01 June, 2012

The psychology of naked girls and burning books

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday June 1, 2012

So many of the best advertising campaigns are not just ads. By getting into the psychology of their audience and communicating to their wants and needs, marketers can achieve so much, for so little cost.

Imagine a beautiful near-naked girl writhing with pleasure as she looks at your picture. Or a morning alarm call that drags you out of bed to go running, by threatening you. Or the prospects of burning 200,000 books to make a political point.

They don't sound like billboards and TV commercials, do they? Yet they are some of the most successful ad campaigns over the past year.

Of course your interested is piqued by the beautiful girl wearing just flimsy lace bra and tiny panties, writhing on her bed in pleasure as she thinks about you. Well this is a bit of interactive trickery from Sydney agency Arnold Furnace, promoting Stonemen underwear.

It's an online video, accessed through your computer or mobile phone, that requires you to upload a head shot of yourself (or unsuspecting friend). When it is played, a stunning model goes through her soft-porn motions for a minute, and is finally revealed to be looking at a hunky, muscular magazine centrefold - with your face.

Reebok have created The Promise Keeper. It's a smartphone app that you can set to wake you up on jogging mornings and then tells your friends, through Facebook, how good you've been. If you don't get up it tells them you're a wimp and failed your commitment. Better pull the blanket over your head.

But the best example of a psychological campaign was devised by Leo Burnett, Detroit. Last year the library at Troy, Michigan, needed funds to survive the coming five years. The council proposed an 0.7 per cent levy on rates. When the conservative Tea Party heard this they frothed and massed, condemning "New Taxes", and defeated the measure.

There was a second opportunity to vote on August 2. So a campaign was launched: "Vote to close the library. Book burning party on August 5!" Signs were planted around town and on social media promoting the event - and now it was the pro-library faction that frothed.

The campaign grabbed the national press, the TV and radio, even foreign news broadcasts - all without a cent of media expenditure.

On Facebook, slogans proclaimed, "The Troy Public Library might be short on money but it has books to burn!" Another post showed a barbecue burning some books: "Imagine this times 200,000. How cool is that?" A band was booked for the event.

When the indignation became overwhelming, the secret slipped out: the real campaign slogan was "A vote to close the library is like a vote to burn books." They actually wanted to save the library. And it would only take a 0.7 levy to do it. They had succeeded in turning the conversation around from "No more taxes!" to "Save the books!"

On voting day thousands who wouldn't normally turn out to vote took themselves to the booths. In the end, the Yes vote was a landslide, 342 per cent higher than projected, and the Teas were bagged.

None of these three campaigns cost much more than the price of a handful of prime time ads. Yet they were far more effective than their expensive competitors. They worked because their creators thought through, into the minds of their audience, and triggered their psychology.

Unfortunately these success stories are rare. Not because the ideas aren't out there - but too often, because of a lack of courage to risk a daring stroke.

Maybe I should send an outline of the "Taxes" campaign to the Prime Minister...

Blog: themarketeer-raybeatty.blogspot.com

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