The Future of Advertising
There seems to be a lot of conversation about the future of advertising going on at the moment. See Pete Blackshaws’ post of yesterday, the rather lengthy Bob Garfield article in Advertising Age Pete refers to – and also the consistently stimulating Hugh Macleod.
Here’s my take. The 30 second ad has a healthy future – but not the sort of 30 second ads upon which the ad business is currently based. In the future there will be small specialist agencies which will knock out 30 or 60 second visual stuff for placement in paid-for channels for a fraction of the price traditional ad agencies currently charge. They will be able to make a living out of this because they won’t have the vast bloated infrastructure of planning, account management and hugely paid creatives to support. The content they produce won’t be “creative” in Cannes award-winning sort of sense. It will be basic, good old-fashioned, product benefit, information and price focused stuff. It won’t struggle (and fail) to carry an entire brand narrative in the way that most of current advertising is struggling (and failing) to do. The agencies that produce it will just be one segment of a whole swath of specialist content creators out there.
This doesn’t mean the end of creativity (or creatives). There will still be a market for the creation of creative content – but this will be shaped around the production of floating digital content packages that are rooted in bringing alive brand stories. The floating bit means that these packages are not tied into set channels or web sites – but are available for consumers to pull down and share if they wish. This is the essence of (RSS) feed-based, pull communications and is the fundamental structural shift inherent in the techy side of web 2.0 (see the fantastic Michael Wesch video).
The thing this content brings alive will be brand stories. Brand stories are absolutely not brand propositions. They are much broader, more credible and more relevant than brand propositions – most of which will be exposed as utter nonsense, designed to create spurious differentiation and the illusion of choice. Here’s the rub. We will find that in many categories the range of available, credible stories, is significantly less that the number of brands. In some categories there may only be one available story. Ouch! If a brand therefore hasn’t staked-out its territory and got itself a functioning, credible, authentic brand story within the next three years – it probably won’t exist in 10 years.
Sitting in-between clients and the creative specialists will be creative aggregators. These will be the closest thing to what we currently call an advertising agency. Their job will be to bring alive brand stories, and be the originators and creative stewards of ideas on behalf of clients. Ideas, networks and communities will be their currency – rather than ads, PR, DM or promotions. They won’t produce one-off advertising or PR campaigns but will be more in the business of 24/7 content creation and management. Neither will they own the means of creative delivery – they will contract this out to the specialists. Implicit in the production of effective content will be the ability to be tuned-in to the various consumer or citizen networks which will ultimately determine how (or if) the content is distributed. Media planning will be dead, because the distribution network will be self-selecting – consumers will be self-planning! Will existing agencies manage to transition themselves into aggregators? Some, possibly – but most will probably form from scratch from the cast-off fragments of the imploding traditional agency business. If ad agencies are to achieve the transition, the first thing they will have to do is cut themselves loose from expensive and inflexible dedicated creative resource by spinning-out their creative offering in the way Saatchi spun-out media 20 years ago.
So that’s the future of advertising – in my opinion.
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