The future of advertising and why it's got more life than ever.
Everyone loves the proverbial crystal ball. The many predictions that attempt to forecast the future of one of the most dynamic and creative industries on the planet. Advertising.
These attention-grabbing headlines speak of great opportunity or are simply quite dystopian. ‘Advertising is Dead!’ ‘Long Live Advertising!’ ‘Advertising will Change Forever!’ ‘Programmatic will rule the world!’ ‘Advertising will never change!’
Well, maybe not that last point. But like every industry in 2016, the disruption coming from technology, connectivity, and the speed with which this disruption is happening is unprecedented. It is human nature to attempt to look for patterns and trends, and translate those into future-gazing statements, which remove ambiguity to make us feel just a little bit more comfortable and confident about our tenures and relevance in this industry.
But what if we were to take an optimistic approach in this attempt to crystal-ball?
Let’s look at what the industry has been offering for the past 50 years, and how, at its core that has not changed.
We are consummate storytellers – Storytelling is at the heart of our industry. Whether we are telling a story in five words or less for a headline, in an outdoor billboard, or on Instagram. We know how to tell a story that is captivating, concise, and changes the behaviour of the consumer.
Creativity is at the core – Creativity is timeless, but is also challenging to define and create within a culture. Keith Reinhard, one of the industry’s original ‘mad men’ from DDB, had a novel solution. In 1986, after two agencies had undergone a significant merger, each employee, from the cleaner to the executive creative director, carried around a simple card that read ‘Find a Better Way.’ This allowed each and every individual in the culture to contribute and find a better way to service clients, work with their peers, and improve the organisation as a whole.
Technology continually creates opportunity – We are guessing you weren’t around for what was the first television commercial broadcast in 1941 and cost a whopping $9 to produce. But if you look carefully at the Bulova ad, it was simply an ad taken from a newspaper or magazine and adapted to the new medium of the time. It was only in the ‘50’s when soap operas were created, paid advertisements made for the medium were produced, and the industry began to understand and exploit the true advantages of television. Thinking of emerging technologies now, like VR or messaging apps, we have only explored the tip of the iceberg.
4. CULTURAL DIVERSITY
Reflect and create the pulse and culture of nations – There is no better example of that than the infamous Coke ad, named most influential advertisement, and used as the closing scene of ‘Mad Men’. ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ reflected the voice of America at the time it was released; a nation at war, riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, Coca-Cola through the advertising reflected the underlying desire for the nation to be unified and harmonious. More recently, Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty has reflected the dissatisfaction with the portrayal of women in the media, and driven a new level of confidence. And who can forget ‘Not Happy Jan!’, the Yellow Pages ad from early 2000’s when the yell out the window became part of the Australian vernacular.
Authenticity – True advertising, regardless of format, medium and style, seeks to connect with its audience through authenticity, based on timeless understanding of human behaviour. Milk seems like a fairly straightforward product to sell, but when sales and market share were declining in the US, San Francisco ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners were called in to solve the problem. Milk used to be sold as a complement to other foods, but the agency’s train of thought was to turn that around. ‘Let’s remind people about the anxiety and disappointment that came when milk wasn’t available at those critical moments.’ This drove the now famous ‘Got Milk?’ campaign, turning around the fortunes of the dairy industry in the US. Finding a core human truth, and grounding it in authenticity was key to its success.
6. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
We can ‘Do Good’ – Media and advertising is often tapped as a shallow and hollow industry. But the industry does have the skill and influence to change people’s behaviours en masse. Some recent examples, Earth Hour, which was the brainchild of Leo Burnett right here in Australia, fashion advertising that has challenged our definition of sexuality, to brands such as JC Penny in the US that are taking a stance on diversity.
So when we are being told that the future of advertising is bleak, that everything will be different, let’s reflect back on what hasn’t changed. And with these principles and thoughts at the core, the old adage does apply ‘Some things NEVER change.’
By Rob Shwetz