The prophets of doom has announced the death of Advertising quite a few times in the past decade. Yet Advertising is as alive as it were at any time during its illustrious history. Advertising is here to stay. But just like before, it will be facing transition pains.
There are two theories about how Advertising will evolve in coming days. The first is the widely held but less likely one, which is advertising agencies will become a one stop shop for all sorts of client needs.
This of course means the sections that agencies spun off over the years has to be put back. The media planning, media buying, consumer activation, research, digital – all those pieces of the puzzle has to come back together. In fact a lot of agencies have agreed that they were too hasty to sever those entities from the core function. This trend does make some sense because it will ease the shopping around tendency of clients who will obviously prefer to talk to one group of people rather than many.
What seems very efficient on paper however does not necessarily mean the most effective.
Which brings us to the second school of thought. As per this, the future agency will focus on solving consumer’s problems, and not necessarily through Advertising. This view suggests that in future advertising agency structure will be even simpler. Instead of the copywriter, creative, art director, planner, client service etc.; there will essentially be a cluster of problem solvers. Clients will come to agency with a problem, not a brief because most of the clients cannot define a clear brief and can only give glimpses of what their problem is, which the agency has to structurally figure out on their own. Agency then will try to solve the client’s problem by pulling relevant people or institutions from within or outside the agency.
Flag bearer of such idiosyncratic new kinds of agencies are Droga5, Naked and Anomaly. Droga5 has already made buzz in Cannes advertising in 2006 with its “Tagging Air Force One” campaign which is an example of the future campaigns that Advertisers are looking for. The client “Ecko” approached the agency with a very particular problem of launching yet another clothing brand in a crowded market place with a shoestring budget. The campaign consists of a grainy footage of a video showing Ecko’s founder Marc Ecko as a hooded figure creeping past armed soldiers and tagging one of the engines of the Presidential plane Airforce 1 with words “Still Free” in spray paint. The video went viral and dominated the global news for days. It even led to a statement from White House saying that both president and the plane is safe and its an Internet hoax. Both Naked and Anomaly also work with similar pushing the envelope over tried and tested, discussions over briefs, and solutions over advertising kind of work.
In future, Advertising content will also make its journey back to short and succinct. In the old days, advertising messages were short and to the point because the format of the medium (Radio, Poster etc.) forced itself to be. To grab the attention of consumers with unique forms of storytelling and to tap into the growing power of online videos, advertising content became much larger than its previous 15-30 second format. But in future, as more and more advertising moves into mobile and other digital devices like watches, shoes, refrigerators etc., the format of future advertising will also be short again.
A major role of Advertising will always be grabbing attention, but the approach will be more subtle and covert. Advertising will continue to blur its line with other forms of media based entertainment. A key evolutionary role of advertising in future will be to entertain first and pass on message second. It’s a trend that is already seen in Latin American countries. In Argentina and Brazil, advertisements are seen as a source of entertainment like their telenovelas and soap operas. There is no doubt, that trend will be creeping up in other parts of the world.