Global Advertising - Final Project
Willem Van Lancker - Global Media Final Project
Global Advertising Media: History & Theory
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The History of Modern Advertising
In the early 20th Century, Advertising was not a significant facet of global media. In Europe, advertising was limited to posters and newspapers and focused on the image, portrayed in bold, eye-catching airbrushed posters promoting everything from cigarettes to vacations. These were known largely as object posters, designated thus, based on the fact that they focused solely on featuring an object to be sold, its name, and very little else. In the United States, where industry was still founded on notions of survival and not extravagant aspirations of achieving a higher socioeconomic status, advertising lacked enthusiasm and the industry was peopled mostly with technicians and not brilliant intellectuals or creatives. It was the widespread view that all products being offered in the market were the for the most part of equal quality and selection was mostly driven by location and availability. This led to print advertising that was mostly text heavy and lacking in any true art direction or originality.
Though the early, pre-World War advertisements and views on advertising in the United States were largely uninspiring, the field was not without its luminous minds. Walter Dill Scott, a Chicagoan educated in Germany, penned a series of key books that helped lay the groundwork for American theories on advertising that in turn changed the world’s perspective on the field. A psychologist, Scott was also a professor of advertising in the School of Commerce at Northwest University in 1912. He turned his attention toward applying psychology to advertising and published several books and writings on the systematic scientific examination of advertising. He popularized “reason-why” advertising, attempting to encourage consumers toward a reasonable argument in order to justify the purchase of the product. This approach to advertising theory had never before been tried and with this technique, Scott created a fundamental framework that combined advertising with science for the first time in the modern era. Furthermore, opening the connection between advertising and psychology, Scott’s work not only fostered a scientific approach toward advertising that still thrives today but also a moral debate over the ethics of psychologically persuasive promotions.
Scott was not alone in forming a framework for American advertising practices and theories. William Addison Dwiggins, a U.S. typographer and designer set the standard for advertising and book layout in the 1920s and 30s. His book, Layout in Advertising, is still the standard for the basic fundamentals of print advertisements. However, like any great book of this nature, many designers followed his rules precisely, creating a monotonous tone to American ads.
Following World War I, as Europe focused on rebuilding and reviving its ailing economy, the United States was entering the Great Depression. During this period and into the 1930’s, the marriage and birthrates in the U.S. declined steadily and unemployment rates never fell below 14 percent. American industry was desolate and the nation’s economy limped forward until the beginning of World War II.
Though it was undoubtedly one of the most horrific series of events in modern human history, World War II played an important role in the birth of modern advertising in the United States. After suffering through nearly fifteen years of a stagnant economy, the United States rose up out of World War II with a large-scale reorganization of industry. Furthermore, after years of deprivation, the American nation was ready to return to their “normal” way of life. This is where modern advertising made its first forays into the contemporary culture. As the rates of marriages and births nearly doubled over the next ten years, people were increasingly investing in the “American Dream.” Manufacturers wanted to generate demand for the growing amount of new products that wartime technology had helped develop. This time period marked a turning point - a divergence from the advertising of the early 20th century that had largely been pitched toward an undifferentiated consumer market.
In addition to this return to normalcy paired with an increased array of available products, there was another marked change in American advertising following World War II. During the war, many of Europe’s great designers, scholars, scientists and businessmen fled Germany and the Axis countries for the United States. This influx of people included A. M. Cassandre, a noted French advertiser, Lucien Bernhardt, a German poster designer, Herbert Bayer, a German designer, and Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus design school in Germany. These designers, advertisers, and intellectuals began teaching at schools throughout the United States and thus, disseminated their theories and practices to the American advertising world.
At first, American corporations were distrustful of these new, European practices, still favoring the old conservative text-based layouts in lieu of the more elegant and sophisticated designs that had been effective in Europe for over fifty years. A. M. Cassandre became a designer for Dole Fruit’s print advertising campaign and immediately began designing illustrative prints that resembled much of his earlier work back in France. Dole did use the design but was so fearful that the American public would not understand such a soft indirect sales technique, that they felt it necessary to include a sidebar discussion of why exactly the consumer should choose Dole pineapple juice. This reluctance has been pervasive, a common trend in American industry and in particular, in advertising. The puritanical American perspective initially hindered creative growth when new concepts were introduced. But once the ideas finally caught on in the public sector, the intellectuals and creatives were usually able turn the product into a more effective and refined form.
