“Panem and circenses” (bread and circuses) is the deliberate strategy of gaining the heart and the attention of people by the continuous offering of entertainment. Back in the ancient Rome, the emperor Commodus soon realised that the only way to keep his subjects under control wasn’t long and tedious speeches but rather the uninterrupted flow of gladiators, free food, chariot races and many more decadent activities. What Commodus didn’t expect was that two millennials later advertisers would use the same technics to persuade and conquer consumers’ minds.
Coming back to the present days it seems that we have unfortunately neglected this modus operandi leading to most of the discredit and disbelief towards advertising. Information as it sole isn’t sufficient to capture attention and neither does entertainment; hence, successful communications need to find the sweet spot between the two. Throughout the years we have developed a defence mechanism protecting ourselves from advertising clutter. We now perceive ads as an intrusion, a waste of time where solely listing the benefits of your product – as good as they might be – won’t do the job anymore. A great example illustrating the importance of effectively combining entertainment and information is the 2013 Virgin America Safety Video. The challenge was to have passengers pay attention to the pre-flight safety video. The airline twisted the conventional demonstration by adding song and dance grabbing passengers’ attention and communicating the relevant information “just in case we must evacuate”. As said Howard Gossage an iconic adman from the 1950s, “No one reads ads. People read what interest them.”