by a guest more than once. Maybe a guest is able to remember one or the other interesting story. But our poet becomes himself a story. He never will be forgotten.

Exactly that happens with brands like Axe, Dove, Coke, etc. Each of this brands established their own standard. Whatever we think about these examples - they are the well known guests in the party of information. And each of these advertising icons addresses desires. Whether it’s for attractivity, emancipation ideals of beauty or happiness. This type of advertising manipulates us consumer by the promise of our dreams to fulfill. Only through connection of manipulative text, picture and sound choice as well as a uniform - standardized - appearance it becomes possible to establish The defining image! of a brand in the consumer’s mind.

A new chance for advertising - it’s time to manipulate consumers with standards.

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