“We’re over ads, even the good ones” – getting away from irrelevant ad theatre
Mike Edmonds wants to know why ads are so bad now. For marketers to earn back their wow factor, they have to figure out when they lost it.
When was the last time you whispered ‘wow’ like you did the first time you saw that TV ad for British Airways with all those people making a giant happy face in the desert?
When was the last time you drove past a billboard with a visual idea so striking it kind of took your breath away; like Fiery Fries?
Or opened a magazine and read a car ad all the way through because it was just so damned witty and intelligent, like the classic VW campaign?
Or closed that magazine and yet saw another brilliant Absolut ad on the back cover?
I remember a time when you were guaranteed to see at least one great TV ad every week during the Sunday night movie, not just once a year during the Super Bowl. It just doesn’t seem to happen very often anymore.
Before you write me off as just another grumpy old CD pining for the ‘good ol’ days’, let me reassure you – I believe there are just as many great ads today as in the past. But two things have happened to neutralise their impact.
1. We’re over ads. Even the good ones.
The outrageous ad. The hilarious ad. The clever, the shocking, the heartfelt –the modern consumer has had enough. We’ve seen all the tricks and we know how the game works. If any of the Hall Of Famers mentioned above ran for the first time tomorrow they’d barely raise a lethargic ‘meh’.
When art uses these techniques, we are intrigued. Because we trust that the artist has an authentic motive to have us feel something to learn, to become more aware, to better understand life.
When we see commercial art using these techniques (i.e. advertising), we immediately doubt the creator’s motives, because we’ve been fooled too many times before. ‘Sorry Johnson & Johnson, your ads are stunning but you’ve made me feel sad just to sell me something too many times. I’m not biting anymore.’
There are thousands more media channels now than 20 years ago. And hundreds more brands. With the resultant explosion in the sheer numbers of marketing messages out there, the strike rate of great creative versus mediocre pap has become microscopic. The ratio is just too out of whack.
Worse, the complexity of our industry has diluted ambition. Clients used to come to ad agencies and demand a big idea. Too many of them simply don’t ask that question anymore. There’s too much work to do. Because the proliferation of competitors and channels has taken the eye of the chief marketing officer (and her ever-growing team of brand managers) off pure human engagement and onto numbers. Not to mention the eye-watering choice of research techniques, trends analyses, humanistic vs programmatic options, and so on. And so on. And so on.
So what can we do about it?
Let’s at least stop trying so hard to make consumers laugh, cry or gasp in admiration. Let’s make our objective their appreciation of how our companies behave, ahead of how they communicate. In short, stop honing the art of brand fantasy and start creating a better reality.
You’ll win the fight for the consumer’s attention and affection by defining your company’s authentic value and aligning your corporate behaviour to it. Use your true purpose to inspire your management and staff to innovate better products and more helpful, intuitive human service design. Then employ advertising as an accelerant for that new value, not as a replacement for it.
This is the only way to evolve advertising from increasingly irrelevant theatre to surprisingly valuable business advisor.
Mike Edmonds is Meerkats founder. For a FREE copy of his book truth.growth.repeat, purchase a two-year subscription to Marketing magazine. Hurry, limited offer >>
Image copyright: konstantynov / 123RF Stock Photo