Calexis

Too Clever To Understand

The advertising industry glories in cleverness.  Clever ideas are what wins at all the award shows but it can also be what loses the customer.

Sometimes, I think folks in our industry use their cleverness to feel superior over the poor schmucks who are their target market.  They rationalize that artists are sometimes obscure, requiring a commitment from the reader/viewer to understand the message?  And they are artists.  Really?

Perhaps, but we are not artists pursuing art for art’s sake.  We are professional communicators translating our clients’ objectives into advertising and marketing communications.

Being in the business, I admit I do like clever stuff a lot.  But I also know when it misses the mark by a beat or even a half of a beat.  If we are looking at concepts and our folks don’t get the message immediately, we usually forget that potential concept.  It went past clever into cryptic.

Our job is to serve information to our audiences, not get them to consider, examine and delve into the message to get the point.

Why? Well, our messages compete with a cacophony of other messages daily for our target’s attention.

Our goal is to be provocative (get their attention), clear, persuasive and compelling (get action).  Notice that clever or entertaining are not part of what I want to be.  Although sometimes these are part of being provocative – but not always.

It would be easy for me to pick on a few ads that are so clever they are cryptic.   I personally get confused at all the drug ads that assume you know what the darn drug is for as they rattle off the side effects.  But I am not a medical groupie and don’t know.  So these advertisers are dealing me out of the target, whether I should be in it or not.  If I don’t understand the point of the advertising, I move on to look or hear something else.  You had a chance Mr. Advertiser, but you lost me.

I have always felt that making a dull, every day product interesting was the highest challenge for creativity.  Anyone can make a feel good commercial about a social cause,  since the target is already feeling emotionally positive about the topic.   But make a great commercial about a functional product — now there’s real talent.

The downfall of being too clever is that it not only confuses your audience, it can alienate them.  True the ones who “get it” think you are their clever buddy.  But when that is too few, you lose.  Too clever might as well be too stupid.

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