Paul Feldwick’s The Anatomy Of Humbug is a provocative and fascinating book about different ways of thinking about advertising. The first part narrates a battle between two main theories of advertising - "Salesmanship" (the idea that ads work by giving us information and persuading us to act on it) and "Seduction" (the notion that ads play on our subconscious motivations and emotions). Feldwick uncovers the shaky ground salesmanship theories were built on – dogmas like the USP which spread by simplicity, not evidence - and exposes their limitations. He makes an excellent referee but it’s obvious where his sympathies lie.
In the second part Feldwick describes not just "Salesmanship" and "Seduction" but four other models of advertising - "Salience", "Social Connection", "Spin" and "Showmanship". Feldwick has a disdain for one-size-fits-all answers, and believes there’s no single right way to think about his industry. We’re less agnostic than Feldwick and can’t helping noticing that his catholic approach hides a deeper truth: five of his six models rest on appeals to aspects of the unconscious – what we’d call “System 1”. And the examples he selects of the other – salesmanship – reveal how its apologists were themselves no strangers to System 1 storytelling or razzle-dazzle.
In the 1960s battle between salesmanship and seduction, we believe the wrong team won – and we’re proud to be leading the charge to rediscover the truths of emotional advertising. But see for yourself – if this book doesn’t fill you with ideas about advertising we’ll be very surprised. Just give us a call to chat about them afterwards!
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