What is the 'information' in an ad?

Charles Young

In a meeting at a medium-sized baked goods company, the ad agency realised that the newly minted CEO, promoted from the financial side of the business, was operating with a mental model of advertising that you might call the 'news programme' model. It was evident, he believed, that if you have nothing new to say about a brand, you should not say anything.

The reason to spend money on advertising, he believed, is simply to introduce new products or to announce product improvements. Not surprisingly, the ad team invested a deal of effort in explaining the role that emotion has in strengthening the relationship between an already-established brand and the consumer.

At a large fast-food restaurant chain that does a great deal of new-product advertising, a product manager and an agency creative director are engaged in a familiar debate: how much time in a commercial should be devoted to showing the product? The creative director argued that the first job of advertising is to attract attention and build awareness, which was the main argument for investing time in attention-getting, non-product visuals. But the client wanted to 'light the money!' The new product itself is the attention-getting 'news' in the ad. So they should spend as much time as possible showing the product, to motivate consumers to try it.