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November 8, 2023
Christian Di Virgilio

Why 'The Anatomy of Humbug' Is A Must Read For The Ad World

‘The Anatomy of Humbug’ is a backstage pass to the world of advertising. Giving all-access insight into how our commonly held advertising precepts actually came about, it encourages readers to adopt a more critical perspective on what we hold true. Part advertising primer, part critical analysis, the book covers advertising history, commonly held beliefs and how to break ad taboos. 

Feldwick does a brilliant job of breaking down all the fancy advertising theories and strategies into plain English. If your brain’s anything like mine, you’ll find him a super useful translator on what you need to or should know. He shares stories and examples that make it easy to understand why certain ads stick in our minds like glue while others fade into oblivion. 

In a nutshell, Feldwick’s book offers a thought-provoking examination of advertising that demands a serious re-evaluation of how we create and interact with ads. More than a great read, it’s an essential reminder to help advertisers challenge current practices, remain constructively critical and develop more effective and responsible advertising strategies in a quickly evolving landscape. 

It's an entertaining, eye-opening read that will make you a smarter, savvier consumer, and   a more rounded marketing professional.  

Seven helpful takeaways: 

Historical Context Matters:  

Humbug demonstrates how advertising reflects the values and norms of its time, providing a lens through which we can understand societal changes. Acknowledging this historical backdrop helps us contextualise the impact of advertising on culture – a very important component in understanding how and why we do the work we do. 

Challenge Conventional Wisdom:  

Feldwick encourages us to question and challenge conventional advertising wisdom. He highlights that many long-held beliefs and practices in advertising may not be quite as effective as we previously thought.  

Take the humble ‘USP’ for example. Surprisingly, it was never really proven to work, or be a key requirement, and was merely just a hypothesis. Humbug prods us to reassess beliefs like these and to consider alternative, more effective approaches.  

Balancing Creativity and Data: 

The book makes the case for striking a better balance between creativity and data, leveraging data and analytics to directly inform creative decisions. This approach, he argues, can lead to more effective and impactful advertising campaigns. 

Mastering Emotional Appeal:  

Humbug delves deep into the emotional side of advertising, highlighting how we use emotions to connect with our target audience. It serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding the emotional triggers that resonate with consumers, helping us create more compelling and relatable content. 

Understanding the Consumer's Perspective: 

Feldwick emphasises the importance of understanding the consumer's perspective, their psychology, and their evolving behaviours. We can apply this insight to create more relatable and relevant campaigns that resonate with audiences. 

Ethical Considerations: 

This book encourages us to adopt a more ethical and responsible approach to our craft (for example Greenwashing). And  considers the societal impact of our work and the responsibility we have in shaping public opinion and behaviour. 

The Power of Persuasion:  

Feldwick underscores that advertising is fundamentally a persuasive tool. It's not just about conveying information; it's about persuading consumers to make specific choices. Understanding the persuasive techniques employed in advertising is crucial for informed decision-making. 


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