So, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, the first day of Advertising Week, JWT held a funeral for advertising. We are an ironic group if nothing else. (Shouldn't we have at least waited until Thursday for this seminar?) Turns out when they opened the coffin, there was nothing in it. Because, of course, advertising is not dead. At least not yet.
Last Thursday night in Las Vegas, I was sitting in a red pleather booth across from a journalist who pragmatically declared that advertising as we know it will not exist three years from now. Of course, because of my age, I was assured this change wouldn't really affect me. The complete annihilation would take about a decade. And in 2022 I will be... well, this has always been a business for young people.
So, I started thinking about this three-year prophecy. If I go back three years, and three years before that, and three years before that, this declaration begins to feel much less threatening -- the business of advertising is always changing for many reasons, primarily technology. I remember working on Cingular Wireless in 2000. I didn't carry a cell phone until 2002. There was no one to call on another cell phone. How strange that seems today, just 10 years later.
More often than not, at the dawn of new technology, the future can appear daunting for some and exciting for others. I like what Clay Shirky says about technology, and I paraphrase: Technology becomes important when we take it for granted.
Technology has and always will evolve the way we market products and build brands. Change because of technology has been a constant in this business. However, I believe the fundamentals of marketing and branding also remain consistent.
I don't think technology is the big change happening in this industry. Something different is going on today -- a change that I haven't seen in the almost 30 years that I have been in advertising. Something that I believe does truly threaten our industry. And that is the devaluation of ideas and partnerships. Why? Because the ugly truth is bad advertising and average advertising work. Great advertising just works better. Great advertising resonates longer. Great advertising is better for this world. Great advertising attracts great people to our profession.
But let's face it, as much as we all aspire to do great advertising, as an industry we do a lot of average advertising. In fact, I'm watching some average advertising right now as I write this. Unfortunately, getting to average isn't that difficult. And I'm afraid that might be what our industry defaults to -- cheap and average. Why go the extra distance for great, when good enough will do just fine? Let's crowd-source for some good ideas. Let's applaud getting on first base and accept that home runs are overrated, or at least not worth the time and expense.
The creation of great advertising takes real talent -- agency types with super-human resiliency genes joined at the hip with client types whose brains defer to guts. Talented partners who grant each other tenure and realize that great success requires risk, investment and acceptance of failed attempts to create that great. And this kind of talent is finite.
My big fear for the marketing and advertising industry is that these talented people will no longer be attracted to this business because we no longer appreciate the value of those great ideas or the people who come up with them.