Advertising President Urges Colleagues to Examine Experience of Purchasing

The difference between a person purchasing a product or choosing against it might be the difference between a well-designed application form and a poor one, according to the president of the professional body representing advertising.

Speaking in Edinburgh yesterday, Rory Sutherland – president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising – told his audience of, among others, advertising creatives and ad space buyers that in many instances it's not the proposition on offer that matters but the experience at the point of purchase. And if the experience is uncomfortable or involves even just a little perceived unnecessary effort, then the purchase might not go ahead, even when the proposition remains compelling.

According to Sutherland – and his co-speaker, 'behavioural economist', Nick Southgate – the reward/effort experience at the point of purchase has a “ludicrously disproportionate” influence on whether a product is actually purchased or not, yet the advertising/marketing industry has broadly not paid much attention to it – often because the vital changes perhaps required to make a purchase pleasurable is perceived to be too modest to be bothered with.

A fund of stories and suggestions, Sutherland is of the view that the best time to encourage people to give up smoking, say, is when they are already feeling 'under the weather' – for instance, when they have a bad cold – to mask the withdrawal symptoms of giving up nicotine. Similarly, he believes travelling by rail is not necessarily about the length of the journey, but the experience of being a rail traveller, including how difficult it can be going to the toilet in a rail station – hence, he is against investing billions of pounds in high-speed rail.