Advertising is dead. And it isn't
Auto marketers must connect people to people, not people to brands
Chuck Brymer is CEO of DDB Worldwide.
Pundits who claim that advertising is dead are right … and wrong.
Advertising as we've known it for decades -- marketing to a herd of receptive consumers -- has been buried and forgotten (or should be).
But its 21st century replacement -- marketing to and with a segmented "swarm" of like-minded community members, any one of whom has the power to influence and sway his or her brethren -- has made today the new golden age of advertising.
Consider an ad created for Volkswagen called "Fun Theory." A series of viral spots created to attain online buzz, Fun Theory is a subtle, non-literal attempt to promote Volkswagen's eco-friendly BlueMotion Technologies.
You may find it surprising, though, that the original ad plus two more that followed never mentioned that technology -- but set the stage, later, for subsequent product- or technology-specific messages via Facebook and other online and offline channels.
Did it work? Indeed, it did "go viral." Now in its second year, the campaign has garnered 20 million views and 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, 20,000 Facebook fans, 33,000 blogs, 45,000 Twitter tweets and 1.7 million visitors to the Fun Theory homepage. And a subsequent tie-in, the Fun Theory Award, generated 699 entries from 35 countries!
Advertising -- including automobile advertising -- has been reborn, and is becoming more germane and powerful, when done well. Today swarms of consumers are propelled by online grassroots communities where participants eagerly engage with each other and with brands that interest them. This means that advertisers must be clever, nimble and adroit in pinpointing relevant targets -- especially since they can change in a heartbeat.
As we move away from yesterday's Madison Avenue to today's dynamic Main Street, our work must be more creative than ever before -- or it will fail. And the industry is quickly embracing that challenge with -- in my opinion -- some of the best work we've ever seen.
I call this new approach to advertising "Social Creativity." It's a unique way of producing marketing materials that appeal to people emotionally, change their behavior and encourage them to share compelling ideas with others. Many automobile advertisers -- themselves recently reborn after years of economic chaos -- are at the forefront of this movement.
But how do we make it work? By ridding ourselves of outdated mindsets and maxims that may have worked when Mad Men ruled but are about as pertinent to today's digitized consumer as VCRs.
Many years ago, consumers were much more trusting of what they saw or heard or read. Those in authority -- the government, the church, the media and, yes, even car marketers -- held much greater sway. With fewer channels and more homogenous markets, consumers were easy to find and very receptive to advertising.
Later, in an era of economic prosperity and easy access to credit, consumers began to buy what they wanted rather than just what they needed. Advertisers responded accordingly, leveraging cable TV and ultimately the Internet to target and persuade.
But our excesses eventually caught up with us. And as the economy plunged into global recession, powerful digital networks simultaneously spawned and promoted social communities, whose members -- via Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, you name it -- easily coalesced around issues, opportunities, challenges and interests.
Today's consumers question those in authority, including the major automobile brands. They behave differently; they are more connected with and trusting of each other. They shop more carefully. And they buy differently… their way.
As auto industry marketers, we understand that today's consumer is in charge, and we are encouraging clients to act accordingly. While we once tried to connect people to brands, we now connect people to people. This requires the fresh, new thinking that is central to Social Creativity.
Reaching the "swarm" requires new approaches, new ways of working. For instance, beverage retailers can leverage TV, print or online ads -- like "Swear Jar" -- via their own social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook. Since today's consumer engages multiple media simultaneously, brands cannot rely on a single tactic or channel to be effective.
By the way, my firm created the "Fun Theory" ads, and I'm very proud of that integrated campaign, which was a 2010 Cannes International Advertising Festival Grand Prix winner.
As one of the Cannes jurists said, "With the recession, I think it's very bold for a car brand to try and own the word fun."
Bold. Creative. And ultimately, successful. Isn't that what advertising is supposed to be?