I vividly remember the first question my marketing tutor asked my class last year. He said it in a friendly tone, as if it were just to make conversation and ease us back into the learning process after a few months of holiday. Prior to this point he had already cracked a few jokes and revealed himself as a pretty relaxed guy so there was no reason for anyone to suspect that his question was a trap.
A number of hands went up after he asked, each one belonging to a fresh faced student with a smile on their face, eager to impress our tutor. The question was not a hard one, and to be fair it required an opinion based answer. However from the question I learnt one of the core foundations of being an advertiser.
“Who thinks advertising does not influence them?”
What appeared as a simple enough question demanded a reason behind each opinion, those once eager students were now left red faced. Everyone got a bit shy at that point so the vast majority of responses went something along the lines of “I’m just not” which was met with a smirk and a snicker from our tutor.
That said, one student decided to rise to the challenge and give an honest answer.
Student: Because they’re just advertisements. Ads are designed to influence people to act one way or another so when I see an ad I immediately know to ignore it. The information is going to be biased no matter what so there is no point taking it in. The entire industry is based on the manipulation of the consumer. Only a fool would be influenced.
Tutor: Then why do you want to be a part of it?
Student: I would rather be the manipulator then be manipulated.
This, in its own weird way, turned out to be the answer my tutor was looking for. If only because it allowed him to use that student as an example of why not to get into the industry. As my tutor explained, that attitude adds to the belief that all advertising is ‘evil’. Manipulation is not the aim of the game, and to be influenced by an ad doesn’t denote stupidity.
You should be influenced by ads because whether you like it or not you are a consumer and this is not a bad thing. It’s by noting what does and doesn’t influence you that will help you learn what makes a good piece of advertising, not just a qualification. Your ability to make decisions like that stems from your status as a consumer not an advertiser. In fact, your own experiences and opinions can often be the most valuable elements you can bring to a job.
My tutor asked the same question in our final class, he was met with a still silence and an avoidance of eye contact by everyone but the student I’ve discussed. This time rather than debating with the teacher, he made one quick point.
Everyone is capable of being influenced, and the best way to work out how is to start with yourself, after all if you’re not influenced by your own work why would anyone else be?
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