Motive: Dieting vs advertising
by Glenn Jeffery (@GlennJeffery2) Why you should eat for enjoyment rather than diet, and trust your gut instead of the data.
There’s a reason the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry: its products never work. The plethora of diet programmes available is as bewildering as it is varied.
The list goes on
“Fad-dieting” has been around from since Dr John Harvey Kellogg introduced the grape-only diet and denounced red meat. More recently, we’ve all heard about the carbo-loading fitness diet championed by our own Prof Tim Noakes, which he then went on to denigrate as having severe health risks. He now promotes the low-carb, high-fat, ‘banting’ diet. And so the list goes on.
Of all countries, the US in particular seems to have an obsession with dieting. Michael Pollan, food author, activist and journalism professor, sheds some light as to why.
He once wrote an interesting article for the New York Times on what he calls “America’s Eating Disorder”. In it he says, “Americans are much more likely to choose foods for reasons of health, and yet the French, more apt to choose on the basis of pleasure, are the healthier (and thinner) people.”
They call it the French paradox. Yet, as Pollan points out, it should perhaps be known as the American paradox: a nation of unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.
“The French eat all sorts of ‘unhealthy’ foods, but they do it according to a strict and stable set of rules: they eat small portions and don’t go back for seconds; they don’t snack; they seldom eat alone, and communal meals are long, leisurely affairs. A well-developed culture of eating, such as you find in France or Italy, mediates the eater’s relationship to food, moderating consumption even as it prolongs and deepens the pleasure of eating.” elaborates Pollan.
For the Americans, the converse is true, as Pollan explains, “Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating because they take a more ‘scientific’ view of food. They learned to choose their foods by the numbers (calories, carbs, fats, R.D.A.’s, price, whatever), relying more heavily on reading and computational skills than upon their senses.”
Happens in advertising
There’s a similar phenomenon that happens in advertising.
We ply our craft in the information age. There’s an astonishing amount of the stuff out there. As executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, famously said: “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation up until 2003.” That’s an awesome fact but it’s also scary. (Don’t get me wrong; the human race has never been so empowered thanks to the amount of information we can access today.)
However, as useful as it may be, information overload can also be used to stifle originality. In today’s advertising world of shrinking budgets people want certainty, not risk. And there’s always certainty in the data, it’s accurate and reliable and safe. But what it won’t give you is something new.
Just as dieters seem to lose their own instincts and blindly trust the numbers when it comes to eating right, we don’t always trust our gut enough when producing work. Sometimes we sit in boardrooms, attending meetings that take way too long and evaluating ideas based upon the numbers and the data, instead of how they make us feel.
When the idea makes the people in those boardrooms uncertain, they retreat back to the numbers, back to certainty.
They give up the confidence they have in their senses; they forget how to feel.
When that happens, the work is bland. No-one cares about it.
Make people feel
Just as the French eat what brings them enjoyment, rather than what a science lab says is good for them, we need to create stuff that make people feel something — not what the numbers say will work.
Glenn Jeffery (@GlennJeffery2) is a creative director at Grey Johannesburg. Not only driven by creativity, he’s also vigilant in extracting key insights and turning them into highly creative and successful ideas which he develops with the creative studio. While most would shy away from change, Glenn knows that change is a social necessity and is its own reason for being, pursuing it with a vengeance akin to a cat with a catnip-infused mouse; a natural resolve that has assisted Grey in adding more framed creative awards to its walls.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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