LONDON: The Brexit vote revealed a divided UK, one which is replicated to a large degree in how agency employees view the world compared with the people they are creating advertising for, according to the head of group insight at Trinity Mirror.

Andrew Tenzer discussed this topic at the recent Media Research Summit in London, where he outlined research showing that brands and advertising are losing relevance and are increasingly out of touch with most consumers.

He reached this conclusion based on evidence from psychological tests, drawn from a survey of more than 2,400 adults from middle-income households and 150 interviews with staff representing all of the UK’s major media agencies. (For more read WARC’s report: Unconscious bias and the declining relevance of brands and advertising.)

“We found agency people are more individualistic, more likely to say [for example] that being poor was down to individual responsibility,” he reported. “This strong individualism is a key difference in the agency sample versus the modern mainstream.”

Despite this, 48% of the agency sample identified as left wing politically, compared to 28% of the modern mainstream; 19% described themselves as right wing, compared to 28% of the modern mainstream.

Tenzer also highlighted the psychological traits that drive behaviour amongst the advertising community.

“We found a contrast between identity and self-image in people working in advertising and actually we saw a greater psychological need for belonging, which means self-image is very important to people working in the media and advertising industry.”

There are implications for campaign decision making, he suggested, pointing to four ways in which adland’s biases affect its output.
  • Too much emphasis is placed on new technologies and media platforms.
  • While advertisers think they’re trying to be relevant to the mainstream, the subconscious position is to impress the people at work.
  • Advertisers are projecting brand relationships onto people who don’t really care.
  • Advertising is obsessed with expression of individual identity so that even basic products are positioned as routes to self-actualisation and signifiers of personal achievement and status.
“Our view is we need to manage this subconscious bias, because otherwise this chasm that’s happening is going to get wider and wider until we’re shouting out to our audience and they can no longer hear us,” stated Tenzer.

Sourced from WARC