TV is done. Radio is toast. Print is dead. Everything is always coming to an end. Unless it isn’t. Maybe life is circular, not linear.
One thing that does not appear to be coming to an end is the endless onslaught of bad advertising.
Many companies can’t waste their time and money fast enough on tired cliches and other advertising mishaps. We only need to turn on the TV to see the shocking lack of insights into the human condition.
No strategy, no creativity. It’s a wicked pattern. Nevertheless, Andrew Essex, who served as the CEO of advertising agency Droga5, believes there is a reason to hope for brighter days.
He captured his career experiences in a book, The End of Advertising: Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come. He also recently spoke about the future of entertainment and advertising on the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM channel 111.
Knowledge@Wharton: Your book is being critiqued as a challenge to the advertising industry. What is your message?
Essex: I’m not really saying that it’s the end of advertising. I’m saying it’s the end of bad, irrelevant advertising, which just happens to be the bulk of most advertising. It’s a function of a variety of factors. First and foremost, the rise of over-the-top television [and other services] … enables people to avoid commercials. There’s one theft of a canvas. There’s the simultaneous rise of ad-blocking technology, which enables people to block something they don’t want to see. A lot of the places where people used to put their messages are disappearing, and that forces brands to produce more creative work — work that adds value to people’s lives rather than arbitrary interruption, which infuriates people.
Allow me to capture the essence of his argument: “Work that adds value to people’s lives.”
It all sounds so good. Let’s stop making ads and create value for customers instead!
In all seriousness, it’s not as hard as it sounds and this is a journey worth taking. When is the last time you actually walked a mile in your customer’s shoes? Walking a mile in the customer’s shoes ought to be the cost of entry for all agency staff on the account, but it is not.
To create value in brand communications, it requires a customer-first approach to solving the brand’s marketing problems. The standard approach is to deploy company-focused communications that assume interest and proceed to shout offers from this flimsy position. The right approach is to develop customer-focused communications that assume no interest at all, and from this humble position, endeavor to provide helpful hints, tools, and stories.
While no one wants to be sold, many people are open to a helping hand, and brands are often in the perfect position to provide it.