The Creative Revolution in America
By the 1950s, American advertising had become a viable business entity that had an immense effect on the nation as a whole. Europe somewhat lagged behind in the implementation of a strong advertising industry but finally began restoring order following the war. Eastern and Western Europe, however, disagreed greatly in their vastly divergent views on advertising. The entire Eastern-bloc under Soviet control believed that advertising was an evil vehicle of Capitalism, which was, in fact, often very true.
As the United States surged toward becoming an increasingly consumer-driven society, a new set of theories were put into place for advertising. The agency model was created and the giants of advertising began to step forward. Madison Avenue in New York became home to moguls like David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Paul Rand, and Leo Burnett.
David Ogilvy, a theorist and writer on the topic of advertising (and co-founder of Ogilvy and Mather), laid out what he believed were the most important tenets in successful advertising in his book Ogilvy on Advertising. He believed it was necessary that agencies “did their homework on the client,” that before creating an advertisement the advertiser would know every single fact about why (or why not) this company had a product worth selling. These early agencies also propagated the idea of “positioning”. It was crucial in the newly flooded market that the client had a niche for their product so that it would stand apart in the field. This product positioning lent itself to another fundamental theory: branding. Giving products and clients a “brand image” allowed the consumer to assign value and assert representation to the product and client. Today, this has been executed to the degree that all we have to do is say a word (for instance, the name McDonald’s) and we associate thousands of images and opinions instantly. We can thank the early architects of advertising for this.
In creating these early brands, American advertisers traditionally pushed the “first-class” image; that idea that somehow buying this product will make you a better person and elevate your standing in society. Though this was an effective measure initially, it soon led to a complete marketplace saturation of advertisements that lacked creativity and inventiveness. No consumer wants to see a magazine filled with automobile ads claiming that they are each the best, the message, in effect, loses its meaning.
This stagnant strategy was finally shaken by Bill Bernbach. Named Advertising Age magazine’s number one most influential person of the 20th century, Bernbach introduced some of the most famous and innovative advertising campaigns to this day. Charged with marketing the German car company, Volkswagen, which had been linked to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis during World War II, to an American public still raw with pain from the war, Bernbach’s company developed a campaign that created one of the strongest and most profitable auto companies in the United States. He created an out of the ordinary symbiosis between type and image with slogans like “Lemon” (advertising VW’s high production standards), “Think Small” (noting the benefits of the beetle’s small size), and later in an advertisement featuring NASA’s Lunar Expedition Module with the tag “It’s ugly but it gets you there” (poking fun at VW’s somewhat less than sleek and sexy aesthetics). Bernbach took an unpopular German car company and persuaded the American public to identify the brand paired with one of the nation’s proudest and most patriotic moments, the moon landing.
Bernbach did not achieve this alone. Bernbach’s idea of teaming the copywriter and art director is considered one of the most important additions to the world of advertising. Bernbach was initially the copy-writer and he was able to find an equally brilliant mind in American graphic designer, Paul Rand. This alliance allowed for the creative and analytical to work together in an environment that cultivated and linked the best ideas. All other agencies copied this method and the team unit became a staple of the advertising world.
Global Advertising Theories of the 1950s and 60s
While American advertising theory continued to press the importance of good copy writing coupled with striking images, the Europeans and the rest of the world continued to formulate their own ideas and methods. The ideas and practices that came to the United States following World War II were now being incorporated and sold back to the rest of the world, reprocessed yet again.
In Britain, speaking the same language as the U.S., differences mostly reflected national characteristics. British advertisements tended to be less direct, less competitive, more subtle, funnier and more intellectually entertaining. In the United States, ad work focused on slice-of-life and life improving techniques, while British agencies understood that maybe the product being sold was not the most important thing on the consumer’s mind. In presenting ads in this way, the British were able to present their products and campaigns in a slightly healthier perspective with regard to the importance of the client’s product on the consumer’s life. These ideals were later exported to the United States in the form of copywriters and designers over the next twenty years.
