Trying to make sense of a career in advertising outside of the three main disciplines (creative, strategic planning and account management) has been rather like navigating a boat while sailing solo in a storm, but without a chart, a compass or a strong stomach. Or a boat.
Like Vanessa Feltz during her manic writing-on-the-table episode on the first Celebrity Big Brother, advertising is the most paranoid of sectors. Never before have I seen so much navel-gazing and worrying about its relevance. And yet, so long as people continue to shag and buy stuff, the future of advertising is assured (if you want historical proof, then check out the story of the ancient prostitute in George Parker’s book “MadScam“, advertised on his blog). You just need to follow the smart money.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the goldfields are no longer found in old media, which is why any advertising inmate worth their salt needs to pay attention to new media and the opportunities offered by technology. This is why I vaulted over to two consecutive IPA events last week. The first was a 44 Club seminar “The Creative Product of The Future”, and the second was Google’s view of the “Changing face of the internet”.
The 44 Club talk was delivered by Amelia Torode and Steve Vranakis of VCCP, and I have been pondering it all week. The supporting blog provides some examples of very creative thinking from the early 20th century, a time before technology and mass consumerism threatened to turn us into sloths.
Leapfrogging advertising’s easy years – when a tiny number of TV channels reached nearly everyone – we have, in one respect, come full circle, in that advertisers have a greater need to exercise imagination to engage consumers by crossing media borders. Blanket TV advertising is so late 20th-century.
In fact, TV itself is decreasing in relevance if Google’s Dan Cobley is correct. The takeaway fact from his talk to the IPA was that everything ever stored digitally – music, video, the whole lot – everything you have ever watched – will fit on an iPod by 2020. Never mind that 20Gb iPod – in 13 years time you’ll be carrying around zillions of Terabytes in your pocket.
That was probably the only solid prediction to come from Google, which is rather chilling when you consider that the onetime golden child of the internet is now looking more and more like a big corporation gobbling up the real online entrepreneurs.
In fact, the sort of targets that Google is gobbling seem to fit VCCP’s observation about media fragmentation causing a focus on creativity. We do tend to lump all that internetty stuff together as one media, when really each fancy Web 2.0 widget and geegaw, if it works well, is capable of working on its own.
Ok, there are different ways of embedding YouTube into online content, but there are tons of people who browse YouTube raw, as will users of del.icio.us, Flickr and digg.
Today’s plasma and LCD TVs are glorified PC monitors; so merge TV watching, gaming, social networking et al, as well as the fancy things you’ll be sharing with your mobile and iPod…. is that one medium, or many?
Many of the clever young things are building things online and connecting to us in a plethora of ways. These online entrepreneurs give the rest of us a chance to create. I would venture that there are more people exploiting the opportunities to be creative now than a decade ago, although that’ll mean there’s an awful lot of rubbish out there (the equivalent of most of the channels between 110-300 and 700-900 on Sky, except that for each crap channel there must be 10,000 dreadful blogs and photo sets).
This means that the creators of advertising that work must be good, really good, to get the message through. I’ve noticed Experian ads popping into my Facebook newsfeed and I can honestly say that it totally pisses me off, because I didn’t expect it and I am not inclined to check my credit rating. I expect it on old media and even on blogs, but Facebook is almost like a new medium. We don’t like our new media time interrupted, so your advertising had better be more subtle, personalised and relevant. That takes creativity.