Are some brands taking consumer centricity too far?

1908 1045 Never Quiet - Atomic London

Is it me or has the ‘Gogglebox’ phenomenon sent the advertising industry a bit mad?

Take for instance, the latest Talk Talk advert, where we’re treated to 20 seconds of people toe tapping to TV. Is this really what consumers deserve from major brand TV ads?

I am not specifically talking about the quality of the strategic idea behind the Talk Talk advert but more the content of the ad itself. Watching real people go about their real lives is hardly the inspiration we need as consumers to buy in to the values and promise of the Talk Talk brand.

But they’re not alone. It seems more and more brands are desperately trying to give off the impression that they are more consumer centric by simply showing real people in their ads.

Maybe I’m being a traditionalist but from my perspective, advertising at its best is supposed to be creatively inspiring, aspirational and generate conversation. It feeds off cultural trends and helps brands create relevance.

Showing real people is a great thing for online content, social or influencer marketing campaigns but I for one think it feels completely out of place in a 30 second TV spot, for a commercial brand at least (we’ll leave charity brands for another day).

There seems to be a growing trend that brands seem to think the best way to embrace modern, connected, socially active consumers is to ‘show’ the people rather than ‘appeal to’ the people.

Take Volkswagen for example. Arguably the most aspirational mass brand in the market and yet it’s now making ads showing the real people that buy them rather than the people they might aspire to be. The latest VW SUV range ad ‘Second Speech’ seems to follow this worrying trend to try and be more socially relevant by showing real people in real life situations. It’s had a little over 100k views on YouTube so I would suggest it hasn’t exactly made a connection on a grand scale with real consumers.

In contrast the VW Tiguan launch ad earlier this year, in my opinion, was the best advert that VW have done in a while. It generated emotion, aspiration and inspiration and it was great to watch, it generated that feeling of ‘talkability’ by being based on a true consumer insight that we can all relate to. Not that YouTube views is the only measure of success but they got a little over 900k views for their trouble.

So what do we take away from this mild rant? I think it just re-enforces the fact that consumer centricity is about uncovering real human insights and if you’re using TV advertising, do it in a way that is fresh, distinctive but most importantly emotionally rewarding for consumers. Don’t just hold up a mirror to their lives as unfortunately, the truth is that for most of us, our real lives aren’t interesting enough.


About the author:

Jon Goulding was Chief Operating Officer at DDB who ran the global advertising and digital account for Volkswagen before founding Atomic, an independent creative agency where he is now CEO.


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