The French approached advertising much like everything else they did in the public eye, with a sense of wit and charm that entertained the upper crust of society. 1 Their advertising, including the work of A. M. Cassandre, discussed earlier, incorporated beautiful art direction and was extremely successful in magazine and poster advertisements.
Other European nations followed suit with the British, French, and American viewpoints but they also integrated their own trends. The West German advertisements were often sparse and constructivist in nature, using type illustratively to promote a product. In the U.S.S.R. and the other Soviet states, advertising was largely not present because it conflicted greatly with communist ideals. When advertising was present it was significantly filtered for content or directly produced by a government agency. In the 1960s, countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland only had one or two agencies in the entire country. In China, still very much a third world country, still fervently communist, all advertising was produced by the government. Advertising in newspapers and on the radio was sparse and the most common source was in print on billboards only in the more urbanized cities.
The lack of agencies in smaller nations around the world at this time led to a syndrome where advertising was not produced with the country’s consumers in mind. The agencies in these countries were typically run by an American or British advertiser that imposed an alien culture and taste into the promotions. Unfortunately, this led to an ineffective use of advertising in some arenas on a worldwide scale for quite sometime.
The first great revolution after the development of modern advertising was the invention and proliferation of the television. Until the introduction of television, advertising was largely relegated to the media or print, radio, magazine, and newspapers and remained very regionally focused. The only designs or campaigns that ever made a national impact were those in magazines and these were limited to only the readership.
Television changed everything when it came into popularity in the early 1950s. It set the tone for what advertising was going to be for the next forty years. Along with providing a new source for news and other entertainment media, the television also brought the commercial into America’s homes.
Initially, commercials were not very effective. David Ogilvy, the greatest proponent of good copywriting, even admitted that he relied too heavily on words in his early commercials. He believed that the rise of the commodity aesthetic in advertising culture segued into commercials from the start. “In the early days of television I made the mistake of relying on the words to do the selling… now I know that in TV you must make your pictures do the selling. What you show is more important that what you say.” The early TV commercials were often sloppily put together and because it was such a new technology, the design was really not very well thought out or executed. However, by the 1960s and 70s Americans were seeing memorable advertisements of sparkling creativity. Because the television was such a new medium, viewers were often as enthralled and entertained by television commercials as they were by the actual programming, watching the television together as a family in darkened living rooms around the country as if they were at the movies.
The rise of television advertising was thanks in a large part to America’s television networks. These national networks operated with regional and local syndicates that gave advertisers the opportunity to show their client’s products in varying levels of exposure. By 1954, CBS became the largest advertising venue in the world. This system was very entrepreneurial and led to the formation of several regional advertising agencies that never did business beyond their state or immediate area of influence.
Television commercials kept to the same style as many of the print campaigns had before but there were new introductions to the theory of commercial advertising. Agencies began to promote the “Unique selling point” of a product, the idea that what they were offering the consumer was in no way like the product of a competitor. Also, agencies began introducing storylines into commercials, giving the product a tangible connection to consumers.
Television did not have the same impact equally around the world. In the United States, televisions soon became as ubiquitous in American homes as an oven and spreading advertising to the masses was easy with America’s liberal free speech laws. In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court granted advertising First Amendment protection. This was not the case worldwide. Television commercials in Britain and France largely followed in the cultural footsteps of print advertising with a slightly more American feeling, as many of the film workers were from the United States, but in nations like Belgium and Sweden, commercials were banned from television through the 1970s. The Soviet countries continued their close control over the media and television advertising lacked any lasting impact.
The Beginning of Consolidation
The 1980s, and 90s marked a time in the history of business when many large corporations began to consolidate and form larger conglomerates to gain a larger share of the market or to have a wider worldwide reach. There were amalgamations of automotive companies, airlines, communications industries, and even professional athletic leagues. The advertising industry was no different.
In the 1980s many of the “giants of advertising” were aging and began to sell off their companies to corporate interests. This marked the fading of a time when advertising was considered by many to be the most appealing industry that a bright young individual could go into. The industry was growing up and becoming more serious and corporate. This move toward consolidation was due to many reasons other than merely the founders moving out of the industry. Many firms wanted to have a more global impact and marketability to accommodate the giant conglomerates that were now their clients. This, along with the introduction of global media vehicles such as CNN and other cable networks, led to the formation of what is known in the advertising world as “The Big Four” holding companies.
