I was digging through Faris Yakob's blog looking for one specific post that really jumped out at me. Not limiting myself to recent posts or even thoroughly reading them in chronological order. In doing so I ended up with a post of his from December 2009 entitled, "No Rational Content". In this post he sums up various other sources that point us in the direction of irrationality.
His first source comes from the Journal of Advertising Research, in which they ask the simple question of, "What do we KNOW about advertising?" It sounds like a rather simple question, but when you get deep down into the question its anything but simple. Hundreds of elements, techniques, failures and successes that both support and contradict each other come into mind.
He goes on to discuss the findings of Les Binet and Peter Fields who researched the findings of papers that won the IPA Effectiveness Awards . These awards focus on the business results of advertising rather than the creative side. To sum up Yakob's summation of the findings, they come to the conclusion of:
"The most effective advertisements of all are those with little or no rational content."
I had to think about this one for a while, finally coming to a conclusion that seemed to fit Yakob's overall attitude. Rationality in a branding message isn't what people want to see when they're busily walking from their car to their cubicle or killing time online during when nobody else is looking. They want to be distracted, the last thing they want to be is sold on.
One person that came to mind after reading the above quote on the effectiveness of irrationality was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He gave a presentation at TED in 2004 about happiness and how people find it. One thing he points out is that humans can generally take in 110 bits of information a second. If we can somehow consume a majority of those 110 bits, we can escape from reality because we don't have enough bits leftover to notice reality. Forgetting boredom, money issues, problems at home or whatever else that bogs us down. Escaping reality, even if for only a few seconds is something everyone wants. Now while this may seem irrelevant to Yakob's post, I see a connection on at least some level.
Combining Yakob's post discussing irrationality and Csikszentmihalyi's talk on happiness I come to the conclusion that if when we're focusing on any given advertisement its lack of rationality only lends to our ability to escape for that moment. With rational messages its easier to see the "advertising" in advertising, but with irrational ones its more about the story telling or entertainment value at that moment. This invites the individual to use more of their 110 bits and create that much more happiness.
Posted by Chris Havranek Labels: Marketing / Ad