If we learn anything from most public service advertising
campaigns, it is usually how not to run an advertising campaign.
They usually talk down to people so much that the immediate
reaction of any red-blooded individual must be to go out and do whatever it is
the advertisement is telling us not to do.
So a recent British television campaign intended to
discourage the use of cocaine deserves credit for being a glorious exception.
Most anti-drug campaigns rely on threats – threats of legal
sanctions, threats of damage to health, threats of the social and financial
consequences of addiction, and so on.
They never work because drug addicts have little, if any,
control over their addiction and responding to a patronising government advert
is always going to be way down their priority list.
The brilliance of the recent
campaign lay in the way the ad-men identified about the only thing most
British people really do care about: animals.
advertisement looks at cocaine from the point of view of Pablo, a likeable
dog who has been used as a “drug mule” and cut open.
Of course, those whose compulsion for a drug is so great
that they are prepared to wreck their nostrils, health in general and
ultimately their lives are not going to abandon the habit because of an advert.
However Pablo shows how an innovative approach can give a new edge in pitching
to a notoriously difficult market.
Most marketing campaigns fail because they try to convince
the public that they ought to desire something when the public could not care
less. The better strategy is to identify what the public do care about and then
try to connect to that.