Today Publicis, Omnicom Group, Interpublic Group of Companies, and WPP Group control an estimated 55 percent of all global advertising and marketing expenditures. This new environment emerged from the 1960s, where there were virtually no publicly held advertising agencies. This new oligopoly in the advertising world created a corporate culture that was managed by businessmen and not by advertisers. This greatly affected how advertising was approached and how funds were allocated to the “advertising brands” (individual advertising companies) within the holding companies.
These new conglomerates, however, were not all bad. The immense size of these corporations, the largest of which is the WPP Group based in London with over 100,000 affiliated employees in more than 2,000 offices worldwide , allowed them to create the first true global branding concepts. The global brandings were not global advertising campaigns but instead, a basic foundation of what a brand would mean worldwide. Branding products on a worldwide scale led to a globalization that really was promoted by advertising. American/Western culture began to spread around the world mostly because of the proliferation and promotion of American products and services around the globe. In the 1980s there were few companies that were able to disperse their products to a worldwide market let alone create global advertising strategies. Recently, however, that number has grown exponentially due to the proliferation of advertising’s second great revolution: the Internet.
The New Arena, the Internet
In the nineties, most of the big advertising agencies hardly touched the Internet, regarding it as “B-list” for design and content. Most of advertising’s all-star’s held fast to television and print, feeling they would still be the main focus of advertising for years to come. This view was large in part because, at the time, the Internet had many limitations on speed, content, and accessibility. Just as any new frontier of technology (like television in the 1950s), the technicians, not the designers, pioneered advertising on the Internet. Andy Berlin, a partner of David Ogilvy said in the 1960s, “technical revolutions are led by the people who understand it. It can take years for the creatives and intellectuals to be dragged in and enhance the effectiveness of the new medium.” 1 Early Internet advertisements were riddled with cheesy banner ads and pop up windows that often displayed flashing type with the letters “Free” or “You Win.” These approaches, as well as the implementation of “spam” e-mail, mirrored the ideas of direct-mail advertisements that offered empty promises of money or products. Their effect was limited and for several years the Internet remained the “ghetto” of the advertising world, where no top agencies or advertisers really wanted to conduct business, which left the new arena relatively ineffective for years.
Though the Internet did not shake the foundations of advertising in its first years of existence, it provided the world with a truly instantaneous system to connect with one another. With the introduction and widespread use of cable and DSL (Direct Server Link) connections to the web news media, entertainment, and shopping ventures expanded rapidly in an excitingly short amount of time. Though the creation of the “Big Four” created the concept of global branding concepts, the Internet was becoming the ideal media vehicle to promote these campaigns to a wired in population.
By the 2000, Internet advertising had finally caught on and the creative minds of the advertising world created new ways to approach consumers on the web, ways that in no way resembled anything approached before. In 1999 the Internet advertising market was estimated at four billion dollars, in only five years that number had jumped to an industry worth thirty billion. As technology improved advertisers were able to create interactive banner ads (which would seem primitive by our standards today) that lured a website’s visitors to click on the advertisement. This new method of measuring an advertisement’s effectiveness, monitoring the traffic it produces to a website, led to a revival of the scientific approach toward advertising. This approach was further fueled by the large conglomerate holding companies searching for a way to turn advertising from a refined art form to a quantitative science. This implementation, direct marketing, was not extremely successful. Much like when films or documentaries attempt to follow a formulaic approach, the results produced by this science-driven advertising, that were primarily concerned with response from consumers, were poorly designed and lacked a sense of intellect that consumers now possessed. The advertising giants of the 20th century like Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy stressed the importance of research and an understanding of a client, but they also were firm believers that the best advertisements and campaigns were those that they saw as having potential to run for thirty years and campaigns they themselves felt “I wish I thought of that.” These Internet campaigns, and many of the television campaigns of the early 2000s felt mechanical and tired.
