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May 16, 2024

An Ode to the Audience

Ah, the audience. The large swath of diverse people we like to sum up in a sentence or two. 

Everything I do, I do for you. No, really. You are my beacon. The lighthouse that leads my idea to safe harbor. The reflective plates that keep me steady on the dark road of concepting. 

Flowery and unnecessary language aside, the fact of the matter is that in advertising, the audience is everything. A campaign means nothing if it doesn’t elicit an emotion from the folks it’s supposed to. 

Which, admittedly, can sometimes be difficult to identify in the mess of elements that go into creating an ad. As the great shaman, Luke Sullivan writes in what many of us consider the bible of advertising, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This:”

“You have more than enough to work with, even in the simplest advertising problem. You have your client’s product with its brand equities and its benefits. You have the competition’s product and its weaknesses. You have the price-quality-value math of the two products. And then you have what the customer brings to the situation—pride, greed, vanity, envy, insecurity, and a hundred other human emotions, wants, and needs, one of which your product satisfies.”

If anything, the wants and needs of a consumer, and how to relate that to a product can often be the hardest, yet most valuable piece of an ad. That emotional connection is the core of what builds loved brands. Without it, your ad is yet another scream into the oversaturated void of media in the U.S.

I’ve told you the importance, but haven’t told you how to do it. But it’s difficult to put exactly into words how to achieve this without falling into a platitude: Do your research. 

That’s it. No big secret. No step-by-step strategy that if followed to the tee will give you everything you desire. Nope, not in this field. Identify what solution the product brings, and figure out who could use that solution. Read every review you can find. And lastly, use your inherent gift of empathy to see things from the consumer’s side. What would be enough for you, playing the customer, to pay attention to something that is usually considered a nuisance? 

Once those questions are answered comes everything else. Messaging, tone, look, even placement. None of these things mean a damn until the audience is understood. 

Because if we don’t care for the audience, why would they care for us?