A colleague has just sent me this oldish but influential article on Low Involvement Processing, by Robert Heath.

The article makes two main conclusions: one good for us, one terrifying.

The good one is that Heath believes emotional advertising is far more effective than rational messaging.

"I believe... the majority of successful UK advertising campaigns... do not succeed by getting over rational performance-based messages, but by building up simple yet potent associations and linking them to brands."


We can all be happy about that, can't we? No more 'science bit' that the client makes us put in and is delighted with, and which everyone else completely ignores.

However, the reason Heath prefers emotional advertising is because he reckons ads are 'low involvement processed', i.e. consumers aren't paying active conscious attention to ads and so don't pick up facts and rational stuff, but do pick up feelings and associations.

And the conclusion we must draw from that is it doesn't really matter whether your ad is 'noticed' or not.

We all talk constantly about the need to 'stand out', 'get noticed', 'get talked about'.

I've even written about how there's no point doing an ad that looks like something people have seen before, since they'll just screen it out, in the same way that early man screened out 'that rock' and 'that tree', and would only notice 'holy shit, a sabre-toothed tiger' things he had not seen before.

But maybe being noticed doesn't matter, as long as you create the right associations.

I'm reminded of this piece by Jon Howard that talked about an ad for Amoy sauce which generated virtually no awareness, but a big sales uplift. The ad was 'invisible', but worked.

If true, this is all a bit worrying, isn't it?

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