In the economic recession of 2001, the United States advertising market took a significant hit. Consumers were feeling neglected, while the clients of advertising agencies were more concerned with selling as much product in a stagnant market than creating memorable or creative campaigns. It seemed that all the major corporations wanted was to have the consumers do was buy their product. Though this is true in every sense of the word, and is the goal of advertising, this marked a time when advertisers had come to the point where they were finally confronted with a worthy opponent. Modern consumers, I’d like to believe, are more worldly, more interconnected with their surroundings, and have higher demands for their attention and time, than they have ever been in history. Today advertisers are challenged more than ever to created works that capture the ever-elusive attention of the consumer.
Criticisms of Advertising
Modern advertising has come under fire for generations for being too manipulative, subliminal, disrespectful, monopolistic, and unfair to consumers for years. Many theorists have spent their careers speculating and investigating the world of advertising, attempting to ascertain exactly what goes on.
In the beginning of the television era, advertisers began using a powerful new psychological tool, subliminal commercials. Advertisements flashed messages and pictures for an extremely brief period in an attempt to influence consumers unknowingly. The intervals of the projections were so short, 1/3000 of a second, that the brain was only capable of processing them on a subconscious level. Though potentially effective, this method was finally banned from advertising following a public outcry after the publishing of journalist, Vance Packard’s book, “The Hidden Persuaders.” In the book, Packard outlined the techniques of the media’s manipulation of the consumer using psychological tactics to promote products. The book raised several questions about the morality of using science in advertising for the express purpose of manipulating the mass audience. The use of psychology in advertising is still a moral question today and is even more relevant with the statistical and scientific capabilities of the Internet.
One of the most pressing, pertinent issues in the advertising world and, on a greater scale, the entire media world, is the domination of too much of the market share by too few companies. With the consolidation of the “Big Four” advertising holding companies also came a general movement to consolidate in the media realm to the point where today most of the news and media discourse is controlled by a group of the “Big Five” corporations (Disney, General Electric, The News Corporation, Time Warner, and Viacom). With this perennial march toward fewer and fewer media outlets, serious questions are raised about the validity of the news and whether or not there is, to borrow a phrase from Fox News, “a fair and balanced view.” In the advertising world, questions are raised about the ethical use of this power in the hands of these few holding companies. We are at a point where the shameless promotion of a product could be re-packaged into a (seemingly) legitimate news piece while, in actuality, the clients are simply paying for it to be broadcasted.
Today, with the media’s long reach into every aspect of our lives, there is growing concern that advertising firms are attempting to fill up every free space in our existence with promotion and commercials. Already, we have become numb to the advertisements around athletic stadiums, on busses, taxis, as well as shameless product placement in television shows and movies. Every new building, arena or event now can be sponsored by an entirely irrelevant organization, renamed in honor of the donor/sponsor. Even comedy pokes fun at this trend; it has become so prevalent (see: Stephen Colbert’s Doritos Spicy Sweet Pennsylvania Primary Coverage from Chiladelphia, The City of Brotherly Crunch). This proliferation has become virtually ineffective in its influence on today’s consumer. If advertising persists in being such a central part of shaping and reflecting our society, it is important that the direction and employment of this influence is not abused, and remains a free and open enterprise that allows for true creativity and not simply corporate manipulation and brainwashing.
Advertising’s Revival and Future
As technology has progressed, and continues to progress, the Internet and wireless technology have become the focus of our way of life. From watching network television shows instantaneously, to buying groceries, autos, and anything else one could want, to electronically moving money, paying bills and managing finances with the click of a button, the web has changed the way we interact, do business, and live. This evolution has enabled individuals to multi-task, staying current with every aspect of life and in contact almost instantaneously through email or cell phones. This has created a consumer that demands instant gratification in nearly every facet of their existence.
These revolutionary changes have greatly affected all forms of media and altered the time-honored approaches to television, news, and shopping. In the past year alone our nation has experienced a TV writer’s strike. Writers were unhappy with their lack of revenue from the now booming Internet television phenomenon and the transfer of several stores, newspapers, and magazines to becoming web-only corporations. These types of transformations have swept through the world of advertising as well. The rules that applied to advertising in the 1950s and 60s are largely outdated. Back then it was the goal of an advertisement solely to get the consumer to notice a brand or product. Today, the goal of commercials and advertisements is to get the consumer to appreciate and recognize the brand’s appeal in a saturated market. Furthermore, with the increasing demands on the modern individual’s time, advertisements must convince the consumer that its message is worth their time to take a look at it.
