Lionel Shriver Lionel Shriver

Does advertising matter?

[John Lewis - YouTube]

‘Stop! Don’t fast-forward. I love this advert!’ How often do you say that? Considering that some commercial breaks run to five minutes, not often enough. How about, ‘Oh no, not again, I can’t stand this advert’? Mm… nightly?

According to recent research by the Pull Agency, a brand consultancy, promotion that strains to impress consumers with a company’s progressive imprimatur is off-putting. You always suspected it, but now it’s official: woke advertising backfires.

In a survey of 2,000 representative Britons, 68 per cent of respondents were either ‘uneasy’ or ‘unsure’ about brands supporting fashionable left-wing causes such as climate change, BLM, LGBTQ+, diversity, equality, and female body confidence. Fifteen per cent would actively avoid purchasing the products of companies that publicly endorse those causes via ‘woke-washing’. To go out on a limb here, I’d venture that even the 32 per cent of respondents who claimed to want brands to posture politically in their promotions would rather watch Cravendale Milk’s hilarious 2011 advert ‘Cats with Thumbs’ than the trendily humourless Nike advert ten years later, in which a black lesbian student spurns the classics as representing ‘the patriarchy’ to celebrate ‘women of colour’ who ‘fight for social justice’.

Rather than lecture us to behave well, behave well yourself; peddle your product, not your high-mindedness

When asked what companies should do to be socially responsible, 58 per cent of respondents ticked: ‘Pay their taxes, treat people fairly, respect the environment and not use it as a PR opportunity.’ In other words, rather than lecture us to behave well, behave well yourself; peddle your product, not your unconvincing high-mindedness. Only 15 per cent wanted companies to take a public stand on progressive causes.

You’d think the advertising industry would have done this homework a while ago – although Pull Agency CEO Chris Bullick reports that when he first mooted the idea of the survey, fellow marketing executives were dark on it.

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