Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yet another argument in favour of simplicity

I've mentioned my dislike for the tabloids before. To be honest I've always stuggled to understand what anyone sees in them.

But recently, over a rainfilled weekend in Glasgow spent in their exclusive company, something clicked:

Tabloids prosper because they make the world simple, and people find that comforting.

Violent crime up? Longer sentences will fix it.

Heroin use rising? Addicts just need to learn a little willpower.

Scared of terroritsts? Sheer military force can fix it!

These are all issues that, if you look into them at all, become frighteningly complex.

Take crime for example: so many factors feed into it, and we really know so little about how to stop it that the more you think about it the more helpless the situation looks (the one thing that criminologists tend to agree upon is that the deterrent value of longer sentences is negligible - "If i was only going to get six years for assaulting this guy, I'd do it. But now it's ten i think I'll just have a cup of tea instead").

By lending their editorial weight to an easy answer, the tabloids make it respectable not to ask those questions. They take a load off your mind.

How does this relate to advertising? Well, I don't think it's too much of a long bow to draw to suggest that simple arguments are not just more effective because they are easier to take in, but that simplicity actually makes an argument more attractive.

In an advertising context, it's probably most relevant as support for the idea that we should say one thing and say it well. Additional points - say, ten other reasons why your soap powder is great, aside from the fact that it makes your clothes whiter - run the risk of opening up additional lines of enquiry for the consumer, factors : Is it environmentally friendly? Is it concentrated enough? Is it gentle on synthetics?

Each of these factors demands to be weighed against the others. To a particularly conscientious shopper, each even demands to be weighed against compeitor products.

And if I can't be bothered engaging in that sort of mental effort for the big issues, why would do it for you?

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