Monday, July 8, 2013

Back to the Future of Advertising

“Hello! Anybody home?”



I remember back then in my childhood  when I first watched the second movie of the trilogy of Back to the Future for the first time (many times followed that afterwards): I was excited with one thing – not the flying skates, no, no - I was amazed with the video interaction. It happened when Marty McFly asks for a Pepsi for two characters arguing on a screen

The possibility of communicating through a screen was wonderful and so incredible to me that I can clearly recall that little girl (me, in this case) wondering when would be possible to do that. Well, this day has arrived.

For a while now some services like Siri and Google Voice Search (GOOG) allow people to give specific commands and receive answers. However, the latest news on the topic was launched recently by an American startup called Volio

This San Francisco based company aims to develop a new media format that they appropriately named “participatory video”. The first experiment illustrates very well its use: “Rodney Cutler, hairstylist and grooming columnist for Esquire magazine, is giving styling advice via iPad. “I’ll be honest, curly long hair is tricky,” he says in his Australian brogue. “But we can make it work so you don’t look like a throwback from the ’80s. We’ve got to make sure you are using the right product. What are you using in your hair at the moment?”
“Head & Shoulders,” says the iPad user.
“You know, that’s why I’m here,” he grimaces. “For me, that’s not the best product for the look you are trying to achieve.” He recommends a leave-in conditioner. Except “he” isn’t Cutler at all, but a series of videos designed to simulate a conversation with him.”

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, will be Advertising. Also.


Back to the Past

I recently had the patience to go over 472 slides of an amazing presentation called “The Evolution of Advertising: How Consumers Won Their War for Their Attention”, by Hubspot. Highly recommended. I am not sure if my patience comes from the fact that I am a passionate advertiser, if the presentation was truly well done, or both. Fact is, the presentation is worth and very clarifying for anyone who is in the industry of advertising, marketing and similar fields. And I am not ashamed to say I have learned a lot with it, historical facts I had absolutely no idea, even though I have been studying and working with it for the past 12 years or so. 

Pointing out a few interesting points: (don’t worry, I won’t write 400 pages):

- Chances that you’ll survive a plane crash are bigger than you’ll click on a banner ad: why? Because people are fed up with Advertising for more than 200 years, mainly because advertising and marketing have been mixed up together throughout the years. And people like brands, not companies. Got the difference?
- Branding efforts started in the 1900’s, together with packaging, as advertisers realized the differential was not only about ads and headlines; 
- 1902 - The big advertiser agencies appear, like JWT - J. Walter Thompson (Curiosity: did you know that the partnership between Unilever and JWT was established in 1902 and lasts until today, being the longest client-agency relationship in the advertising history?)
- Worldwide advertising started with president Roosevelt, who sent a message through a telegraph cable around the world and got it 12 minutes later. A very good time for 1903, let’s agree on that. 
- 1938 - The slogan “A Diamond is Forever” created by N.W. Ayer and Sons for De Beers dominates the diamond market and is the responsible for associating diamond rings with engagement. The strategy was perfectly thought for the moment Americans were living because it touched the emotional and the uncertainty of the times with the end of the Great Depression and the beginning of II World War. 
- 1969 – Yes, you read it right. In this year a disillusioned ad man called Howard Luck Gossage said “Nobody reads advertising. People read what they want to read, and sometimes it’s an ad.” Visionary, this gentleman. 
- 1998 – Seth Godin (no need of further explanation) states that “the problem with mass-market advertising is that it fights for people’s attention by interrupting them.”

And here we go again, back to our loop of intrusiveness, content, irrelevancy and consumer choice.


Stairway to heaven

Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired Magazine, emphasizes the importance of being found in the online world, a world where there are millions of options and where brands are just another option among all the information available. Impossible not to agree with Mr. Kelly (who am I to?), but I will go a bit deeper on his statement: not only be found, but be chosen, and be remembered. Three major goals that will lead any brand to heaven.  

Be found is the first and maybe the most challenger step in the whole chain of the new advertising model. A step easily solved with the technologies available today and the best use of them: Google Adwords, search engines, and a budget (unfortunately we still did not reach the era of miracles in advertising) can place a brand in good ranks and make it easy for consumers to find it. 

Afterwards, the second step: how will consumers choose a brand?  Recalling all that was said here and on previous posts, is all about timing: right message, to the right audience at the right time; non-intrusive, not obscuring content or being the content itself, respecting your consumer on his own choice of viewing your ad. Summarizing, do not underestimate your consumer as a dummy, but as a savvy individual who picks up carefully what kind of information he/she wants to absorb. 

Last and golden step: how to be remembered? What can be said about that? For all the 472 slides I have seen on Slide Share, many people before me have been spending sleepless nights on agencies asking themselves the same question. The only difference is that time has changed, consumer needs have changed, advertising itself has changed. But the question remains the same, on this (even worse???) scenario: in 1902, when there were 2 or 3 different soap brands and only Campbells’ soups to be remembered was far easier, I bet. And now? How come people still do remember Coca-Cola? Probably because their advertising efforts started in the 1900’s… ? 

No. Because there is something different about Coca Cola, Campbells’ and any other brand we remember. And there is no math formula to find the differential in each brand. There is a whole list of how-to and what-not-to-do, but that unique thing that a brand has and that will capture the consumer's attention and stick to minds and hearts is still  one of the golden secrets (and beauties) of Advertising. 


The Future is here

What’s so awesome about the American startup experience with the participatory video experience is the interaction. You are actually talking to the device, and the brands mentioned are only a detail. We all know that advertising will be voluntary, and that’s why I truly believe that this experience gives us a glimpse of what advertising will look like in a very close future. Forget about pre-roll ads, and open your mind to a wide range of video technology that we still do not even dream of applied to our routine. Forget about banner ads that we don’t see anymore and think about all media we know gathered together to create new media formats. Forget about advertising as something intrusive and annoying, but think about advertising as a choice of new information and content that you will deliberately bring into your life again.  
And welcome to the future. 




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