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The law of evolution in advertising

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Four of the most potent words in the advertising universe used to be “As seen on TV.”
How quickly things change.

Media fragmentation is making advertising choices increasing complex, with current predictions indicating that there may be fewer than 10 to 15 years left in which to establish a global or national brand the traditional way.

In the US, free-to-air TV audiences are falling constantly (though networks are charging more and more to reach them) and it’s now ideas bigger than the borders of traditional advertising that are the pointy end of marketing.

The Law of Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest, but the most adaptable. Sheer media muscles in no longer enough, Mr. Dinosaur.

Every campaign should attempt to step outside the traditional media boxes that have to be ticked.

Look for ideas by thinking about your target person’s total time, not just their media time. When are they really in the right frame of mind to listen? As opposed to when the advertiser wants to talk?

Advertiser mindsets have to move away from the cosy pigeon-holing of consumers into age or socio-groups, and move toward a more realistic assessment of people’s real-life attitudes and aspirations.

This article exists because things have changed so much in the advertising world; we’re trying to ground our thinking in the most fruitful earth, regardless of the marching mutability of the times.

So what can be relied upon in the future, a part from more change? In my den, I keep a map of the globe that, along, with the dry land masses, shows the topography of the ocean floor.

When you see exposed all the underwater chasms, peaks, channels and plains that are usually hidden beneath the surface of the waves, then the flow of the gulf streams, the reflux of he oceans, and the patterns of the world’s weather are all far more easily comprehended.

A fascinating paradox about advertising people: we passionately push clients to be open to change, yet we’re the least open to change ourselves.

The most obvious example of this is what’s going on today with new mediums and technology.

Advertising people are not facing the fact that, in a few short years, the 30-second commercial will no longer be the medium, but simply a medium.

This means lots of people will be watching exactly what they want and not watching what they don’t.

Nowadays, we’re seeing a vast erosion of network ratings. We’re also seeing a disproportionate increase in the use of TiVo-like devices.

Yet, advertising agencies desperately cling to the 30 seconds. They hope all this new medium and technology stuff will go away.

Or, if they’ve been around a while, they hope they can keep doing what they’re doing until they retire, leaving it for the next generation to figure out.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going away, because viewers love the power and control they now have.

So, to me, there are two choices: think differently or be flushed down the 20th-century toilet.

That’s not just my opinion either. Last year, USA Today identified a new group of teens-to-twenties they call the “Unreachables” – people who are almost impossible to touch through the mainstream mediums.

And, recently, when Sun Microsystems’ Marketing director was asked why he fired his agency of only three years, he answered, “The big agencies only think about doing the next 30 spot.”

The good news in all this is that the new technology and media developments offer an extraordinary, never-seen-before opportunity for creativity – the very thing agencies thrive on.

Open-minded, big-thinking people will kick ass in this new world. Some already are. Our agency’s BMW films are a good example.

The films were designed to solve a simple but shattering problem for our client: Our target was no longer watching enough TV to be reached effectively: We couldn’t show him the cars properly.

We sat and thought about it. We knew this person spent 10 or 12 hours a day at work. We knew he had a powerful computer on his desk.

The logic was, “Why not visit him where he is – at the computer?” The client saw the value in the idea immediately and signed on.

There were risks involved, for sure, like figuring out how to make a long-form film. But the idea was sound: We figured it out.
The client initially expected three million views. By summer 2003, they hit 50 million views. BMW has also had the best US sales year in its history, in the midst of an extremely tough economy. Going beyond ads seems to have worked well for them.

Another example is our successful launch for the Archipelago stock exchange. Which featured The Open Show, a minute long TV show that ran every day at 7:59 a.m. right before the conventional stock market opened at eight.

We will continue to embrace new ideas and put our clients in category of one rather than in the field of sameness their competitors play in.

It’s been fun, stimulating, rewarding and successful. Plus, there’s that little thing about it being the path to survival. Darwin wrote something about that.

Keywords: advertising, advertiser, evolution.


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