Simon Veksner: Is it okay if an ad means different things to different people?

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 7.38.07 am.jpgBy Simon Veksner, Creative Director, DDB Sydney

We studied a poem once in English class at school.

Can't recall which one it was now. Anyway, we all had to write down what we thought it meant, and it turned out that different kids saw the meaning very differently. I remember asking the teacher what the 'right answer' was, and him saying there was "no right or wrong," and it was an achievement that the poet had created something that was "open to multiple interpretations." READ ON...


Old CD Guy said:

Call me old fashioned - people often do - but I believe the message of an ad should be unambiguous.

That's why it's worthwhile making sure the brief is clear.

Finding an engaging, interesting and persuasive way to communicate a specific message is what we advertising tossers are paid handsomely to do. And surely that's the fun of what we do.

It's not poetry we create - it's a selling message, dressed in entertainment.

Other side of old CD's coin said:

Sometimes, though, there is no "message". What's the IKEA message? "We have beds"? And what should it be? "We have reasonably priced beds"? Fuck that.

I think the "message" can be ambiguous, but the feeling should never be. Indeed in the Ikea spot it isn't. Regardless of what the ad is "about" the feeling is ethereal and comforting - and that's what Ikea wants to convey.

Eaon said:

Message comprehension is way over-rated anyway.
If you can just get people to notice the ad and know it was for Ikea, and then remember nice floaty beds and Ikea the next time they are thinking of buying one then it did its job.

boo said:

Jokes and poems always come from some kind of truth.

Yet, I can hear a joke once, and it's over. I can't laugh at it again. But I can read a poem over and over and be enthralled all over again - poems and poetics retain that spark.

let them join the dots Old CD Guy! said:

I think the message here is definitely single minded and completely unambiguous. It says, "There's no bed like home" which firmly suggests "so maybe get a better one than you have now, and hey we have we have beds at Ikea".

There's nothing else to conclude that they are telling us. The fact that the execution is not pushing the single minded message and is open to multiple interpretations is a good thing. It captivates and intrigues but tells the viewer nothing. Nothing rational or literal that is. Instead it taps into feelings and dreams we may have had and begs the question."What's this all about?" The answer to which is their single minded message.

So in the end it's more powerful than if it didn't invite the viewer's mind in to close the loop. This is what song writers and other artists deliberately set out to do - to achieve a duality, or a tension between possible interpretations. To quote one particular artist, "It gives the song more energy". Or in this case, it's what makes the ad more entertaining and chat worthy.

I think this is far more powerful than merely "A message dressed in entertainment". Its creators knew what they were setting out to do. They they were setting out to create ambiguity and to invite conversation and conjecture. It wasn't 'any' entertainment, it was completely relevant and powerful in that intangible way that all good brands are.

I think your cynical stance does feel a little old fashioned and dismissive. In this case (and many other cases) advertising can be both a powerful selling mechanism and great poetry/art/entertainment simultaneously. It takes a fair amount of genius to make that happen, and an inversely proportionate amount of 'tossing'. So it feels like you're tossing when you attempt to dumb this down. Our goal, I would think, would be to try and achieve something similarly powerful.

Probably not worth the time it took to write this, but your comment shit me a bit so there it is.

Surely you're not that old, 'Old CD Guy'? said:

I remember a lot of ads in the 90s and 00s where you had to close the gap and figure it out. Sometimes it took weeks. Then someone would tell you and you'd go 'Ah! I feel clever! Wow, that's great!'

The whole time, contrary to damaging the brand or not getting your message across, people were talking about the ad.

Word of mouth at it's finest.

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