by Stefan Mumaw
A wise old creative once said “People don’t read ads, they read what entertains them. Sometimes, that’s an ad.”
The sentiment is still true, we are naturally attracted to that which entertains us. In the absence of entertainment, we turn to whatever distraction we can find (bored in a meeting? That’s what smartphones are for. Dull dinner conversation? The game’s on TV just over their shoulder, take a look!) Entertainment is at the very heart of how we, as creatives, capture attention, retain memory and build street evangelism.
But entertainment alone is not an idea, it’s simply entertainment. Without relevancy, entertainment provides a shallow connection to the audience, a fleeting moment in one’s experience, soon replaced by the next engaging opportunity. As creatives, we want our ideas to have a lasting effect on our audience. We want the ideas we generate to work toward the ultimate goal of influencing consumer behavior, whether that’s a logo that communicates business value or an ad campaign that helps sells millions of units. To do this, we can use entertainment as a vehicle to be noticed, stay relevant at decision time and propagate socially.
In A World Of Blah, Become The Shiny Object
Market research firm Yankelovich Inc. tells us that the average adult is exposed to over 5,000 advertising messages per day. If our ideas have to first garner attention before they can be absorbed, how do we get our audience to spend any significant time with us? Jon Bond, cofounder of ad agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, once said, “Telling and selling doesn’t work as well as it used to because I’d literally just tune out the commercial. Because of that, the merger of entertainment and selling is inevitable. Unless there is entertainment value, why would I opt in?” The assumption is that if the messenger entertains the audience, they are far more likely to remember the message.
Direct Response Is Rare, So Be There When They Need You
Most marketing messages fall on deaf ears because those ears aren’t in a position to act upon the message. If there’s nothing wrong with your roof, then roof repair services aren’t likely to be something you’d notice in a crowded market of messages vying for your attention. But if that message entertained you in some way, you’re more likely to remember that message when you do need roof repair services. Human behavior is to stow away valuable products and services in our memory for a time when we’ll need them, so we rarely act upon that message when we encounter it unless the timing is perfect. Entertainment typically has an emotional effect on us: it captured our attention because it spoke to our emotional need. This makes the chances of recall higher.
The Revolution Is No Longer Televised, It’s Socialized (Generate Ideas That Travel)
In the old days, we’d rely on mass media to spread our ideas to the world, but those days, while not over, have been greatly appended by a new network: mob. People are the new vehicle for propagating our ideas, and the easiest way to see an idea spread is to wrap that idea in entertainment so the masses have a reason to tell your story. When’s the last time you found a dull idea and made the effort to send it to your friends through social networks anyway? But if that idea is entertaining we quickly (and gladly) spread the word.
Entertainment doesn’t always mean humor, by the way. We naturally fall to humor as the default entertainment vehicle because humor is associated with good feelings and happy moments, traits we naturally would want to transcend to the product or service for which we generate our ideas—but many things entertain us. We’ll go to sad movies on purpose, willingly read books containing stories of horror or fear, choose to listen to music that we’ve never heard and seek out chances to experience a lecture from someone that has piqued our curiosity. All virtually void of humor but not of emotion. Entertainment facilitates that connection. Generate ideas that entertain and you’re on your way to making a monster.
When ad agency Crispin Porter wanted to generate ideas to spread the word that at Burger King, you can have chicken “your way”, they created one of the most viral campaigns in history with “Subservient Chicken”, a website that allows visitors to control the action of a giant chicken performing on a webcam by typing in commands.
Images from Burger King’s Subservient Chicken campaign
1. Generate ideas that have an inherent entertainment value to capture audience attention. Retain memory recall and increase chances of social dissemination.
2. Entertainment alone isn’t enough, it must have relevancy to both the brand and the audience to be accepted as authentic.
3. Humor isn’t the only effective entertainment genre. Emotional connection is the key ingredient to generating ideas that entertain.
1. Make the Subservient Chicken do whatever entertaining act you want at Burger King’s monster “Have It Your Way” idea.
2. See Toyota’s monster entertainment-heavy campaign for their mini-van, the Sienna, focusing on an suburban couple’s new definition of life and cool.
3. Read all about the 7 characteristics of monster ideas in Stefan Mumaw’s book Chasing the Monster Idea: The Marketer’s Almanac for Predicting Idea Epicness.