The Allure of Expertise

One Advertising Problem

How to grab consumers’ attention.

One Solution

Use the allure of expertise.

What do I mean by the “allure of expertise”? Well, I recently watched something on TV, not because it was something I cared about, but because I was drawn in by the expertise of the performance. I won’t say what it was, but it rhymed with Shamerican Shinja. And I was astonished by the level of skilled control, by him doing something so easily that 99.9999 (and just keep adding those nines) percent of the rest of us just cannot do at all.

Of course, I wasn’t aware of any formal reasoning behind why I continued to watch. I had neither need nor ability to articulate it. I was just amazed. (I believe my thoughts could best be summed up as “Oh. My. GOSH. How does anybody DO that?”)

It is mesmerizing to see smooth, confident, controlled, and, yes, aesthetic displays of mastery. Maximum output with minimum outlay of energy and time.

Now, we all know about how weekend warriors live vicariously through their sports teams and individual players/heroes. Conventional wisdom is that regardless of whether we admit it, we revel in these proceedings because of our inner predator, our tribalism, our desire for dominance and for war. We’ve seen those fans (or been those fans) at football games, at basketball games, at you-name-it games. We’ve seen advertising take advantage of this phenomenon in a large variety of ways. This isn’t news. But how does that translate to our enjoyment of the following?

Is this young man a sports star? Maybe, maybe not. He’s not a member of a team, and without the teammates and accompanying star-boosting promotional structure, I don’t believe he could engender the same levels of loyalty-hysteria. Nevertheless, it could be argued that he is a sports star. However, I don’t think any such definition could be stretched far enough to cover the performances of these dudes (inspired by the craze for bottle flips) and their pencils, ladders, and spare change.

So what gives? Why do we feel the need to watch these displays? Well, I found a TED talk by philosopher Denis Dutton, who postulates that being drawn to beauty is evolutionary.

“…One fundamental trait of the ancestral personality persists in our aesthetic cravings: the beauty we find in skilled performances. From Lascaux to the Louvre to Carnegie Hall, human beings have a permanent innate taste for virtuoso displays in the arts. We find beauty in something done well.

Beauty is nature’s way of acting at a distance, so to speak…[of exerting] a kind of magnetism to give you the pleasure of simply looking.”


Which I think only partially explains this, the agency’s own “Cirque du Fruit,” as it were:



  • Drew Drechsel Tackles the National Finals Stage 3 | American Ninja Warrior

  • Tokyo Drift: Nissan Silvia S15 vs Nissan 350z (Garage Scene)

  • Why We Watch Sports – And It’s Not What You Think

  • World Stacking Champion Shows Off His Speed | The Queen Latifah Show

  • Flip Edition | Dude Perfect

  • A Darwinian Theory of Beauty

  • Fruit of the Loom Commercial


Highlights From My 20th Anniversary Trip