Ad Cracker

A Theory of
Persuasive Advertising

The Theory Of First Principles

What is the most important task your communication must accomplish, simplified to the most basic human reaction?

Perhaps you want your audience to think something, or do something or feel something about the brand, product or service.

Or perhaps that most basic objective is for your audience to see, to notice, or to hear something that will attract their attention.

The theory of first principles, as applied to advertising communications, means you begin at the beginning. You must first identify the most basic effect you wish to achieve with the audience.

Example: In a cluttered communications environments, your first and most important task might be to stand out from the crowd, to be noticed. You need to engage your audience, get them looking, listening, thinking.

There are a variety of creative techniques to do just that, such as dramatic conflict.

Example: For a retail product or company you might want to spark an emotional reaction from the audience. Specifically, you might want to associate feelings of love or nostalgia with your brand.

In that case you could focus on music and emotionally evocative themes as a possible solution to the communications challenge.

First Principles - a different way to think

There are many theories about persuasive communications and how they work. First principles is just one, and it might work for you.

You won't need to do this with every ad. But for new clients, new campaigns, or new ways of thinking, it can be helpful to get back to basics.

Fact is there are just a few primary responses your ads can trigger - a few things an advertising campaign can actually get people to do:

- To see, to notice.

- To hear, to recognize or respond to sound.

- To feel, to experience an emotion.

- To think, to understand, perhaps remember.

- To take action, do something.

It's pretty simple. And you might find it helpful to identify the primary reaction you want from the target audience as a place to focus creative development.

Creative tip: There is no scientific evidence supporting "subliminal persuasion." That's the theory that stimuli below the threshold of conscious awareness can influence behavior.

And when you look at the spectrum of forces that do influence purchase behavior - from genetics to parents and peers - you'll find advertising way down at the weak end of that spectrum.