Interesting post on Brand New from Gareth the other day about the future health of advertising that got me thinking. The basic jist of his argument was that ad agencies will live on because
- what matters in communication is content - not it’s delivery
- ad agencies make the best content
- as media fragments people will filter the stuff that is most interesting
But on the proviso that they
- make sure content is culturally relevant and socially significant
- make interesting stuff generally
Whilst I agree that some ad agencies are masters of content, and that cultural relevance, social significance and interestingness is important for advertising’s future health, in the spirit of healthy (and hopefully constructive) debate, I feel somewhat less easy with the 'content is all that matters' thesis.
I think there’s something to be said for the (rough) phrase 'it’s not just what you say, but how you say it'. I mean, content is critically important – and content from the likes of W&K, CPB, Strawberry Frog et al. is generally great - but I still think you can’t divorce the meaning of the content with the meaning of the media/delivery.
Perhaps an obvious distinction is the difference between TV and cinema, and would the infamous Apple 1984 spot be what it is today if hadn’t been aired just the once at the Superbowl? I actually feel sorry for my many great TV ads – the Honda’s, The Bravia’s – because I actually feel there’s a certain stigma around the ‘TV medium’ generally (especially for today’s youth) that can cast a shadow over the content. I’m even conscious that sometimes I find myself chuckling at something online which, if I really thought about it, might evoke a more cynical reaction through the TV set. Some of the Nike stuff for example, simply just works better online.
In part it’s because the TV medium is a dated technology and perhaps perceived to be ‘trying hard’ to interrupt/persuade, but also because, for mass awareness in prime viewing, the ad’s are also being ‘co-enjoyed’ with all the other ‘non-intended’ viewers e.g. dad, grandma knitting et al. That’s a reason why I think YouTube works well – it feels more like active viewing and thus culturally relevant. I also think there’s a ‘social network’ element that can add positive meanings to an ad when it comes from a credible source – it feels more natural and less contrived. The passing on of TV ads through blogs seems to work great for example.
In moving onto a kind of optimistic future outlook for advertising like Gareth then, I’d also like to pick up on his point about media fragmentation – but whilst also invoking my point outlined above. Ironically, I actually feel that whilst media fragmentation initially harmed advertising it could be its future saving grace. As media converges – especially the TV with the phone/blackberry/computer – it should allow motion advertising to shake off the handicap of the television context, and allow it to reap the rewards of a cutting edge modern media, more relevant viewers, social networking effects, and the opportunity to save/replay (pro)actively at one’s personal leisure. Great stuff eh? And as a ‘curator’ of ads myself, sure hope it happens sooner rather than later…