Advertising agencies have been experimenting and diversifying into new disciplines and services for the past two decades. Digital, integrated, one-stop-shop, specialized agencies, local, glocal, social, traditional media, new media, media-neutral, and all the other names that have been used by an industry that kept changing skins instead of changing mentality.
Behind those different names and services, advertising is still keeping its old concept of using other people’s money to tell other people’s stories to a target audience that was always a mystery in order to achieve vague objectives and results that are rarely measured.
After the shameful role of “big-corporate” in the last global economic crisis and the growing availability of information and interaction provided by the internet, consumers are nurturing a growing distrust in big corporations and institutions. The individual consumer is gaining back her/his right for expression and action and voting every minute online and offline to support certain brands and to put down distrustful organizations and business models.
The old advertising concept based on designing and pushing promotional messages on people is being questioned with a growing pessimism and distrust. Beyond its entertaining aspect, the big award ceremonies, and the self-proclaimed gurus remains the naked truth: Advertising is a paid service destined to embellish the image of a company and a brand and to send a commercial message in a compelling and convincing way to the target customers inviting them to do business with that particular brand.
In a very similar situation, media is blurring the borders with political activism and in many cases it is being paid directly and indirectly to push the message of one group, one party and one ideology; therefore, it has lost its impartiality and the trust of the public.
At the same time, people are having continuous online and mobile access to huge amounts of data and will be able to search and share information and opinions about any brand or product. Bearing in mind that the online world is not immune to aggressive business strategies using traffic and data collection.
What is Next?
As far as brands are concerned, the second name of the internet age is “Truth”. Transparency is not an option anymore for brands and businesses; it is a must and a necessary condition. Any lack of transparency might have serious repercussions on the brand relationship with consumers.
A free and transparent flow of information between brands and consumers that is mostly done through the internet is quickly replacing the need for one-way brand communication. This will accelerate the need and the search for the Next form of advertising.
How “Nextvertising” would look like?
1 – Don’t Fear The Future, Create It.If advertising is bringing real added value to the business table, it will always find new and better ways to deliver this value. To cope with the changing times, advertising should go back to the roots and reinvent its role. Advertising is not about writing copy, designing ads, servicing clients, creating websites, and mobile applications. Advertising is about connecting consumers with brands that have better solutions for their problems. People who are fit to be in the “idea business” should be able to reinvent this role and keep it relevant.
2 – From Telling the Story to Living the Story.Let us be realistic, less and less people believe the stories that companies and businesses keep telling. It is not about the budget, the media choices, how big is the client company or how creative is the agency. Today’s consumers believe in brand experiences nothing else. In the Next era of advertising brands are going to be the message, and shared experiences are the reasons-to-believe. It is not anymore about storytelling it is about life testimony. Budgets can be shifted from creating a story to covering a real experience and brand contribution in a compelling and positive way. Being a good and caring brand goes beyond merely keep saying that through communication. It requires an authentic and positive experience delivered and shared in a transparent way. It is not the “brand promise” anymore; it is the “brand delivery” and “clear” is the new “clever”.
3 – Ideas before Ratios.Accountants can manage agencies and run them by ratios to the satisfaction of the big holding groups, but real Advertising lives and dies by ideas. Vision, creativity, innovation, and problem solving are the materials for building solid bridges between brands and consumers. Good management systems are always needed to create the best conditions for ideas to come to life and to grow for the utmost benefit of brands and businesses.
4 – Measure More To Manage Better.For many years, advertising decision were mostly based on instinct, personal taste, and relationships with limited reliance on measurement and scientific evaluation to guide the process. The big multinational brands have always been known for their heavy usage of research, but the rest of the market was shooting in the dark most of the time. Advertising is an important part in a big professional business chain, and has to deliver on clear marketing objectives. Understanding the brands relationship with consumers/customers on an ongoing basis is necessary for advertising to deliver. Advertising can work on these relationships to offer more choices and recommend better solutions without any conflict with the client’s objectives and interests.
5 – To Be An Industry, Behave Like One.In the next advertising phase, it will be good to have dynamic industry bodies that can have an active role in regulating and developing the business. Possibly multiple professional organizations that can add value and improve standards in various areas; people can gather by interest, by profession, by cause, and work together to improve and advance the whole business.
As a final word, we believe that this wave of change could be a real advancement opportunity for advertising and its role in business and the economy if we know how to deal with it. One more thing, we hope that ideas and professionalism will finally overcome the circus.
Jean-Claude Saade (firstname.lastname@example.org)