The key thing about most advertising is that they’re not about dealing with reality. Most that I’ve seen are more about creating a problem then offering whatever they’re selling as a solution. They tell you that you stink, then they sell you deoderant. Ever think that’s weird? Body odor isn’t objectively better or worse than perfume, it’s just different. Yet the idea of going out having even the slightest hint of BO is scandalizing. That idea didn’t emerge naturally. That’s a thought that has been ingrained in us at an incredibly deep level by advertising. Trump did the same.
Trump’s entire campaign was about creating nonexistent problems and then offering dubious solutions. This situation was complicated by the fact that he didn’t create the problems out of whole cloth, there was some basis in reality for most of what he said. That made it even easier for him to get inside your head (and mine too) with his “solutions.” For example, trade deals are by their very nature imperfect. In order to get large groups all on board with a deal there has to be compromises, some of which will cause problems for the signers. His fix is to tear them up and renegotiate them. Doens’t matter that there’s no guarantee he can get a better deal, or that a better deal for one group is a worse deal for another, which will just cause further problems down the line. But it’s a simple fix that sounds good. At this point, even I start to think that maybe NAFTA needs to be renegotiated. It’s a complex deal, I don’t have a chance at understanding it. I can’t help but think he might have a point. His campaign wasn’t much more than a traditional advertising campaign, run by someone who knows how they work.
I can recall a lot of talk throughout my life over whether or not advertising works. I think Trump has proven that it does. Ironically, the newer advertising techniques used by many websites don’t seem to be as effective. I’m talking about targeted advertising. The idea that knowing as much as possible about your audience will allow you to create ads catered to each individual. That’s the technique that Clinton took, and she proved it doesn’t really work. The levels of persuasion we currently work at don’t allow for machines to create ads that are crafted for each individual. The knowledge we have about everyone is imperfect, and altering your ad for each person doesn’t accomplish much more than muddying your message. Trump’s strategy of big, bold, simple ideas beat Clinton’s individualized targeted message. It’s probably going to be awhile before the traditional ad campaign can truly be beaten by newer media.