The average advertisement represents top down, inside out thinking and rarely, if ever, empathizes with the wants and needs of the consumer. Instead, we're bombarded with brand promises of faster, better and sleeker products and services.
There are many egregious examples of the gap that exists between what a brand promises and what the actual end user experience is (think: airlines, insurance companies, cable operators, etc.). My personal bete noir is New Jersey Transit.
Since becoming a veritable monopoly decades ago, NJT has excelled at redefining poor quality and service. A list of complaints would fill an entire train, but a few of the more overt ones would include:
- Broken restrooms (often awash with waste)
- Rude conductors
- Inexplicable delays (the details of which conductors seem to take perverse delight in not sharing)
- Trains that always seem to be one car short, hence forcing passengers to press together like sardines (and, in a Hitchcock-like twist, telling passengers stuck in the first and last cars that those areas have been as designated 'silent' zones, so curses and epithets aimed at NJT should be kept very, very quiet).
None of this would matter if, at the same time, NJT didn't run advertising campaigns that strain credulity. Last year's effort was headlined:
- 'NJ Transit: Getting you there'
I suggested they add the word 'eventually'.
To add insult to injury, though, NJT has the unmitigated gall to launch a brand, new campaign, entitled:
- 'NJT: We are listening'
The advertising is an obvious response to the withering rider comments posted on numerous anti-NJT websites, blogs and Twitter feeds.
But, the new campaign begs the question' What have you been doing for the past four decades, NJT? Has the commuter rail line suddenly been cured of a system-wide hearing disorder? Are they, like The Who's Tommy, suddenly able to see, hear and speak after years of being deaf, dumb and blind?
I don't believe NJT is listening at all. They're merely try to temporarily placate the great, unwashed masses.
If NJT sought genuine authenticity in their new advertising campaign, the headline would read:
- 'NJT: We are listening. We don't like what we're hearing. And, we're not going to improve a damn thing. Live with it.'
I'd be a happier, more content consumer if my providers would only stop making absurd brand promises while I continue to endure the reality of their everyday experience. I'd go on, but I've been squeezed into a packed, quiet car and my typing is upsetting an already pissed-off fellow passenger.
'NJT commuting: where personal safety is your problem.'