Motivations and Values in Ads

It’s a strange experience to talk over an ad with a marketer, and to tell the marketer the subconsciously communicated values and motivations found in that ad, which the marketer approved and ran. And to hear back how surprised the executive is in realizing that he or she can feel what we are talking about, but hadn’t noticed those things before. Certainly had not ordered them to be put there by the creative brief, which was silent on those attributes.

The thing is that the copywriters and art directors have a lot of freedom in how to execute the transmittal of the core ideas and feelings specified in the creative brief. Most of what the ad turns out to be comes from what gets added by the creative teams. The creative brief is satisfied, but a lot more variance is added by the executional elements not presaged in the brief. Some of this must reflect the subconscious motivations and values of the copywriters and art directors, and even the commercial producers.

The reason this is important is because there is causality in every included motivational value. If more thinking and feeling goes into the pre-creative brief stage, the brand can make its own conscious decisions about which values and motivations it wants to be associated with the brand. That will give less leeway to the creative teams but hopefully their creativity can be even more effective within more well-defined, well-reasoned, and above all data-driven guidance in the brief.

Imagine you are in a tight two-horse race against another leading brand, and your research shows you that the people who use both brands have a strong motivational signal for the good life (hedonism), an attribute you have never consciously attempted to associate with your brand. That’s the typical kind of situation that will come about as a result of practitioners giving more forethought and doing more research before deciding creative strategy. It’s already a reality today in Canada whose leading media planning service Vividata has just integrated RMT motivation and need state data.

“Values” has another meaning too: often the term “values” is used in the context of ethics, doing what is right, in other words, the Altruism motivation is often the subject matter when the word “values” is used. Altruism is one of 15 motivations and it is the most sophisticated motivation, it tends to become more important to people as they mature. It is on top of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (a theory that is supported by RMT evidence).

The ARF Cognition Council became interested in Altruism because of the upswing in the use of that motivation in advertising during the onset of the pandemic. The Council did several different studies on the Altruism in advertising theme. Two of them are found in the right-hand column in positions 3 and 4. The first item is a video of Bill Harvey presenting to an adult education audience how RMT and Maslow and other cutting edge psychologists work fit together. The second item is about the benefits of planning creative strategy at least 1-2 years in advance.