Thursday, March 22, 2012

The placebo effect in advertising.

         There are scientific studies that show that placebos actually work, when a particular mind-set or belief about one's health may lead to changes. Placebos even seem to work in some weight loss treatments. I believe these "fake treatments" also work in advertising and marketing.

          At an agency I used to work at, the client would have the creative group produce an expensive commercial every year. It had to be ready for the company meeting, so he could show it to the sales force. The sales people loved it, and got enthused. However, the commercial never saw the light of television. The client cancelled the schedule after the sales meeting. But the salespeople got so excited about it, sales went up. The placebo effect.

          Another case. The client who dictates a very bad idea, insists that it be developed, produced, and run on TV. The commercial doesn't do anything for sales. But because he was the "father" of the idea, the client blames the economy, the competition, the weather --- everything but the commercial, which he loves. The placebo effect.

          I had a client like this early on in my career. He was a top executive of a distillery. He told the agency he was the "quarterback", and would call the plays. He did, for a year and a half. Then the distillery got a new quarterback.

          A third case. The client cuts the ad budget. But not the sales goal. When the new budget doesn't produce the increase in business, the client blames the agency and fires them. The client gets the placebo effect instead of results. The agency gets the shaft.

          There are other placebo effects in advertising. When the agency hires a hot new guy from Cleveland and it turns out his work only seems to appeal to people in Cleveland.

           Or when an executive is given a new office, with a window. Not a raise; a window. Next year he'll be a vice president. Or when an executive gets promoted to be in charge of "business development", and when no new business develops, he gets deep-sixed.

            I read in the San Jose Mercury-News that men seem to be getting the majority of new jobs. Are they more capable? I think not. Just an easier sell to some Neolithic bosses.

            Please pass the placebos. I have a headache.


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