January 4, 2016Imagine a world where viewers could comment on every ad

It feels like an eternity ago I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on how blogging was going to change the face of journalism. It was eleven years ago. My supervisor – a dusty kind of university chap – asked me when I submitted my synopsis – “what’s a blog?”

What happened next – everybody knows. But as I reflect on the 10,000 word essay written by the young, naive, wannabe journalist a decade ago, I realise that it’s not the blog that’s changed the way we do journalism.

It’s the comments underneath.

The ability to interact with the article. The ability to interact with the author.

Journalism is no longer a spectator sport.

They say you shouldn’t really read the comments section underneath an article. Arguing with an idiot is like playing chess with a pigeon – no matter how you play the pigeon knocks all the pieces over and struts about like it’s won.

Nonetheless, the comments section has thrived. And it’s changed the way we write.

These days, journalists are expected to defend their work.

But there’s one place comments still aren’t welcome.


Imagine a world where every ad we wrote had a comments section. Would we write differently?

Imagine if you could text a billboard and see your comment appear underneath.

I’m betting we would write differently. The same way journalists have been forced to write differently now their words are open for debate.

Take this classic David Abbott ad, for example:


I’m willing to bet it would provoke a lot of debate. And I’m willing to bet most of the comments would be pretty positive. Look at that guy, putting his balls on the line. Of course, there would be a few naysayers – it’s not real, people would cry. He wouldn’t really do that.

If you want a more contemporary example, look at the comments underneath the Volvo ad where a 4 year old girl drives a truck. There’s a fair few share of detractors – commenting on how the footage is stitched together – but the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

Be honest.

How many ads, if opened up for debate, could say the same?

My point is that feedback forces us to change our messaging.

To hold ourselves accountable. To tell the truth. To be entertaining.

To actually make people like us.

Of course, it is possible to comment on some branded content – indeed, social media relies on people having ‘conversations’ about brands.

But it’s carefully curated. In fact, that’s being polite. It’s censored.

Negative sentiment about brands is, by and large, filtered out. Try leaving a negative comment on a branded Facebook post and see how long it lasts.

Unlike journalists, who have to answer to their audience and defend their work, creatives get a free pass.

Our work isn’t held up to scrutiny by the people who matter most. The audience we write for.

Not our friends. Not our peers. Not the judges at Cannes. The people who buy the products we’re paid to write about.

Imagine if every press ad you wrote, every TV commercial you created, every bus side and every billboard had a comments section.

Imagine if you had to answer to your own audience.

Would you write differently?

If the answer is yes – which it probably is – you’re not writing for your audience. You’re writing for your peers. Or for an awards jury. Worst of all, you’re writing for yourself.

Imagine a world where viewers could comment on every ad.

If that idea scares you – ask yourself why.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 4th, 2016 at 11:49 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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