Indy Ad Exec: The next generation is “un-advertising”
by Tom Fels (@thomasfels) Children are remarkable in the way they experience the world, seeing everything with a freshness that would have the rest of we jaded souls filled with wonder at even the smallest aspects of our daily grind. Yet they are equally quick to move on, having interpreted their experience and formed a suitable memory response.
So, while you can amaze a child today with a simple toy or trick, tomorrow they are bored and cynical — awaiting the next wide-eyed learning in their ongoing education. The same traits emerge when we look at how consumers engage with advertising as it shifts over time.
What was considered groundbreaking yesterday is de rigueur today and advertising as we know it is transforming in front of our eyes. So much so, that the future of advertising may not be advertising at all.
Given that media consumption is fast becoming a self-curated experience, both brand and agency bosses ought to think hard about new approaches to connect with their intended audience. In particular, the challenge for agencies to scrap channel-led thinking altogether is driving a new generation of hot shops, as well as a host of headaches for those slow to embrace the change.
In the spirit of ‘un-advertising’, your next piece of communication could be (or should be) a game, stunt, product placement, TV series or endorsement, rather than a print ad or standard TV execution. Old ways of thinking evoke old responses.
Whatever it is, if you’re going to succeed, it should have an element of surprise.
Storytelling and the power of surprise
Brands on the leading edge have embraced storytelling as a rich vehicle for showcasing the product lifestyle without the hard sell. From BMW’s branded-content series ‘The Hire’ to Coca-Cola’s Happiness pieces and the ‘classic’ viral T-Mobile hits of five years ago, bringing the essence of the brand to life in new and interesting ways has never been more important.
To demonstrate this, in many ways Wren’s ‘First Kiss’, which amassed over 55 million views in less than a week, is a social media win but lacks the product punch.
Its website has had, until recently, no reference to the campaign, and its subtly branded video has garnered more attention for the director Tatia Pilieva than for the brand. It’s hard to imagine that people are rushing online to make a purchase as the marketing journey around the (beautiful) film is poorly constructed.
Whether portraying a never-seen-before spectacle or re-imagining the familiarity of something old and telling the story with video, digital, live activation or tangible craft, the key to getting it all right is to ensure both newness and a thoughtful link back to the product that, once showcased, becomes a much-coveted item.
The lines separating entertainment from advertising and art are becoming increasingly blurred. Knowing that people seek out great work, rather than ignore it, advertising agencies must embrace this notion and adapt as a necessary part of creating communication that is relevant to an increasingly disengaged consumer audience.
Drive the change by being unpredictable and adopting the role of instigator and collaborator, rather than being an all-encompassing service destination. The birth of “un-advertising” is upon us and the next move is yours.
With a decade of local and international experience in leading independent brand consulting, design, shopper marketing and integrated advertising roles, Tom Fels (@thomasfels) has gained a deeply relevant understanding of the dynamics of independent agencies. His skills are put to work daily as group managing director of MACHINE.
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