'Attention Vampires' Are Killing T.V. Ads

94 years ago, liar H.K. McCann launched his NYC ad agency with the slogan "Truth Well Told." That was a big fat lie. Advertising copywriter Copyranter brings you instances of advertising lies and the lying liars who sell them.

Why do some TV ads work and others don't? I don't know! Does anybody? There are marketing folk—folk who've never even created a matchbook cover—who think they've got it figured out. And they've got MBAs!

Ad researchers say consumers just aren't as "engaged" with TV commercials as they used to be. In a two-part AdAge piece (last week, they put the blame on "attention vampires." Attention vampires are babies or animals or hot actors or vampires?) in spots that "suck consumers away from your brand or message."

Attention vampire hunter Lee Weinblatt, founder of TV commercial testing company PreTesting, claims that by closely monitoring eye vibrations, he can ascertain how engaged consumers are and therefore how effective TV spots are. His advice to marketers is to eschew attention-vampire (it sounds worse the more you say it) elements and use plain Jane (his words) spokespeople who won't divert awareness away from your car or floor wax.

What he or AdAge reporter Brooke Capps fails to mention is that his "viewers" are lab test subjects recruited (and probably paid) to watch spots—as opposed to lazy-ass you or me sitting at home watching TV, where our eyes automatically glaze over in that half-second between programming stops and the start of commercial blocks. At that point, I welcome an attention vampire. Which is why I gotta go with what Bill Bernbach said about effective advertising some 50 years ago: "If nobody notices your ad, everything else (eye movement, etc.) is academic."

These studies, including an ongoing one involving fMRI technology, are all part of an unsuccessful attempt to close the gap between a) advertisers wanting guarantees that ads will work, and b) advertising agencies not having a fucking clue if their ads will work (but it tested so well!?).

You keep attaching wires to people, geniuses. Maybe someday, you'll find that nonexistent magic ad formula.

Previously: The Subway Platform Is An Ad Platform