Advertising is Dead! Long Live Advertising! (And what this means for brand marketing.)

Traditionally, in many countries, when a monarch passes away and a new one ascends to the throne, the proclamation made is “The King is dead, long live the King!” This proclamation can be traced back as far as France in 1422. It almost seems like the same can be said about the demise of advertising.

For as far back as I can remember, people have bemoaned the death of advertising and the need for marketers to evolve. The fact is, they have always been right – and no more so than now.

As Andrew Essex (Brand ManageCamp 2018 speaker) outlined in his book “The End of Advertising: Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come,” we are facing a whole new set of challenges in the long history of the seemingly unavoidable demise of advertising. Ad blocking. TV cable cutting. The rise of on-demand entertainment and binge-watching without any commercial interruptions. The ever-increasing global crackdown on commercial email. Dwindling attention spans. Multiple screen watching. The list goes on…

According to Andrew in an interview with Mary Cass on J. Walter Thompson Intelligence ( ), all the “new platforms are cumulatively creating a level of noise and economy of abundance that is unprecedented. In the past, you could, in theory, buy attention, but it’s not just possible anymore. So, the only thing that gets attention is that which is good.

It’s not about hugging trees. It’s not just about doing good. It’s not a corporate responsibility message, although that’s one form of adding value. It’s just about trying a little harder and being entertaining, adding utility and providing a service. The idea that you can just bombard people with pollution is no longer tenable.”

In Andrew’s future for advertising, the end goal is not to FORCE people to unblock ads on your site so they can read your material. It’s to make your material so good, so useful, so filled with utility, and package it for consumption in ways that transcend traditional advertising. In that vein, it is certainly in the same genre of thinking as another past Brand ManageCamp speaker, Jay Baer and his message in “Youtility.” But while Jay really focuses on what your brand can do to help people, Andrew spends more time on creating advertising that is not seen as advertising.

Take the Lego movies for example. Believe it or not, there have already been 3 theatrical films (The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, and The Lego Ninjago Movie) and there are already 2 others in development for 2019 (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and The Billion Brick Race). In addition, there have been nearly 20 direct-to-video Lego themed movies!

What really is a Lego Movie if not a 1 hour and 40-minute commercial? That people pay for!

In the old days, product placement would have dictated that a kid would be playing with some Legos in the background of a movie or tv show. Or, if you are a food company, maybe your food would be in the fridge when someone on the show got hungry!

Now, brands are investing big dollars to create content that, first and foremost, entertains – while also weaving the brand and/or its values into the very fabric of the format.

When I was a brand marketer at the Campbell Soup Company (in 2005) and running the Tomato Soup brand, we did a deal with NBC and the hit show (at the time) American Dreams. Woven into the show (based in the 60’s in Philadelphia) was a school essay contest sponsored by Campbell’s Tomato Soup that one of the characters entered in a storyline that played out over several episodes. Meanwhile, in real life, we partnered with Scholastic to run our own Campbell’s Tomato Soup essay contest – awarding a $100,000 college scholarship to a young girl who went on to Columbia University and is now a thriving writer.

That was big for the day – but now things have (through necessity) gone so much further. Take the branded entertainment section of the Cannes Festival of Creativity. This year, the Grand Prix was awarded to a short film by the Spanish bank Santander. The film, based in a future where memories are for sale, highlights the idea that money is not worth as much as experiences. Santander has a very brief cameo for just seconds of 18 minutes. View the film here:

The Cannes jury president, P.J. Pereira, chief creative officer of Pereira & O’Dell said that, for branded entertainment, artistic integrity must trump brand integrity. “Not that the brand is not important. It is. They’re the ones funding it. But unless you are seriously committed to the person who’s giving you the honor of watching what you’re doing, then it’s not going to work.”

For another branded entertainment example, consider “From the Start,” a Greek series of webisodes tying a bite of Lacta chocolate to a building, dream-based, romantic journey – equating the sweet taste of Lacta to the sweetness of falling in love. Results? The series achieved 2 million viewers in a country with only 5 million internet users. It was the #1 YouTube channel in Greece in viewers and subscribers. It was even picked up by a major television network in Greece and all the episodes were aired together as a movie on Valentine’s Day. That’s great, you say, but how about real numbers? How about sales? Well…sales turned around from -10% to +4.3% pre and post the series. See the series here:

Branded entertainment is a great example of creating brand marketing so great people want to interact with it. But it’s not the only one.

Another example Andrew favors is the Citi Bike – a public bicycle sharing system for New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey which is sponsored by Citigroup. There are over 130,000 annual subscribers and, as of October of 2017, about 62,000 average daily users. Much like Citigroup helps people get somewhere in life, so do the Citi Bikes. And they are a heck of a media channel – not only for those using it but also for all those passing them all day throughout the city. They essentially created a brand new outdoor channel without making it seem like an intrusion. In fact, it is welcomed and delivers a great deal of positive brand emotion. More about Citi Bike here:

More examples? Past Brand ManageCamp marketing conference speaker Jay Baer has got a great list of marketing with, as he would say it, Youtility, that you can view here:

A few examples from the list:

  • IKEA gave away moving boxes on Moving Day in Montreal and increased sales by 24.7%.
  • NIVEA placed solar panel chargers in Brazilian magazines for those at the beach to keep their phones operational.
  • An Italian restaurant in Dublin produced a simple video instructing people on how to pronounce Italian dishes.

So, the bad news might seem like advertising is dying. But, on the bright side, it’s been dying since it was born (much like every other living thing). It stays alive, though, by morphing and adapting and becoming more and more useful in the eyes of the consumer.

So, will you cry for the old King? Or look back on it fondly while embracing the future and thinking and acting creatively, with a big imagination, to add value to people’s lives and to create advertising that is seen as anything but?

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