Have We Reached Critical Mass (Communication)?

JustinBradyPhotoBy Justin Brady,  Creativity Cultivator, Test of Time Design

We have been at critical mass in advertising for years. Our brains have been slowly trained to look for patterns and upon detecting those patterns, it tunes out. This all happens in less than a second. It looks as if we have become immune to advertising, but in reality, we have become immune only to non-authentic advertising. Honest communication still gets attention and still moves people. 

Today, we are all inundated with massive amounts of advertising on a daily basis. We are advertised to on our commute, the internet, TV, phone, before and even during movies, at children’s ball games, in free email programs and even in reading materials.

 The methods of advertising have changed substantially in the last 20 years. Simple print or radio ads have been joined by elaborate campaigns, social sites, movie-like commercials, and massive media efforts made to look like grass roots movements. With the amount of advertising being greater than ever before in history, how are any of us expected to process that load? The truth is, we have been at critical mass in advertising for years. The sheer amount of advertising has overwhelmed our conscious ability to process it for years, but as you know, some stuff still gets our attention. Why?

Obviously, we can’t devote attention to all stimuli we come in contact with. It wouldn’t be possible. At the same time however, valuable information exists around us at all times and we still may need that information. What’s a brain to do? Adapt. Over time, the brain adapts by slowly training itself to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Because it’s much too exhausting to focus on miniscule details, our brains instead group these details together. Consider how a concert pianist reads a sheet of music. At first, the pianist focuses on separate notes but as the brain learns it begins grouping the notes together. Instead of seeing notes, the brain begins to sees patterns. This all happens rapidly without much conscious thought.

Of course, the brain isn’t limited to reading piano music. This exact same process is continually happening as each of us go throughout our day. We depend on it. We go about our business and stay safe, not interpreting individual stimuli, but events as a whole. Just as one grouping of notes may be a C major for the pianist, a grouping of stimuli for you may mean ducking out of the way from a flying frisbee. Did you manually process the speed, angle and trajectory of the frisbee? Of course not, your brain identified a pattern and you ducked.

It shouldn’t be any surprise advertising messages are put through the same process. Our brains find patterns, some of which are approved for higher thinking, receiving our full attention. Others we are completely immune to. Advertisement immunity may feel like a problem, but in reality, we have become immune only to non-authentic advertising. Honest communication still gets attention and still moves people. How?

Companies advertise using two strategies. They create original ideas or they copy others. When a new idea enters the marketplace, consumers quickly respond favorable or unfavorable, at the same time creating new patterns and associations. This means the next time this pattern is triggered, there’s no heavy lifting, the brain already knows what the ad is.

Think about your company. There is only one company like yours. Just one. No other company in the world has you, your employees, your location and your specific way of doing business. If you were truly advertising with an honest approach your advertising efforts would be unlike anyone has ever seen, but instead maybe you choose to copy a successful model hoping to gain the same results, but you can’t. The very consumers you are targeting have already established a pattern. If they had positive emotions, your ad may just as well reminding them of the original ad. If they had negative emotions, your ad won’t even register.

In today’s ad world, with increasing noise, there is one hand to play, and that hand is good old fashioned honesty. If being honest about who you are isn’t appealing to you, maybe it’s time to pack it up before your consumers do it for you.


About the Author:Justin Brady is a Creativity Cultivator and owns Test of Time Design, a goal-oriented graphic design agency. Reflecting on years of experience with marketing teams and business leaders, he speaks on creativity and how we tend to over complicate and mystify it.  Personal Link: www.justinbrady.me   Company Link: www.testoftimedesign.com




  1. Justin DeFord on May 16, 2013 at 9:44 am

    RT @JustinBrady: “Have We Reached Critical Mass?” [My column in @commPRObiz. about communication] http://t.co/gnI3TiAozH

  2. CommPRO.biz on May 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Have We Reached #Critical #Mass (Communication)? – http://t.co/sAM0TsKLp7 http://t.co/AAkNbfR1a5