Incisive: Rory Sutherland delivers life lessons from an ad man to TED

Advertising industry veteran, Rory Sutherland

I don’t know how I missed this – it’s over a year old now – but just in case you did too, I thought I’d highlight it. The video below is a talk the advertising industry veteran Rory Sutherland delivered at TED Global in 2009.

In it, he argues that advertising adds value to a product by changing our perception, rather than the product itself. He makes the assertion – which I wholeheartedly agree with – that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider real value — and his conclusion has interesting consequences for how we look at life.

You should definitely watch the whole video – it’s 20 minutes you’ll enjoy thoroughly – but here are some highlights:

What we create in advertising – intangible value – gets rather a bad rap. It’s a very fine substitute for using up limited resources in the creation of things.

Once you reach a basic level of wealth in society, most problems are problems of perception.

How many problems of life can be solved by tinkering with perception, rather than that tedious, hard-working and messy business of actually trying to change reality?

All value is subjective and persuasion is often better than compulsion.

Example of contextual value: Pernod, it tastes great within the borders of France but absolute shite if you take it anywhere else.

Marketing has done a great job of creating opportunities for impulse buying but not impulse saving. Now, obviously, I don’t want people to do this. As an advertising man, I tend to regard saving as consumerism needlessly postponed.

We need to spend more time appreciating what already exists and less time agonising over what else we could do.

Enjoy!

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