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June 14, 2012

Is AIDA Still Alive? – A SPN Exclusive

Students of advertising and marketing will be mightily familiar with AIDA – she whose initials could catch your eye, inflame your desire and then coax you into action. But is the concept of ATTENTION-INTEREST-DESIRE-ACTION still alive… and should advertising copywriters and marketing strategists still pay heed to it?

In a marketing world where eyeball-grabbing has become ever-more challenging, there are probably hundreds of copywriting techniques that could capture your audience’s attention – if they would only eye-ball you back.

Social media has given consumers the power to deflect attention-seeking marketing techniques. Call it cynicism if you will, but a total awareness of the tricks that ad men have in their locker enable your average consumer to brush aside an overwhelming majority of suitors who are trying to steal their heart – and their cash – in the name of AIDA.

No-one can blame consumers. We’re bombarded daily by thousands of advertising images wherever we look – in the media, by the roadside, and all over the online world. Whoever said advertising had gone away? Whoever said that ‘online’ had taken over?

The reality is: ‘online’ is just one more tool for ‘advertising’ to exploit. What is slightly uncomfortable is the way consumers are expected to make choices. ‘Branding’ is everywhere; ‘celebrity endorsement’ is never far behind; and neither are the spoils of sponsorship in sport, major events and in ‘TV placement’ opportunities.

Branding is a major way to attract ‘Attention.’ Standalone ads seem almost puny by comparison. Even coordinated ad campaigns are crying out for the strategic support of other major players in the marketing mix – sponsorship, endorsement and the not-so-subtle ploys of PR.

‘Attention’ without ‘exposure’ is impossible. PR is the perfect vehicle to create exposure. Is PR a tool of advertising – or vice versa? When it comes to creating an arena where brands are given the oxygen of ‘exposure’, PR is king.

To pique a consumer’s interest relies on the emotion behind the advertising message or the emotion that is an intrinsic part of the brand, product or service. Some might invoke AIDA’s cousin, the ‘Unique Selling Point’ or ‘USP’, as we’ve all come to know and love her.

Put simply, USP is an old-fashioned term for ‘Wow factor!’ If your brand, product or service doesn’t have it – oblivion is probably just around the corner.

To create ‘Interest’ is to appeal to your emotions. Every half-way decent advertising copywriter knows this. The choice is stark: do you want interest – or invisibility? There are no half-way houses here. To say ‘beguiling’ begets beauty is to say AIDA is more a focus of fascination than pure female magnetism.

The antithesis – if one needs to be drawn – is in the beauty of trade advertising. “What?” you say! Yes, it’s true that many men (and women) love the beauty of machines: steam engines, pistons, valves; cogs, motors, conveyors; trains and boats and planes.

Sparking interest in machines is to appeal to a base emotional instinct. Some would call it ‘harmony.’ It’s what makes the, world go round. We’re all searching for harmony. In the perfect mate, the perfect machine, it’s the object of interest that will ultimately become the object of our ‘Desire.’

The phrase ‘be careful of what you wish for’ aligns greed alongside the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in our minds. Desire is dangerous, seductive, all-consuming. It’s Lucifer and Beelzebub rolled into one self-fulfilling Faustian nightmare that may not have a money-back guarantee.

Desire invites ‘early adopters’ to take risks. It invites millions onto the fmcg merry-go-round that sees thousands of new ‘miracle’ products come and go every year. By definition, desire will never die, but creators of such a powerful emotion surely have an awesome responsibility.

The whole marketing cadre – from director to brand manager to ad agency to advertising copywriter – are complicit in a cold and calculating scheme to induce ‘desire’ in their victims. And the consequences of misplaced desire – as we all know – can be calamitous.

The propensity to consume, throughout the world, has grown exponentially over the past hundred years. To be propelled into the kind of ‘Action’ that buys goods and services which are often of questionable value begs the obvious questions about the social responsibility of marketing.

It matters little which element of the marketing mix was most responsible for all this dubious action. That would simply be a case of ‘shooting the messenger.’ No-one is pretending that there is anything intrinsically bad about consumers and consumerism.

Nor is there anything ‘bad’ about the means by which consumers are persuaded. What shines out, most clearly, is the powerful continuity of commercial and emotional urges that will ensure AIDA lives for ever.


Mike Beeson is a UK freelance copywriter, journalist and PR consultant specializing in SEO, online and advertising copywriting. Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester). For more information, visit: http://www.buzzwords.ltd.uk/advertising_copywriter.htm or e-mail open@buzzwords.ltd.uk.

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