The Anatomy of Humbug (Pt. 3) – Drawing (System 1) Conclusions

In Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of our review of The Anatomy of Humbug, we took a look at the history of Salesmanship Theory and Seduction Theory. But in the past century, other models have been proposed – and Paul Feldwick’s given them their due recognition here. Who were the main proponents of these models, and how did they contribute to our modern take on advertising excellence?


In our final review post, we unpick part three of Feldwick’s book – how other models of advertising are believed to work – and draw our own conclusions.

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The Anatomy of Humbug (Pt. 2) – Seduction Theory

In Pt. 1 of our review of The Anatomy of Humbug, we delved into the first part of the book, which detailed the genesis of the Salesmanship Theory – the idea that ads work by giving us information and persuading us to act. But there is another story to be told, one that is intimately intertwined with the enduring legacy of Salesmanship – that of Seduction.


In today’s post, we focus on the second part of Feldwick’s book – the historical roots of Seduction Theory – the notion that ads play on our subconscious motivations and emotions. It’s here that Feldwick uncovers the shaky ground salesmanship theories were built on – dogmas like USP, which spread by simplicity, not evidence – and exposes their limitations.

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Emotion in Analytics? Well, Actually, Yes!

Today’s blog post is by Susan Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer.

Recently, we were pleased to help organize the 2015 Analytics With Purpose conference, organized by the American Marketing Association.

We were delighted  to see some great speakers talking about the practical results of the application, benefits and, in certain examples, limitations of analytics to marketing problems. Even more exciting were some inspiring sessions on the shifting landscape that up the ante in terms of the role of emotions…in the life of brands and the analytical measure of their impact on consumers’ behaviors.

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The Anatomy of Humbug (Pt. 1) – Salesmanship Theory

Today’s blog post is by Orlando Wood, Managing Director, BrainJuicer Labs.

It’s the book launch of Paul Feldwick’s The Anatomy of Humbug – and it’s such a provocative and fascinating book about advertising that we’ve decided to review it in a three-part series.

This isn’t a book about how advertising works’, states Feldwick, ‘but a book about how people think advertising works’. Feldwick often jokes that he’s always wanted to write a book about how advertising works, entitled ‘you’re all wrong you b*stards’, but this book isn’t it. Rather, this book is a history of the characters who have formed how we think about advertising. anatomy of humbug

Like an archaeologist, Feldwick reveals the sedimentary layers of advertising theory to show us how we got where we are today. Feldwick doesn’t draw any conclusions on which theory is right; he invites the reader to make up their own mind on that score.

The book is in three parts, but it’s the first two (Salesmanship and Seduction) that form its backbone. The third part looks at four other ways people think advertising might work – Salience, Social Connection, Spin and Showmanship.

We’ll be delving into each, with this first post focusing on the Salesmanship theory (the idea that ads work by giving us information and persuading us to act).

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No, The Super Bowl Ads Weren’t ‘Too Emotional’

We know one big Super Bowl winner already – hip-hop legend Missy Elliott has seen an 1000% boost to her iTunes sales after she joined Katy Perry for the half-time show. For the brands who paid to advertise, the picture is inevitably less clear. After all, the short-term benefits won’t be known for weeks – and the long-term benefit of famous advertising is best measured over years.

Missy Elliott

That isn’t stopping commentators weighing in, of course. Consensus has it that 2015 saw a dreary crop of ads, and we wouldn’t necessarily argue. What’s more concerning is where the finger is being pointed. In a Forbes piece yesterday, Derek Rucker of the Kellogg School made a curious comparison. “There were lots of ads trying to pull at heartstrings with different levels of success. There was less of your funny, humorous, in-your-face advertising [in this game], and clearly a lot more emotional advertising.”

This, according to Rucker and Jennifer Rooney, the piece’s writer, was a problem. Tilt the balance of ads too far to the sombre and it stops being congruent with the Super Bowl’s party atmosphere. It’s a good point. The trouble is, Rucker’s apparent distinction between “emotional advertising” and “funny, humorous, in-your-fact advertising” is just not right. Continue reading

Super Bowl XLIX: From Sadvertising To Dadvertising?

The game was close – the advertising battle really wasn’t. At least that’s if you take USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings seriously – and as an overnight measure, we do. While they aren’t perfect, their simple measurement of how likeable an ad was stands as a reasonable instant proxy for a more in-depth emotional assessment. According to USA Today’s scores, Budweiser is – yet again – the Super Bowl champion, romping to a win with a direct sequel to last year’s “Puppy Love” in the form of “Lost Dog”.

“Lost Dog” tweaks the formula a little: a slowed-down cover version rather than a famous original song, a new antagonist in the form of a wolf, and last year’s hint of a love story is shunted aside so the ad can go big on its dog-horse bromance. Will the changes help “Lost Dog” maintain the five-star status of previous ads in the sequence, once we test it more rigorously? You’ll have to pop into our results Webinar on the 17th to find out. But we wouldn’t bet against it. Continue reading

Stunts, Surprises and Sappy Endings: 6 Paths To Online Video Emotion

One of the things you might have noticed looking at the FeelMore50 list of the world’s most emotional ads, is that a bunch of them are long – around the three minute mark, and sometimes more. The thirty or sixty second TV spot can still pack a big emotional wallop – after all, this year’s winner was thirty seconds – but advertising made for and watched on the internet is getting increasingly emotional.

Online video itself is hardly a new trend! But looking at the online and viral ads in the 2014 Feelmore50, what’s obvious is the sense of a rejuvenated industry, figuring out what works and getting better almost by the month. People have known now to make great TV ads for a long time – even if their actually doing so has been held back by caution and by bad models of how advertising works. But the longform online video, designed for sharing, is newer, and agencies are still learning how to use it well and make it emotional.

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This means two things. It means there’s a palpable buzz around the best examples as bold creatives try new tricks. It also means that an approach that works is very quickly copied, and then mutates as its DNA is spliced with other successful examples. For instance, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” and P&G’s “Thank You Mom” were both massively shared, and we’ve seen a lot of campaigns building on and trying to improve on their ideas. But we’ve also seen campaigns – like Cardstore’s “World’s Toughest Job” – which take the Dove empowerment activation and mix it with a shot of P&G style gratitude.

My guess is that in even three years’ time online videos will look very different. Not just because there will be more points of interaction and personalisation, but because agencies will have learned to use their two-to-three minute canvas even more efficiently and emotionally.

But for now here are the six dominant ways of making an emotional longform ad right now: the Stunt, the Surprise, the Sappy Ending, the Social Experiment, the Spectacular – and of course the Story. Continue reading