We need to talk about those people in the Chevy ads …

We need to talk about those people in the Chevy ads …

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the past year or so watching those Chevrolet ads and wondering “What’s the deal with these people?”

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I mean, do people really get THAT excited over market research?  Unless they are, you know, given a little encouragement?

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I hate to say it, but it almost makes me wonder if these Real People have been held in an underground bunker for several weeks before the shoot. You know, sort of like the way they used to starve the pup before the dog food commercial (ummm, allegedly?)

They make a big point of the fact that these are “real people, not actors”.

And I say … so what?

Does that mean these “real people” didn’t get paid for the spots? Getting paid for your performance is pretty much the definition of “being an actor” as far as I know. Does it mean there was no casting? They just threw open the doors and filmed the first group of “real people” who wandered in? Does it mean they got no direction, no notes? Does it mean there was no script?

No, no, no, no and hell no.

We’ve all seen the data that shows people are far more likely to seek out and be persuaded by a peer review then some slick Madison Avenue commercial. The only problem is, when you (quite literally) stage those peer reviews in the context of a slick Madison Avenue commercial, you lose everything that makes the peer review so persuasive in the first place. Form doesn’t just conquer function. It demolishes it.

Color me skeptical. And that’s exactly the point. Consumers are, by nature, a very skeptical lot. Just because there’s a frame that says …

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it doesn’t make the skepticism go away. It multiplies it.

It’s not all that different from the pushy salesperson or politican who prefaces each remark with “Trust me …” The advertiser who (pays) real people (who became actors the minute they stepped on set) to react in a “real” way (that was almost certainly directed) is playing the same game.

“Real people Not actors” is the advertising equivalent of the old movie chestnut Based On A True Story.” (Or, cloudier still, Inspired by Real Events.)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of those “true story” pictures. So was The Exorcist. Heck, the Coen Brothers even slapped that claim on the opening of Fargo. (They meant it as a joke, but many people bought it.)

Consumers are looking for any excuse to tune you out. Spending millions of dollars trying to convince them artifice is real doesn’t change that. Understanding what they really want, but don’t have or can’t get is the one sure way to get through. That’s my opinion at least. And I can assure you, it’s inspired by real events.


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