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Audiences Don’t Exist: A Mini Rant

The Influencers 295 Add to collection

INFLUENCER: It’s time to change up our language and give ourselves a reality check, says The Public House's Catrióna Campbell

Audiences Don’t Exist: A Mini Rant

This is one of those things that really bothers me, and maybe only me.

I’m fed up about hearing about ‘audiences’. For instance, ‘we’re asking our audience to share this’; ‘our audience will love that we’re doing this’.

This irks me. Honestly I probably need to look at my life given that when I hear this I have to resist the urge to scream from the rooftops ‘You don’t have an audience!’

The dictionary definition of an audience is ‘the people giving attention to something’. Just because you buy media doesn’t mean you have an audience. Just because you have friends, fans and followers, doesn’t mean you have an audience. You need to earn the attention of your target consumer, and make them an ‘audience’. The word is misleading, because it suggests we have people ready and waiting - when the reality is we have to fight for their attention. You can buy all the media you want, but you can’t buy attention if the work isn’t interesting enough.

It’s why the word ‘target’ isn’t a superfluous word. Saying 'target audience' changes everything. You're saying this is the group of people we're hoping to be able to convert into an audience. If we're vying for people's attention then the ultimate sign of success is if they become an audience (i.e. if you captivate, entertain, shock or move them enough). It represents the job we have to do. Buying an ‘audience’ is just giving us the access, the opportunity - trying to get their attention is where the real work starts.

Overall I feel that we unconsciously overthink the role advertising plays in ‘normal peoples’ lives. The very language we use reinforces that the default position is that normal people are actively out there eagerly awaiting our next piece of advertising.

Think about the terms we use in our everyday professional lives - ‘audience’ is joined by ‘engagement’, ‘fans’ and ‘likes’. I’m not sure how much real people really want to be friends with their washing machine manufacturer on Facebook, or how many people are truly engaged - defined as ‘committed’, or ‘hooked’ - in a piece of content.

It’s time to change up the language and give ourselves a reality check. We’ve got to stop this sense of entitlement that we deserve people to see our work and understand that today, that’s where our challenge begins.

That’s why our agency philosophy is out of the Ronseal handbook- quite simply, ‘boring doesn’t sell’. That old adage that the first rule of advertising is to get noticed isn’t given enough priority. We live in the attention economy - we’re competing for attention against normal people’s mobile phones. Indeed Lumen Research, a London based research agency, have developed their own proprietary attention funnel, which is transforming media buying by building an analysis on how ‘attentive’ people are in certain channels. Funnily enough, they don’t talk about audiences. Because they don’t exist.


Catrióna Campbell is managing director of independent creative agency The Public House

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The Public House, Fri, 03 Jul 2020 13:46:46 GMT