So it's Advertising Week and we are doing what advertising people love to do best: celebrate advertising. Which really means advertising people celebrating themselves.
And that's actually okay because there are lots of things to celebrate.
Never before in the history of advertising and marketing has there been so much opportunity, so much media, so much technology, so much data and so many consumers devouring messages. Now more than ever, the entire world is our canvas.
All of this is pretty inspiring when you consider that when it works, advertising can be one of the greatest influencers of culture and commerce.
Unfortunately, there is one thing that hasn't changed. And that's the sad fact that over 90% of what's masquerading as advertising is complete nonsense and mediocrity. Multiply that by how many more messages exist today than even three years ago and you realize that we are surrounded by a great wasteland of inconsequential nothingness.
But here's the good news. This really is a time of great opportunity. An opportunity for the smart, the talented and the progressive few with the ability to break through the global clutter and lead the way.
So how do we do it? Well, here's a couple of things to think about.
Should we walk in the footsteps of the flocks of trend followers who keep chasing the latest thing like a chicken without a head? You know the answer but advertising agencies are all too often the greatest proponents of the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" school. Whether imitating the classic Super Bowl technique of hitting someone in the groin to get a better rating in the USA Today Poll or offering clients "our version of subservient chicken, but better."
Should we keep repeating the new holy gospel of marketing (say this three times fast) Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter. And do we really think that those two words are the answer to all of our social media needs? One thing is for sure, just being on Facebook isn't the answer, but being intelligently different on Facebook just might be. I will say that while I've seen some interesting marketing ideas on Facebook, nothing is even close to being as brilliant as Facebook itself.
Should we be one hundred percent focused on creating digital work or is it really about creating work for the digital age? I think we all know that practically everything is digital. So what? Back in the 90's, Sony Japan based their business and marketing platform on a concept called "Digital Dream Kids". They said, soon we will all be digital and that's how we will create the future. And so I asked "if everyone will be digital, how we separate ourselves from everyone else?" No answer and that campaign idea died a slow invisible death. Obviously, being digital alone isn't enough.
Just like doing that very despised term, "traditional advertising" isn't enough. But like John Cleese said in his famous Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch, traditional media "isn't dead, it's sleeping." Why aren't we using traditional media in more nontraditional ways?
Is technology the answer to all of our marketing problems? In some cases it may be. Some people I have a lot of respect for believe that "great ideas aren't better than great technologies. They're different." Okay, I can buy that when in the hands of geniuses. But it's what average Joes are doing in the name of genius that worries me.
At the end of the day, almost everyone has or will have access to the same technology. Technology is the great democratizer. Large brands and small brands can all play on the same field. It's not the technology that will separate your brand from everyone else's. It's what you do with the technology. It's the age-old answer to every marketing brief: HE WITH THE BEST IDEA WINS. That's it, pure and simple. But coming up with relevant, breakthrough ideas that will stand out and drive consumers to buy products takes a lot of hard work and a lot of smart people. Let's make that smart, talented people with open minds. People willing to learn and experiment. People who can do more than think outside the box, but also think their way out of a corner.
Of course finding those people is getting harder and harder. I'm sure that many of them will be attending the various Advertising Week functions. But certainly there's not enough of them to fuel the entire industry. Where are they? And why aren't we as an industry getting better work out of them?
To some this may sound like heresy. But it's not. It's truth. Check out any type of media. How much of what you see stands out? How much is memorable? How much advertising out there is instigating consumers to buy? How much is getting you excited to be in advertising. Not enough. And that's both the shame and the opportunity.
To be able to create new actionable messaging in all kinds of media is a gift to any thinking creative person. It's also an opportunity for clients who want to jump ahead of their competition. Local clients or global clients. You can't win a global client by saying you are digital. (Well, maybe some people can.) To me, that's the price of entry. Clients need and want to know that you can deliver big game changing ideas. Not crazy ideas. Not wacky for the sake of wacky ideas, but smart ideas. Because then they aren't gambling on the future, they're investing in it.