I’ve noticed a growing, disturbing tendency in advertising. The creative teams who develop concepts for commercials insert terms and references that make perfect sense to them, but are most likely meaningless among the viewers they are trying to reach.

A recent example is a truck commercial that makes reference to “donut eaters in focus groups.” Anyone who has worked in advertising or marketing understood that right away, particularly if they have ever sat on the other side of the one-way glass and watched focus group participants drone on about advertising while gnawing on free food. The creative team displayed its disgust and frustration, and the clients approved it, because they’ve been there, too. I smiled when I heard it.

But how many of the potential buyers of that truck even know what a focus group is, or why that’s relevant to how a particular truck has been designed? I’d wager that the percentage is incredibly small. The use of the term is another example of how incestuous the advertising industry has become, and how removed from real life many of the players are.

 In my own experience with advertising agencies, I’ve seen too many examples of elitism among the team members. They view the consumers they’re trying to reach as beneath them, and create messages that sneer. If you want your advertising to become more effective and meaningful, don’t separate yourself from the potential readers and viewers. Become part of their world and understand their fears and motivations. Your messages may not be as “cutting-edge,” but they’ll be infinitely more effective.