What The Hell Happened To Advertising?

What The Hell Happened To Advertising?

In his final column for the year, B&T regular, Robert Strothfeldt, agrees that adland remains in a massive state of flux, but says the basics still ring true in this digital obsessed, anti-old school world…

Whatever happened to advertising? This was the topic of a recent BBC Radio World of Business podcast.

Over the past 30 years advertising has changed in many ways, yet the basics have not. The problem today is the basics are no longer taught. So, saying that the fundamentals of advertising have not changed is of little consequence.

The Post-Truth phenomenon has hit our industry as much as everywhere else. (Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year). Hopefully 2017 will see the end of the Traditional/Digital advertising divide and look at the total universe of advertising options.

The digital world is still in its infancy and though plenty are making predictions, the fact is no one can tell with any certainty what will happen to advertising over the next 20 years.

The past 10 years, in particular, has seen an explosion in alternative ways to “advertise”.

Gone are the days when an advertiser could easily reach close to 80 per cent of the population on  one night of TV advertising.  (This has been reduced to only a few million.)

Let’s have a look at some of the fantastic alternatives that are being used;

Social Media Sites.

Back in 2009 one of many similar online videos was doing the rounds. Social media was the new TV and if a business did not build a social media presence within the coming 5 years, they would be out of business. (Steve Jobs must have missed seeing any of these). The BBC interview the CMO of the advertiser with the second largest budget of any company on the planet. Here is what he had to say:

“We used to advertise that (insert laundry detergent name here) washes whiter for years.  But that isn’t enough in a social media world to have a conversation. So, we have been engaging with Skein Robinson, an educationalist, talking about the need for children to get away from their phones and spend more time outside. But they’ll also get dirty, but don’t worry mum and dad, (name of laundry detergent) will get their clothes clean.”

Bloody hell. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than “engage” in this conversation. That is of course assuming the kid’s dirty clothes are such a huge concern to parents. Don’t worry about where they are doing and who they are playing with. The big worry for mum and dad is how will they get the clothes clean. (Blood stains don’t come out easily.)

If they started rabbiting on at my dinner party about such crap I would either

  1. Ask them to have the decency to share the drugs they are on with the rest of the guests
  2. If they are not high, tell them to leave as they are boring the shit out of everyone.

People have large social media followings. Some 99.9 per cent of companies/brands do not. I can’t remember who said this, but it sums it up well “People don’t want to have in-depth chats with their coffee or chips”. (or laundry detergent).

Social Media Ads

Certainly, the numbers are there (Or so Facebook and Google tell us). Plus, the ability to target down to find an individual whose Aunt Maud has a de-sexed ginger cat. But how impactful is it? The “digital worshippers” call TV and radio “interruptive” advertising. If that is so, then with about 90% of Facebook users talking to friends and relatives, I wouldn’t just call this advertising interruptive, but down right bloody rude. (Social media is also the medium of choice for the loonie left to bombard us with their neo-Marxist ideas)

Add to this a small screen size (in the case of mobile, tiny), the static nature of the ads and there are some 500 million ad blockers already down loaded. Of course, advertising in social media is better than no advertising at all, but it sure as hell ain’t no TV.

I haven’t mentioned the biggest shit fight of 2016 – the inaccuracy of the numbers supplied by the Facebook/Google duopoly. Of course, they reach a lot of people, just ask them. That these companies supply their own performance data and most of the industry accepts it highlights the incredible bias there is towards so called “digital advertising” (TV and radio have been broadcasting in digital since just after the turn of the century, digital outdoor signs are taking over and print is available in both hard and soft copy versions. So, WTF is digital?)

Search: Halleluiah, an online medium that really is effective. There can be no doubting the effectiveness of search and that it is an advertising mandatory. But so was Yellow Pages. In many ways, Search is a 21st century version of Yellow Pages.

Banner Advertising: All that needs to be said is that the click through rate from banner ads is on par with percentage failure of contraception.

Direct Marketing/EDM: DM has always been an important element of the communications mix. But with the average person coming in contact with around 13,000 brands a year, it is far more effective for talking to and retaining existing customers than gaining new ones. As much as Big Data can tell us about customers, it doesn’t have the ability to read minds.  And being a mind reader is what would be required to tell at any given moment if I was hungry, thirsty, felt like a pizza etc. But, it would still have to find its way through the tsunami of junk emails.

Blogs: Sounds like vomit hitting the pavement. “Excuse me, I am going to be sick. Urrgg BLOG”. Could be a great example of an onomatopoeia. There are definitely interesting people who have blogs with large readerships. But like social media, its effectiveness is in person to person communication. Companies are paying some lucky sods a fortune to write blogs for them. But in 99.9% of occasions the term “boring as bats shit” comes to mind.

Social Influencers: A fabulous little earner for some. It is not only celebrities who now have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of followers. People who are famous for being famous have managed to convince companies to pay them money for promoting their brands and products (Supposedly in a non-contrived manner.) The actual number of devoted followers is difficult to ascertain. Many followers may have only hit “follow” once 2 years ago, but they still appear as followers. Having spokespersons/celebrity endorsers is not new. And yes, research has shown people say they are “influenced” to buy by social influencers. But the effectiveness of social influencers varies enormously with the product and the people involved. Jamie Oliver has sold a shit load of stuff. Credible personalities in the areas of cooking, fashion, sport etc. can be very effective. But this doesn’t mean the latest reality TV star (an oxymoron if I have ever heard one), is going to push sales of a new drink through the roof. Common sense (not so common unfortunately), should tell you what products and endorsers are effective. But finding brands that have soared on the back of social influencers alone is a bit like trying to find rocking horse shit – very rare. Then of course there can be the problem of your darling little SI going rouge. The more people you have out there spruiking your product, the greater the chance one of them will either get themselves into some sort of trouble, or decide they are no longer happy with what they are receiving.  Good reviews can turn to crap on the turn of an emotion.

Native Advertising: This used to be called “advertorial”, but Native Advertising sounds far better. Irrespective of the name, if you can’t think of a decent enough advertising execution that you must hide behind at least some level of deceit, then give up the game or find a decent product to work.

From the time I started writing this to now, someone somewhere will have come up with a new (sorry, innovative way) to use online to “advertise”.

Following is a recent article from Unruly:

“For marketers, the pressure is on to not only create the most compelling creative, but to turn away from the old narrowband metrics of success in media communication. According to an April 2016 Google Double-click report, the average click-through rate across all ad formats is 0.17 percent. As marketers determine the metrics that matter to their bottom lines, making a connection through storytelling will only grow in importance. Through sight, sound, and motion, video drives an emotional response and tells a story. Regardless of the video format (e.g., standard video, virtual reality, or emerging forms of 360-degree video), measuring the emotional connection that video forges between brand and consumer will help marketers move away from focusing on narrowband click-through-based metrics and optimize the other 99.83 per cent of their marketing communications investment”.

As download speeds have increased, “streaming” has advanced from a series of stills through jerky to high definition video. Who would have thought that advertising would evolve to a point where video is used to tell a story Oh, hang on, isn’t that the definition of a TV ad?  Love it. For so long we are told the TVC is dead. Now we find out that video is by far the superior way to communicate.

So, if you are going to open your own shop in 2017 and looking for an area of opportunity, try making great TV ads, but just don’t call them that.

He is a TVC from 1984.


Don’t call it a TV ad and see how you go producing videos of this quality. You may just find that your services will be in demand.

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Designworks Robert Strothfeldt

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