Saturday, 4 July 2015

Advertising - what is it good for?

I've never been to Cannes, mainly because in my advertising agency heyday back in the last century, it just wasn't the done thing for planners to go along to this sort of jamboree. It was a rare account person that got to go, come to think of it. Of course, things are different now. There are all sorts of geeks there now from clients to planners of various persuasions to all kinds of techy people. I'm not even sure if creatives still attend.

In the aftermath of Cannes, there has been a spate of articles bemoaning the state of the industry, questioning what exactly Cannes is celebrating and asking the question - who is advertising actually for these days? Here are some that caught my eye:

Tracey Follows, in the The Guardian asks When will advertising ever again be about the people it serves? It's a thought-provoking piece, slightly let down by the ghastly c-word (you know what I mean) when talking about people, about how advertisers' obsession with technology has meant a trade-off in humanity.

Sean Boyle, of BrainJuicer argues that those creating advertising have become over-thinkers, too tricksy, too enamoured of technology and technique - 'how much time we spend nervously over-thinking what never, ever needed to become this difficult.' His simple solution: Aim for Fame.

Keith Weed's speech from Cannes is also worth a look. He's the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Unilever. His argument is that we've moved from Marketing To People (broadcasting to a captive audience) to Marketing With People (curating and creating with an audience) and we should move to Marketing For People (connecting purpose with purchase).

I'm not sure I buy that. Surely marketing was always about people - finding out what moves and motivates them, developing products and services that meet their needs and desires, and communicating these in a compelling way. And I think the image of the captive audience is a myth. We had remote controls to flick through channels back in the last century - and there were some great ads around that you didn't want to fast forward, in the UK at any rate. Maybe he means 'captivated audience'?!

That little disagreement aside, I like what he's saying - purpose and purchase, engaging people's hearts, not about technology but ideas, yes, yes, tick, tick.

The final link is also to the Guardian, a piece by Tom Goodwin from Havas, who argues that advertising is 'an industry that's in love with technology and itself, not the people it purports to sell to.' Now, while it's a great article, I think there's the same slight problem with vocabulary. Yes, you sell to people. But have we ever marketed to them? I'll leave you with a great quote form the article:

I’ve never met anyone who has seen a vending machine reward them for laughing, I’ve never walked through a door marked ugly, got a Coke from a drone, or been offered a crisp packet with my face on. I’ve never had a friend share their personalised film, I’ve not seen outdoor ads that are also street furniture or had an ATM give me a funny receipt. I’ve not received a magazine with a near field communication thing and I’ve not had a virtual reality experience outside advertising conferences. I’ve not once seen a member of the public 3D print anything. The one thing that binds together the more than 200 Cannes winners I’ve seen, is that they are ads only advertising people have a good chance of seeing. I’m not sure that’s what the industry should be about.

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