I was almost tempted not to write this article, because among most of my peers (agency/digital/technology folk) this subject is so 3 years ago. However, time and time again while working with clients and agency partners I am still finding that this penny has not really quite dropped for some.
The purpose of this post is to make crystal clear the revolution that has already happened. For those CEOs, marketing managers, account directors, strategists and creative directors who are coming to the party late, read carefully because this affects you.
The advancement in technology and digital communication has changed a lot of things in our world. It’s changed healthcare, medicine, food, retail, transport, I mean we’re launching rockets into space on a regular basis now thanks to Mr Elon Musk.
And one of those things technology has drastically changed is the advertising industry. It’s official; the traditional approaches to getting your message out there are now obsolete. Alternative approaches are all we have left, it’s either change or die.
Now whether you have a brand, market a brand or do any work for a brand on any level, everything changes as of today. Brands and agencies are at various stages of changing how they communicate to consumers which has resulted in a term called ‘integrated advertising’.
For the uneducated, what integrated advertising is, in a nutshell is an approach to delivering work that is not siloed. So in short, no longer do we brief the Lead Agency to come up with a strategy and creative ideas, then brief the Media Agency, PR and digital agency to roll out the creative. For example, traditionally the lead agency came up with a TV Ad about people driving giant shoes to advertise new shoes and the digital agency would then build a game that looked like the TV Ad in a microsite called www.giantshoerace.com. No no, the ‘integrated advertising’ model says all the agency partners must get briefed at the same time and sit at the table together and strategise together and get creative together and present to the client together. YEAY! So what’s been happening in case you didn’t notice is advertising agencies have either been getting more ‘integrated’ by hiring a bunch of smart digital folk or acquiring entire digital agencies to bolster their ‘integrated-digital’ credentials.
Yep, tag lines like “The agency for the digital age” were all the buzz.
So, Problem solved. Integrated advertising saved the day! Wrong again. You see, there is still a glaring problem (bear with me here).
Technology didn’t change advertising,
technology didn’t make advertising more advanced, although placing ad’s have become smarter with Google Ads and the like,
technology made advertising redundant.
Let me say that again (so it sinks in).
Technology has not changed advertising,
technology has not made advertising smarter.
Technology has made advertising extinct.
Consumers do not want to be advertised at. Not on a billboard, not while they’re on their computers online, not at the bus stop, not on their mobile phone, not even in the store.
“Good grief! Are you sure? I still see a lot of ads though” I hear you say. Yep, and what a giant waste of money those ad’s are, no return, no one cares, tumbleweeds rolling in the desert get more attention.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. Below are a couple of tweeted quotes from advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky at the recent 2013 Cannes Awards. Please take note this is an advertising agency:
“We have to break the muscle memory of what advertising is by bringing in people from outside the industry.”
“We need to demonstrate real creative bravery or we will become irrelevant. We are excellent at the wrong kind of innovation.”
“Irrelevance awaits the ad industry unless we move at the speed of culture.”
“We need to stop being advertisers and become hackers.”
“We need to rediscover a healthy disregard for advertising.”
Ok, so now that the history lesson is out the way we can get to the crux of this.
“So if we don’t advertise anymore, what do we do now?”
Wonderful, glad you asked. In order to answer that we need to look at what change technology ushered in. Technology introduced an era of doing things faster, doing things easier, accessing information we couldn’t before, connecting people in an instant, actually enabling us to do things we couldn’t before.
So if that’s what technology has and continues to do for us, is it not safe to say that we expect the same from the brands we’ve grown up with?
Brands now are required to innovate. Brands have to adopt technology into their very DNA, they need to be able to provide their customers with a way to (cut and pasted from above) do things faster, do things easier, access information they couldn’t before, connect people in an instant and enable them to do things they couldn’t before.
No longer can a brand create an advert to sell a new product and expect people to buy it. Those days are gone with the wind. A brand needs to first provide something useful to it’s customer, something that helps this person everyday. It turns out that digital is the most effective way to deliver this. Those useful digital services/products need to encapsulate the brand’s value proposition and core business offering and form an ecosystem of value over and above the actual core business offering of selling shoes for instance. So, where as before the whole point was to sell shoes to our customers and end the conversation, now the selling of the shoes is just the beginning of the relationship.
Now if the customer begins to use one of the digital services/products on a regular basis, receives benefit and enjoyment from it and if there is a clear path to purchase built into this digital ecosystem we have now offered a value to the customer that far supersedes the mere purchase of a product.
Now what we do to reach more customers is to introduce more people to this digital product/service by demonstrating how useful and amazing it is. This is where we can even use the more traditional methods and channels like video, TV and the like, but this time it’s not a TV Ad like we used to do where we put the product center stage and flash a web url for 5 seconds at the end of the ad, no. The content of the advert is showcasing the digital service/product, enticing people to become a part of it.
The result, we all know is astounding and category defining. Sales increase sure, but what it does for the brand is way more than an increase in sales – the brand begins to create a loyalty and following never before imaginable. By learning from how your customers use the service/product, you begin to innovate new services/products, heck eventually technology even re-invents the brand’s core business.
Lastly, to all of you ‘late bloomers’ to this digital revolution, I would humbly put to you the one blatantly obvious choice left and that is simply the need to change. If everything I’ve mentioned above is overwhelming and you find yourself scared to death, don’t be. Be excited. Spend some time ‘googling’ some of the case studies mentioned in this article until the pennies finally drop. Once you’ve done that, you may be tempted to suddenly discover a case of amnesia or simply stick your head in the ground and hope it all goes away – don’t. Take a breath and take small steps forward.
In our experience, the clients that tend to “get” this new way of thinking are the ones that have the least marketing or advertising experience. Somehow, all the marketing courses and brand building seminars we have grown up with limits our ability to think down these new roads. We’ve been taught to think in channels, recruitment strategies and market segmentation. I can’t suggest enough for every brand/company to have at least one digital/technology business ‘champion’ to keep the brand forward thinking.
In closing, it’s good to realise that no-one has arrived and no-one is an expert. An innovative soul, positive outlook and curious disposition goes a long way in producing category defining work.