The conventional route to advertising revolves around brands telling consumers how their products and services could make their lives bigger, better, healthier, wealthier, more productive, more enriching, more stylish, more this and that and all that jazz.
Somewhere along the way, advertising became a mouthpiece for brands to trumpet their achievements, their life-changing benefits, their superiority over the competition.
Somewhere along the way, the essence of communication, that is, creating a TWO-WAY conversation rather than a one-way rhetoric, got lost in the senses-shattering, style-over-substance audio-visual bombardment with more sights and sounds than soul.
Somewhere along the way, we decided that force-feeding the consumer with catchy taglines, clever imagery and celebrity endorsements made more sense than creating an experience or building a relationship with them.
It worked well in the 60s, so why not continue doing the same thing we’ve always done, leveraging on a model that’s been successful for half a century?
The problem is access. Specifically, access to information and opinions. Advertising used to play a major part in educating consumers on the choices that they had, whether it was which watch would suit their status best, which airlines offered the most comfortable seats or which car rental service was more reliable.
Nowadays, advertising is just talk. Lots and lots and lots of talk. It’s the brand owners’ word against that of countless individuals with a bouquet or brickbat. Telling consumers what to feel, what to think, what to choose, no matter how creatively, is no longer as influential as it used to be. In fact, it can be downright detrimental, as consumers take peer recommendations, word-of-mouth and social media referrals into consideration.
So is advertising really dead?
If you’re talking about advertising that beats consumers over the head with claims, counter-claims, supposed life-changing effects and the ilk, then yes, dead as a doornail.
If you’re talking advertising that’s all about messaging, that is, telling and elaborating and reinforcing claims and statements, then yes, dead as a dodo.
But if you’re talking advertising that doesn’t patronise consumers, that educates without preaching, that engages and invites participation, that shows more than it tells, that is built on emotional triggers and real insights, that provokes change and makes a difference, then tells the honest-to-gosh truth about what a brand really stands for and not something that’s manufactured from thin air, then welcome to advertising as it could be, and will be.
It’s a brave new world out there; what sort of advertising are YOU going to create?
[Image: Flickr user Timsnell]