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Privacy does not mean the same thing to all of us

Browsing the Internet. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Browsing the Internet. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

According to a study a few years back, about 80 per cent of Tanzanians comfortably sit through TV advertising. The audiences in Kenya are less tolerant at about 70 per cent and the global average stands at about 50 per cent.

The data showed that people watch advertising because they find it informative and entertaining, an alternative view to common wisdom.

It’s no wonder that US advertisers invest heavily in creative content in order to beat the apathy and they stand true to McCann Erickson’s motto that ‘advertising is truth well told’.

As an ad man I subscribe to that thought, rather than the sentiment that advertising manipulates peoples minds and gets them to buy what they don’t want or need.

If this was the case, then all the mothers would show their kids ads that promote the benefits of broccoli in order to get them to beg for it.

I tell you, it would solve so many of our problems such as recreational drug use, prostitution and hard core crime. It might even get the Russians to stop manipulating election outcomes using Facebook.

The reality is very different and advertising that is made from an understanding of the problem it is intended to solve in the mind of the consumer, and as an objective of the brand, tends to be the most effective.

It has to go through the hard work, talent and investment that is required in the art of persuasion. It’s a cop-out, the easy way out, to imply that it manipulates minds, because if that was so, why would advertisers around the world spend a whopping $557 billon on it?

I think it goes back to societies distrust of large organisations. The character Harvey Dent in the movie The Dark Knight said “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” a statement that Facebook can now attest to. MySpace died a hero and has left Facebook to face the music as two distinct generations battle it out.

On one hand you have respectable legislators from an older generation, the baby boomers, and on the other you have a successful entrepreneur from the discombobulated generation, the new millenials.

At the privacy-focused hearing in Washington last week, the senators asked Mark Zuckerberg if he was willing to disclose which hotel he was staying at, to which he declined.

Don’t they realise that Mr Zuckerberg is a celebrity and that that kind of information would get the groupies swarming in his private space?

For the rest of us wannabe celebrities, it is a different matter altogether. It behooves us to share every bit of our day with our fans, I mean, who wouldn’t want to know what we had for breakfast and where we ate it too?

When it boils down to the advertising, whether through traditional or new media, audiences have the option to look away.

Those experts who have been predicting the death of the 30 seconds spot for the last three decades still sit in front of their TV screens while the ads play, rather than walk away and returning when the commercials are done.

It’s the same with Facebook, you can turn off the ads and unfriend those fake celebrities if you really don’t want to see their content.

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