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It’s not exactly brain surgery. But it’s still about the brain. The lack of knowledge on how the brain works is one important reason why more and more of today’s advertising is more or less wasted.

This is what Orlando Wood has shown in his book ”Lemon”, which was presented at EffWeek in London in October. An important book that should be compulsory reading at all advertising schools as well as for all creatives, planners and marketing managers. It is the most interesting book I have read in a long time, about the possibilities and obstacles of advertising.

It is, as Orlando Wood puts it, both a diagnosis and a cure for the advertising crisis today.

For advertising is in crisis. A few months ago, Peter Field published the report ”The Crisis in Creative Effectiveness”, where he stated that creatively awarded campaigns

are now less effective than they have ever been in the entire 24-year

run of data. He states that he had wished he had never had to write it, but we have now reached a point where creatively rewarded advertising gives little if any increased effect, compared to non-rewarded.

And the reason for this is a combination of short-term, shrinking budgets and too much focus on digital platforms, according to Peter Field.

But it is also a matter of the advertising itself. Because much of the advertising today is designed in such a way that it simply cannot work.

That’s the sad truth, shows Orlando Wood in Lemon. He is the Chief Innovation Officer at System 1 Group, which specializes in behavioral economics, hence the name. A name inspired by the father of the behavioral economy , who in 2002 was awarded  the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for his research on how people make financial decisions. He talked about the System 1 of the brain, which makes quick, intuitive decisions (for example, most of our purchasing decisions) and System 2, which is used to gather information and think rationally.

Orlando Wood, in Lemon, takes off in psychiatrist Ian McGilchrist’s research into how our two brain halves work. ”They don’t do different things, but they do different things,” as he put it.

The left hemisphere is for example narrow, goal orientated, literal, self-absorbed and dogmatic. It works with languages, symbols, abstractions and fragments.

The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is for example broad. It is vigilant, empathises and can see context. It’s self-aware and questioning. It works with time, space and depth and is musical.

Ian McGilchrist has described in his book ”The Master and His Emissary” how developments have swung back and forth through the centuries between a focus on the left hemisphere and a balance between the two. From Roman times to today. And Orlando Wood has included a number of McGilchrist’s examples in Lemon to show how these oscillations have been expressed in art, music, architecture and society. And, as Orlando Wood adds, in advertising.

He shows how the development has gone from a balanced brain focus to today being significantly more ”left-focused”.

This is illustrated, for example, in the TV offering with fewer sitcoms but more competition shows. Music has become simpler and lyrics repetitive. And so on.

He has studied several hundred commercials from three decades and seen if their design has followed other developments in society, which he can show that they have.

Advertising that communicates with the right brain is often stories with a sense of place, characters and dialogues that move the story forward. There is both pronounced and implied dialogue, knowing glances, play with words, parodies, dialects, humor and melodic music.

But the advertising that tries to communicate with the left hemisphere is one-dimensional, flat and abstract. They are more often a voiceover than a dialogue, possibly a monologue and then often substantiated adjectives are used. It contains still image effects and sound repetitions. And the music that is included is more rhythmic than melodic.

Peter Field and Les Binet have on several occasions in their studies shown that brands are built long-term, with emotional advertising. Thus, simply advertising that communicates with the right hemisphere.

The left hemisphere, on the other hand, devotes itself to rationality.

“None of this would matter if a preference for left- or right-brained elements in ads was simply a matter of taste. The rise in left-brained elements coincides with the decline in creative effectiveness. But is it just a coincidence? ” Orlando Wood wrotes in Lemon.

And in his studies you can clearly see how the shift from right to left brain began in 2006. At the same time as the decline in creative effect became evident. The diagram can almost merge, that’s how clear it is.

During the same period, the way to work at agencies and companies has shifted to fit more and more of the left hemisphere. There are more specialists and increased coordination. Split working groups, rush and global communication – rational and cost-saving.

This trend towards the left focus is affecting so much, not least consumers’ views on advertising.

”People hate advertising today,” the New York Times wrote a or two week ago.

No wonder!

Advertising that tries to speak with the left brain becomes incomprehensible to the right and loathed by consumers. And – the effects are shrinking.

In Lemon, Orlando Wood points at a number of measures to turn the trend towards a more ”brain-balanced” advertising. Nor is it really more than common sense, if you understand the difference between the right and left hemispheres.

Among other things, he also mentions the importance of Messenger – or Fluent Devices, which I previously wrote about here.

At the end of the book he has put together a ten-point manifesto, which he thinks agencies should present to their clients. And I agree.

Some of these points are:

– We believe that advertising is a craft, not a profession: you have to understand that it takes both talent and time to create extraordinary results.

– We are known for our memorable characters and human situations, which the public loves and talks about. Your employees will love them too.

– We believe in local, rather than global, advertising because local advertising gives more effect. It will cost you more, but you will get more back.

– We believe in keeping left-brain processes away from our creatives. They stifle creativity.

-We love technology and awe-inspiring visual effects. But we believe that people, betweenness, time, place, music, metaphors and humor are the heart of great advertising.

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