The more choices you have, the more you can’t decide

This is it. I found the freaking jackpot. Experiments that confirm what I have believed all along. All those times clients picked apart creative options and tried to make them into 1 rojak creative, now I know why!

Because they couldn’t decide which creative option to choose.

Rojak means mixed up!
Quick! Don't think, just choose a rojak...

In advertising, giving clients design or copy options is the norm. It shows that the agency takes the initiative to provide choices, and that we’re not a bunch of lazy arses force-feeding one single idea to the client.

But it turns out, providing too many options, actually makes the client decision much harder to make. Consider these studies conducted, excerpted from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch!

Study 1: at a Gourmet food store

On a sampling table, 6 different jams are on showcase for free tasting by customers. The next day, 24 types of jams were on display. As expected, the 24-jam display attracted more customers. But when it came time to buy; shoppers who saw only 6 jams were 10 time more likely to buy.

Study 2: on a speed-dating night

Singles meet one-on-one, spending about 5 minutes with each person. The result? Young adults who meet eight other singles make more matches that those who meet twenty!

This is called Decision Paralysis where too many choices make making a decision much harder than usual. I guess the key words here is ‘too many’, we can’t help but weigh in all the options presented to us. One or two options (at most) are still fine I’m sure.

Well now we know what “Less Is More” really means. While people like having choices, they hate weighing those options to make a decision, probably for fear of making the wrong choice.

So think about all those times that you found it hard to make a choice. Were there too many options?


“The Consumer Is Not a Moron, She Is Your Wife”

Ladies, chill for a sec. Nobody is calling you a moron. The quote above illustrates that wives – who often shop for the whole family – are whip smart consumers. Yes, you can lower your pitchforks now.

This was one of the business advise of a certain David Ogilvy. We’ve all heard of David Ogilvy. We know his famous works. We even aspired to work for his company. But David was not only an advertising legend; he was a revered businessman too.

Ogilvy On Advertising
One of the ugliest book covers ever; but beautifully written.

Here are his advice on building and running a business, as told to a Fortune Magazine reporter some time back:

  1. Remember that Abraham Lincoln spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He left out the pursuit of profit
  2. Remember the old Scottish motto: “Be happy while you’re living, for you are a long time dead.”
  3. If you have to reduce your company’s payroll, don’t fire your people until you have cut your compensation and the compensation of your big-shot
  4. Define your corporate culture and your principles of management in writing. Don’t delegate this to a committee. Search all the parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees
  5. Stop cutting the quality of your products in search of bigger margins. The consumer always notices — and punishes you
  6. Never spend money on advertising which does not sell
  7. Bear in mind that the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Do not insult her intelligence

I don’t want to spoil the eloquent beauty of these points by adding any of my 10 sen opinions. But I will say this – if there’s one thing you take away from this list, it better be No.6. Kapish?


I don’t watch many movies, especially in the cinema. There’s just nothing like watching a good DVD at the comfort of your home. No whispered conversation from the couple next to you who couldn’t get a room. No irritating noise from the act of gently opening a plastic snack pack. No cell phones going off in a mind-numbing Canto pop tune during a dramatic scene. And most important of all, no kids wailing at the top of their lungs begging to be fed (or smacked!)

So, against my tradition, I went to the movies with a couple of friends to catch Inception. I must admit I got suckered in by one of the coolest trailers I’ve watched in recent times. And the fact that it was directed by Christopher Nolan, who created a masterpiece in Memento. Hmmm… this is turning into a review of sorts, I must get to the point.

I interrupt this post to bring you a trailer:

The premise of this movie is quite fascinating:

That an idea is the most resilient parasite. That an idea from the human mind can build cities, transform the world and rewrite the rules. That an idea is also contagious and unstoppable once incepted.

From an advertising context, here’s how it goes:

That no matter how resilient your idea may seem at first, it will most probably get shot down; so prepare backups. That a creative idea from your mind will go through many days of building, transforming and rewriting before it can see the light of day. That your idea may be infected by crappier sub-ideas, which you can do nothing to stop.

So an ad idea that you conjure – be it for a print ad, TVC, jingle, website, billboard or the like – will become fragmented, distorted, skewed and maligned by the time it’s ‘on the air’.  After about 12 years in the advertising, direct marketing and interactive industries, I have pretty much gotten used to this. Let’s just hope I don’t get tired of it.

It’s time for a nap… and possibly pleasant dreams.


Originality is Dead?

Alright. This is a quick one. Check this out.

Is there such a thing as an original creative idea anymore? Or are all the world’s creative concepts these days are just re-hashes of what’s been done before? How can one be sure that an idea – whether for a print ad, website or TVC – has not been thought of previously by someone on the other side of the world?

Hmmm… I think I’ve never written a whole paragraph consisting of only questions. That’s unquestionably (pun intended) a first.

Check out these videos and share your thoughts:

Actually, this reminds me of the music industry as well. Search for “I Miss You Song” in Google and you get like a gazillion of tracks with the same title.

The same concept, but different execution. Is originality dead?

P.S.    Both ads however are brilliant to say the least. The kind of ads that make you want to work in advertising, hoping one day you would conceive such ads.

Malaysia Ad Spend 2009

Advertisers in Malaysia spent RM5.9 Billion in 2009. That’s an increase of almost half a Billion from 2008, which was at RM5.5 Billion. Advertising spend is perceived to be a strong indicator of a nation’s economy.

Well that’s what the Malaysian Advertisers are spending, but are the consumers buying? It’s hard to tell really, because sales figures are closely guarded secrets, so there’s no way of knowing for sure. But for discussion’s sake, let’s say that we’ve managed to make people spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need quite admirably in 2009.

Think about it. Almost RM6 Billion. That’s a six followed by 9 zeros – 6,000,000,000! And why are advertisers spending such insane amounts of money? Essentially, it is in hope that consumers return the favour. Yes, so that consumers consume more and ‘invest’ in products and services perceived to be of better quality.

ADEX in Malaysia by Media (RM Mil)

RM6 Billion spent on Media by advertisers in Malaysia in 2009
RM6 Billion spent on Media by advertisers in Malaysia in 2009
Source: The Star, 2 Jan 2010.

Please note that the above figures are only Ad spend on Media. Meaning creative cost not included.

So how much do you think all the agencies in Malaysia charged their clients for creative work in 2009? Definitely not RM6 Billion I’m sure. And I wonder how handsomely my fellow creative workers have been compensated last year? Well, if all the money is spent on media, what left the agencies?

Maybe because spending on good creative and strategies were so little, it didn’t even merit a mention. I guess it’s the norm. The middlemen get the dough, while the fishermen get peanuts. And they complain there’s not enough creative talent to go around!

I want to look for a job in media.