This poses several problems. First, today’s consumer has been bombarded with a plethora of poorly thought out ads on the web and on TV, so much that they are numb to the effects and almost look right through the ads, just waiting to get back to the content that they were interested in to begin with. If you ask any “wired” individual today whether they even notice the banner ads surrounding the text on a page like nytimes.com, they would likely say no because they are so trained to focus on the content that they are interested in and ignore the superfluous “extra.” Basically, this is what it has all come down to: a fight for the consumer’s time and attention.
Our culture in the United States has increasingly become one with a chronic case of attention deficit disorder and this, in turn, has become a problem for advertisers looking for ways to connect with a mass audience. Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) like TiVo have given total control to the consumer in choosing what content they want to see. Though PVRs are still pricey and have only a core group of advocates, like all forms of technology (history tells us), the price will fall and the technology will spread to the masses. When it does, we will see a complete revolutionization of the television as we know it; there will be a synergy between the computer and the television into one multi-media device. TiVo, as well as the proliferation of instantaneous television through iTunes and the Internet, has led to the downfall of “primetime television.” In the late 20th century, primetime television actually meant something; individuals would plan their time so as not to miss their favorite show or news programs. This, however, has entirely vanished. As a busy student, I would rather download the program the day after or watch it streaming on the Internet fitting the program into my schedule, my life, not the other way around. This is a view shared by many in this generation; we make time when we can and we want the power to choose.
These changes have sent the advertising world reeling in recent years. This has been magnified as the industry tried to regain its foundation after a troubling few years around the year 2000. Today, advertising must adapt or die. Agencies that do not begin to explore new ways of advertising outside of the traditional forms of radio, television, print, and now even the Internet, will be left behind for more creative, lucrative, forward-thinking, cost-effective strategies.
The buzzword around advertising today has to be ubiquity. The power-firms of Madison Avenue have begun adopting radical approaches to possess the consumer’s attention. Ogilvy and Mather have created a branch called 360° Branding. This division is exploring how advertisements can shadow consumers everywhere we go; creating advertisements and promotions based on our personal preferences, past choices, straight to our mobile phones reacting to where we are at any given moment. For example, if a consumer is at a clothing store, instantly the individual will be buzzed with ideas for outfits that work with what they already own or offer incentives to promote purchase of products from that particular retailer.
Though this may be a scary premise to people worried about invasion of personal privacy, it is already being done without our knowledge or consent. The first corporation to implement this “espionage” tactic was DoubleClick, the web’s largest advertising company. DoubleClick was the first major user of “cookies,” tracking devices that implant themselves onto a consumer’s computer and report where they travel on the web. DoubleClick pushed to combine this information with biographical information of their customers but the measure was blocked in the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the individual’s right to privacy. However, other websites have continued to use “cookies” and similar methods very effectively. Facebook, the uber-popular social networking site, promotes advertisements relying on certain networks, monitoring what are the most popular ideas of the individuals in a network. The website utilizes the individual’s self-created profiles to promote products they believe will appeal to them.
The future of effective advertising is at stake. Consumers are not able to control how much they are bombarded by media and advertising as it continues to become ubiquitous in our surroundings; we are beginning to live in a world where the advertisements we see, reflect what we are interested in. New methods rely on a great deal of research and data collection which has led to a popular idea within large agencies, the belief that science (in the form of mathematical calculations) and factual information are key elements to winning over a consumer. This is the wrong approach. Research is essential to effective advertising but it cannot come off as formulaic or contrived and we cannot forget that we are dealing with individuals. Consumers do not want to be “sold” anything. They want to be presented with a product and see the brand’s true message, whatever that may be, and at that point they will make their own decision (or at least believe that they are autonomous…). The most effective way to find this balance between research and creativity is by using both. The best advertisements we see today capture our attention enough so that we feel compelled to go to the website, buy the magazine or keep watching, to gain the rest of the factual, researched story.
This amalgamation has given birth to a new relationship in the advertising industry, that of the creative director and the researcher. Just like Bill Bernbach’s art director and copywriter combination, it is essential that advertisers work in this team system to include both the right-brain creative plan as well as the analytical approach to number and data investigation.
