In his column in The Observer a few weeks ago, the erudite and opinionated David Mitchell mused on the notion of truthfulness in advertising. He begins by noting the way in which Kellogg’s Coco Pops have, quite simply, converted the potential drawback of the product (namely the fact that the chocolate seeps into the milk, leaving the cereal somewhat blanched and the milk, well, quite chocolatey) into THE selling point of this cereal. He then experiments with this very idea. Trying it out on other brands, he considers how different things would be if many more brands simply turned their shortfalls and failings into their USPs, originality and differentiating factors. It makes for quite enjoyable reading. Check out the user comments below the article online- some are hilarious. I particularly enjoyed “The Daily Mail, because you hate everything and we tell you why” or Mitchell’s own “The Royal Opera House: For people so cultured, they have literally lost the ability to feel bored”. Genius.
Anyway, as Mitchell quite rightly remarks, advertising like this “takes balls”. Its startling honesty and frankness at exposing (and indeed making a feature of) ‘the catch’ is perhaps not always advisable or appropriate, as Mitchell illustrates to amusing effect. However, we can learn something from both this degree of truthfulness, successfully espoused by certain advertising campaigns and indeed the frank tone demonstrated by Mitchell himself in his work. Undeniably this honesty does “take balls” but, arguably, it also pays dividends. By admitting and adhering to your principles you are less likely to be misconstrued or misrepresented by others and you are also a lot less likely to end up in a situation you would rather not be in, which doesn’t fit well with you or your beliefs.
Regarding the search for industries, firms and positions, if you are to find somewhere which is truly a good fit with you, you need to be clear in your mind (or honest with yourself) about what you want and are looking for. Similarly, (and David Mitchell exemplifies this) frankness and truthfulness when it comes to the opinions you express can also work wonders. Let’s face it, wishy-washy viewpoints, fluff or- God forbid- fibs and fabrication- in an professional (or worse an interview) situation are all definite no-nos. Whilst a straight-forward, well articulated and justified stance, uttered with conviction and clarity, may just seal the deal.
For those of you who are seeking graduate positions in the advertising industry, you need to start working out what YOU think about different campaigns, strategies, slogans and attempts to engage consumers etc. “But what if I don’t have an opinion?” some of you may be wondering. Well the answer is simple. Don’t make one up. Think it through, puzzle it out and form some opinions. And perhaps, most importantly, be honest with yourself. If you really don’t have an opinion on any pieces of recent work created by the advertising industry, then may be you need to face facts. This industry might be cool, but it might also not be for you. Sure, that degree of truthfulness, in Mitchell’s words, “takes balls” but in the long run it will pay off. You will end up in the right place. And who doesn’t want that?
And to help with that opinion forming…