I've followed @faris for a while on Twitter. I've live-streamed a few of his presentations. I've always found myself nodding in agreement with him on many of the points he makes. And in "Paid Attention", there was just more of that. I didn't necessarily find it groundbreaking information, but that is A) because I've heard some of it already, and B) working in digital I've experienced a lot first hand myself. Perhaps to me it isn't "innovative" advertising, because I'm pushing the same agenda. For those who haven't been following along or are questioning their current direction, they will find it enlightening for sure.
But it's also not as much innovative as evolutionary.
What Faris does a great job at is walking the reader through the recent past to the now in advertising, punctuated by case studies that help add color along with good footnotes. It is the evolution of tools at our disposal that have really changed the way we communicate, and to a degree, what we communicate.
Key takeaways from the book include:
- Value of attention & why brands need it
"At the heart of many cultural tensions is the dichotomy of social beings: how to be unique as part of a group. Life is full of contradictions. Brands, like myths, provide a meta-narrative that helps people to find meaning and resolve these contradictions imaginatively, since they cannot be solved rationally."
- How to use market research - well really more like how not to use market research
"Forcing people to consider something rationally that operates on an unconscious, emotional level, is always going to give the wrong answer."
- Why your brand needs an emotional connection to persuade
"The meta-analysis (by the IPA) concluded that: 'The most effective advertisements of all are those with little or no rational content' (emphasis added)."
- Why being awesome matters
"Awesomeness is (at least part of) the answer. It turns out that emotions spread, and that awesome content is he most spreadable. Studies done by the New York Times show that the most shared articles on their site are ones that inspire aweq. Specifically, things that are epic in scope and require 'mental accommodation by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.'"
- How digitization allows content to flow freely and what that means for your brand
"Brands need to understand the nature of the content that consumers desire and how they want to access it."
- Why we need to redefine our industry language & way of thinking
"The industry polarity that starts with analogue and feeds down to digital needs to be reversed, because 'digital' is what is driving the most change in the 'real world'."
- What brands do is more important than what they say
"Brands must become behavioural templates, driving the action of the company, which should be expressed through actions and initiatives designed to earn attention."
- Ideas are a result of remixing, not creating from scratch
"Imitation defaces, stealing makes something better, 'or at least something different'. The key is that something else is created, something 'new'."
- What are the roles of creative, brainstorms, planning, and the role of the consumer in creation in the new creative process
"...because how you define a problem determines if and how you can solve it."
- Why award shows matter
"The research shows, among other things, that ads that win creative awards are 11 times more efficient at delivering business success than those that don't."
- The role of strategy & social (and hurrah for dropping "media" from social! I've ranted about this before too!)
"Digital is not a channel. It is a suite of platforms, channels and tactics that will, ultimately, subsume media entirely. Digital marketing is not simply a new place to disperse symbols but rather the emergence of a new behavioural grammar for companies, as they being to engage with their customers in new ways, in new spaces, where everyone has an equal voice."
- The role of advertising agencies in the new world
"Advertising agencies, then, either 'make' advertising, which is a service that can be displaced, or they help corporations to solve business problems with creativity, which will remain an ongoing need as long as there are corporations--but puts 'advertising' agencies into a much larger competitive set alongside other business consultants, albeit with a specific competitive advantage."
- What are new ways to create value through planning and creativity and what the new brief needs to look like
"The key thing is for brands to listen to what people are saying and then incorporate what they say, and solutions and surprises to delight them, into content and behaviour."
My favorite part of the book is the epilogue where Faris gives advice for those getting into the industry. I'd say some in the industry would also fair well to have a read through too. These nuggets of wisdom include:
Be nice. All the time. to everyone.
Don't be afraid to change your mind.
Never be afraid to ask questions.
Don't get (too) cynical.
Become a geek or an expert on something--anything.
Stay interested in what you do.
The book clocks in under 200 pages and is broken up in to easy-to-digest bits, so you can knock it out, even on a busy pitch week.