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The Advertised Mind

By Erik du Plessis (Kogan Page, July 2005, 226 pp., $45)

By Erik du Plessis (Kogan Page, July 2005, 226 pp., $45)

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Which ad will move more toothbrushes: one with a freckled kid or one with a cleavage shot? The answer, says author Erik du Plessis, is whichever ad audiences like more. Hmm. Forty-five bones seems like a lot to pay for this bit of tautological wisdom. While his ad-liking thesis may not sound worth the 226-page hike, it’s the trail of breadcrumbs that holds the value of this work. Recall and persuasion are today’s primary measures of ad effectiveness. Du Plessis makes the case that emotion is actually the foundation of both, a major shift that he says today’s advertisers are reluctant to accept. How to spark emotion? Forget shocking humor or schlocky celebrities. Design a campaign that will evoke and resonate with people’s feelings. To back this up, du Plessis has assiduously amassed the latest scientific research from the fields of neurology, psychology, and advertising, and presented it in an exhaustive, empirical package. That glut of data means that these findings don’t exactly jump right out of the book; du Plessis’s studied work isn’t light reading for an O’Hare layover. Go ahead and pick it up on billable hours. After all, the book will give you a competitive advantage. And while you might read the explorations of pleasure-obsessed AI machines and snippets of Freud and Descartes for fun, you better get paid to make such topics as the amygdala and norepinephrine (uh, neurology stuff) a bit more palatable.

Backstory Du Plessis got his start as a 30-year-old media director of BBDO South Africa. After four years of hard-knocks tutelage, he graduated to his own research company, Impact Information. It was there that du Plessis had the epiphany that led to The Advertised Mind. “I realized that neurologists weren’t reading what we’d done,” he says, “and we weren’t reading what they’d done.”

What we liked Measurement of advertising effectiveness is in demand, and this book helps both creatives and accountants deal with it. Du Plessis ably guides readers through rougher spots with unabashed frankness (“At this stage, I want you to start thinking about brands.”)

What we didn’t There’s a reason creatives in the ad world abhor testing; jokes wither and taglines wear thin. Du Plessis — a man of numbers — can’t escape the irony that his call for more emotional advertising comes in a highly technical, academic package.

What to say to sound like you’ve read it The best way to predict an ad’s success is to test its likability. “Ad-liking” — more than relentless repetition or slickness — is the most direct means of getting people to remember and take action.