Friday, July 27, 2012

Tell the Truth

Yesterday, as part of our excursion, we toured MediaCom and were given a talk by Sue Unerman, the Chief Strategy Officer as well as co-author of Tell the Truth. Tell the Truth proposes the idea that truth is a powerful marketing tool, and the best way to effectively promote a message and brand.  She explained that truth in the advertising world has long been something to ignore or downplay; but in our current time (the Age of Dialogue) “with social media on the ascent,” consumers will decide what’s true and will be more likely to choose a product or service when they feel they aren’t being misled. Unerman mentioned that advertising is more effective when shown a slight “downside” to something: for instance, the beer Stella Artois is marketed as “Reassuringly Expensive.” Consumers are more likely to trust this brand because of Stella’s transparency.

Transparency, by the way, is a huge buzz word in the world of public relations. Although it’s not something to be thrown around casually; transparency should be more of a principal than a marketing tactic. Whether or not this differs from how advertisers utilize truth-telling, transparency is extremely important in PR not only because it helps construct the reputation of a company, but because it is an important tenet in the code of ethics that all PR specialists should adhere to. This is why Sue Unerman’s talk resonated with me—telling the truth will always be your greatest asset. Companies should resolve to be transparent, instead of merely showing transparency. The difference is significant; think of it being as how a company communicates, instead of simply what they communicate.

I think transparency, in all aspects of communication, should be a top priority. Especially in today’s world, with the rise of social media, the best way to build a reputation or reach out to consumers is to respect them and refrain from putting a spin on anything. The most effective message is one that has nothing to hide.

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  1. I found this talk quite fascinating, as Sue Unerman took the exact opposite approach of traditional advertising. I realized when I decided to become and Ad major that I was embarking on an adventure into a very corrupt world. Advertisers are known to lie to the public. That’s how they sell products. This make up will make you beautiful or this drink will make you skinny. But I Sue has stumbled upon a really great notion and that is to start telling the truth in advertising. As consumers become smarter, lies in ads will become more noticeable. Soon the population will realize all the “healthy” advertising McDonald’s does is just a gimmick because of the eating healthier fad. The amount of fat in a quarter pounder won’t change just because McDonal’s has changed their marketing strategy. But honesty in an ad can be more relatable to a consumer. We know Stella Artois is expensive, so instead of lying to us, telling us drinking this beer will make us more popular/beautiful/powerful/etc., tell us the real benefits and why these benefits make the product cost more.

    I’ll end with a funny picture I found on Imgur. Honest ads that are both relatable and funny.

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  3. I am not an advertising major and I know little about the advertising world outside of what I have been able to pick up as a consumer. I resonate with what Maddie said. I realized that subconsciously I had little faith in advertisers. This doubting voice from my subconscious was not a loud one; however, I recognized that I harbored slightly schmucky thoughts about the advertising industry as a whole. Because of my underlying preconceived thinking, the presentation that Sue gave us was very reassuring. I was encouraged hearing Sue, someone of high clout in the advertising sphere, argue for truth in advertising. I expect to hear these kinds of arguments from activists groups; however, hearing this reinforcement of truth from the advertising side was very refreshing. Sue encouraged truth in advertising for moral reasons, but she did not stop there. She provided statistical information proving that truth telling in advertisements is more successful. By presenting both the moral benefits and the benefits tied to success rates, Sue provided a very compelling argument in favor of telling the truth. In turn, this compelling argument provided me with much more faith in the advertising industry.

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