Creating Ads that Stick

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A person scrolling on an Ipad. People are scrolling faster and faster which results in a shorter span of time for advertisements. Photo by Pixabay/Pexels

You may have heard that the attention span of the average human is around that of a goldfish. Well, not only is that true, but, as of recent years, the human attention span is actually shorter than the goldfish’s. These aquatic critters are hooked for nine seconds, while humans are off the reel after only eight. The short duration of time can be attributed to a number of factors, but none compare to the advent of social media.  

Media outlets, including the likes of Tik Tok, Snapchat and Instagram, brought about a fast-paced field of content that programmed our minds to pay attention for only so long. This has made it nearly impossible for advertisers to create content that is not only engaging, but which also influences an audience to act. Such content can easily be achieved, however, if a more logical approach to advertising was adopted.   

Modern day advertisements usually consist of vibrant colors, catchy songs, quick-witted humor and celebrity sponsorships. An ad composed of these elements is great at getting the attention of its audience, but it can also leave them distracted. For most advertisers, this is fine, because repetition and brand recognition is all that matters. But for an advertiser who is trying to share a message and get people to act on that message, they can’t risk distraction. These advertisers need to find a way to create an ad that is engaging but which also doesn’t take away from their focus. The solution to this problem lies with an underused element of persuasion.  

In school, we learned about the three fundamental rhetorical appeals championed by Greek philosopher Aristotle: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos deals with establishing credibility and trust, and this is often seen in the form of celebrity sponsorship. Pathos deals with the emotions, and this takes the form of music, colors and jokes. These elements are decent at getting the attention of the audience, but they ultimately distract from the overall message. If an ad wants to convey a message that results in action, they need to present their audience with something tangible.  

Enter logos, the use of reason and facts to persuade someone. This form of persuasion can be described as “killing two birds with one stone” because not only does it grab people’s attention, it puts the problem right in their face at the same time. And in a society where people are losing interest within ten seconds, time is of the utmost importance.  

It is easy for someone to be sidetracked by a celebrity or laugh at a joke, thus missing the idea of the ad, but data can’t be ignored. For example, take a campaign to encourage the use of reusable bottles as opposed to plastic bottles. One advertisement might star a well-known face to convince you to change your habits, but it irritates you because you happen to dislike that celebrity. Another one manages to present a light-hearted, humorous situation, that you end up laughing at and forget about within the next minute. But an advertisement utilizing logos will present you with data, data that describes just how serious the bottle waste situation is, including the fact that in 2015 alone, over 100 billion beverage containers were wasted. Such objective statements leave an impression on you that the typical subjective advertisement rarely does.  

Despite the influence, however, logos is rarely seen in advertisements today. This is because advertisers are stuck in an endless loop of creating the same cheap, cameo and joke-filled ads which merely serve to distract. They are comfortable and familiar with creating such ads, and as long as they are, they will continue to make them that way. The human race is scrolling faster and faster, and for advertisers, this means a shrinking window to reach their audience. The typical advertiser can continue their trend of hasty ads, but for those who want to create effective and engaging content, they need to focus on the facts.

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