Beyond this integration in the workplace, advertising firms are finding themselves in a situation where they need to be able to create campaigns outside of the traditional ways. In response to this, we have seen more advertising agencies create new branches or absorb other companies involved in all forms of marketing and public relations. This integration will allow the agencies to be more adaptive to a client’s needs which will, in turn, allow for their clients to reach the consumer more effectively across the board. How can advertising better reach the consumer? The new mantra for the advertising world today needs to be, “find the right frame of mind” not, “how can I sell this quickly.” The mass audience has seen nearly every trick in the book and, surprisingly, is still not totally anti-advertising. They just want to feel like they are the ones in control. Too much advertising today is a total waste of money. Today, we are in a media-saturated playing field where there are nearly 40% more commercials on network television than ten years ago. To fix this, advertising, especially on the web, which continues to siphon viewers from all other forms of media, must become more interactive and entertaining, ushering in a new era of advertainment. In order to hold onto the miniscule attention span of the mass audience, agencies must keep creating vehicles that keep the consumer feeling involved in the process of the brand. Some of the most successful campaigns launched today, and in the past few years, are those that sought real interaction with consumers to help build a better brand or product. This does not mean turning the reigns of a company or ad campaign over to the consumer. We have seen how poorly this method can go with “viewer designed” Super Bowl Commercials and misguided focus groups of average consumers. Instead, agencies simply need to make the consumer feel invested in the creative process so that they have something tangible to tie them to the brand. Having user specific homepage’s on sites like Google (iGoogle), the New York Times, and others have sent ad revenues on those sites through the roof. The same techniques can be applied to the websites of brands, where consumers can become involved and integrate other aspects of their life with the specific brand.
Beyond being entertaining and attention grabbing, advertisements and firms in this new age need to be ready to adapt and accept that everything that is presented to the consumer is an ongoing test to create an even more effective campaign. In the past few years, since the oligopolization of global media and specifically advertising, campaigns have not had legs, they last for a fraction of their original life span. Advertising agencies now have to be ready to change the direction of their brand often only months after a new campaign has aired. Some of this has to do with the fact that the world we live in today has much more exposure to these panoptic campaigns (so we tire of them quicker.) It is also because recent advertising methods have seemed almost formulaic and predictable at times, like the same four individuals in some boardroom created all of the campaigns.
There needs to be a shift in paradigm, back to convincing the consumer that they are not being tricked or pressured into buying a commodity. The creative process in creating advertisements must be wholly scrutinized and reexamined. If the consumer does not feel that they are being sold to or told to buy a product, they are more likely to trust the brand and in turn, buy the product.
This approach has found its niche already in the advertising world, with diet companies (Weight Watchers) promoting that “diets don’t work” and others explaining how you can be successful with using less of their product. This leads to a consumer favoring the brand because they believe that the brand has their best interests in mind and are not merely out to get their money.
Tying all of this back into a global perspective, advertising faces a daunting future. At one end, the continuing monopolization of media and advertising into fewer and fewer companies will likely continue to stifle entrepreneurship and anger consumers with these unfair and unethical monopolies. At the other end, we are on the cusp of the most exciting time for media proliferation in history, a future where advertising has an opportunity to take center stage in helping create, connect and react to popular culture all around the world.
Though we are not at the point of having “global advertisements” that are precisely the same message to one entire mass audience, we have seen advertising make leaps and bounds in the past twenty years, opening doors and spreading American culture, views, and products to Asia, Europe and beyond. Some believe that this is diluting cultural diversity across the globe, but, at the same time, it is promoting that we truly are part of one small global community and that the more we are interconnected with our neighbors and former rivals, the better the world will be able to work together. Advertising is at a point where it has the potential to be viewed not as a manipulative, insidious device promoting consumerism but as a way to create value and community to an increasingly educated, wealthy world that is now thirsting for the products that America has enjoyed for years. Though advertising is still out to sell their client’s products as effectively as possible, today it must be done in a way that it in fact creates value in an individual’s existence. The advertisement will not be successful now unless it can actually offer the ultra-busy modern person something in return. Whatever that precisely means remains to be seen.
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