Authenticity in Advertising: Lizzie Allsopp

I know, I know… a contradiction in terms, haw-haw-haw snarf, yawn, etc. Sorry, did I interrupt your day – saving lives, I presume?

By Lizzie Allsopp

From time to time I get stick for working in an industry that is seen to deceive people into parting with their cash. And sure, none of us believe we’re the next NHS, but actually, ads are a lot more authentic than you might think. For a start, any idea you have that even vaguely stretches the truth will get beaten into shape by the hammer and tongs of Compliance and Legal until it reads like a particularly nuanced page of terms and conditions. Lying is simply out of the question. Really – as much as I try. 

No, for me, ads are inauthentic when the brand reveal is wholly unexpected. You’ve sat through a beautiful story, you even feel a bit moved, and then you’re hit by a logo on an end frame that slams in out of nowhere. I call it, the ‘Uh? What?’ moment. The raw juxtaposition of a heartfelt story, with an ending that bears no relevance to the narrative of the previous 60 seconds. 

You feel cheated. You thought you were watching a small burger business’s start-up story, you’re actually being sold a tablet. BUT NOBODY MENTIONED A TABLET! I THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT HAMBURGERS! I WANT A HAMBURGER!! THIS IS WHY I HAVE TRUST ISSUES!!!! It’s amazing how things can escalate. 

Why does this upset me so much? Partly because it feels disingenuous, but mainly because it makes you feel like an idiot. Like ‘HAHA you believed this emotional gumph but all we wanted to do was shift some product. You mug.’ And really, that doesn’t put me in the frame of mind to buy anything. Let alone some reasonably expensive tech. 

It’s like the time when on holiday in Italy, a man grabbed my wrist and started braiding a friendship bracelet and I thought, ‘sure’. And then he tried to get me to pay for it, and I refused. He got angry, I got huffy – anyway – the Polizia were around, so he slipped off and what I’m saying is – when a logo is revealed, the customer should be in on the gag. Like the brand was on the tip of their tongue. They couldn’t quite get there and then – end frame – ah, suddenly it all makes sense. 

It’s satisfying. Done well, the logo can even be an emotional payoff in itself. It can bring a sense of closure, and a wholesome – ‘maybe there is some good in the world’ feeling. Sure, we’re not saving lives, but if I’m selling you a hamburger, you’ll know you’re being sold a hamburger. Terms and Conditions apply.