The next big thing

When I was at ad-school it was always stressed to innovate. Even though few of us ‘got’ or grasped what internet advertising could do, we all knew internet advertising would go on to do some pretty big business in the wake of the BMW film spots of 2002. When we were asked for digital we’d create our own mini films starring Samuel Jackson, directed by Ridley Scott and complement it with banner ads. If you can’t see the future I guess imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Ten years on, we are seeing the slow but steady decline of ATL agencies while digital agencies seem to keep on growing and gaining weight. And it’s not just digital creative hot shops like R/GA calling the shots these days, more and more digital agencies are taking the lead. These days, traditional ATL agencies with poor digital departments have to support the digital creative from the digital agency. What seemed incogitable a decade ago is now taken as an everyday occurrence.

If this has happened in the space of ten years, then what is the next big change in advertising? What is the next big thing?

When slowly starting to learn in ad-school what we had to do, I came through in a transition stage of print ads. Most of the print ads ideally had no words and was a visual with a logo. These were the gold standard of print ads in 2003. However if you go back a decade before that to 1992 (and let’s be honest most of our reference books were of that age), the most awarded print campaigns had screeds of copy. In the space of a decade copywriters went from being craftsmen to having a lot of free time on their hands. It’s a change that hasn’t gone away, and in recent years I’ve worked with two copywriters who haven’t known the difference between too and to, and their and there. It shows you the emphasis, which is placed on copy these days.

As an aside, I met one creative awhile ago who told me all I needed to win awards is to find an old 1970s D&AD, read the long copy and translate their thoughts into a visual with a logo and I’d be swimming in them. It was a cheap thing to say but I think his point might still stand today.

The reason why I mention the change from copy heavy to copy light in the space of a decade is because I view that it’s part of an evolution of ads. The copy had to become lighter because the more ads people were bombarded with, the less interested they became. Ads had to be quicker to hook people with a shorter attention span. However when this stopped being so effective advertising changed media and turned to the internet. Unlike billboard or tv ads, with ads on the internet there’s a captive audience. It’s very easy to blank out a billboard, less so when there’s an ad beside an article you’re reading. An added point for the changes is an obvious one: people started to get their entertainment and information from a screen, not from a page and advertising followed.

My theory with advertising is this: and it’s a little bit strange. Imagine a massive canvas frame with silk fabric stretched on it. Printed on the silk is a typical ad from the 70s. And in the centre is a power suction vacuum cleaner. Over time, more and more of what was on the canvas is slowly being stretched and sucked into the vacuum cleaner. It started with the majority of the columns of copy being sucked down and into the nozzle. It moved onto the phase where only the visual and headline is present. And then we get to the point where even the visual is sucked down and into the vacuum cleaner hence leaving us with pretty much the title and name of the work of art on the title board beside the work of art (which we pretty much see today as a hashtag and logo). But if that’s the case then what’s after all of this?

Well, it’s my opinion is that there isn’t much after.

Advertising will slowly be replaced with content. And I’m not talking about content like Lynx island or wash my balls. I’m talking about pure content where the logo is secondary to the idea. We’re already seeing logo and brand heavy digital ideas putting off potential consumers, and we’re seeing the rise of wepisodes and the creation of interesting and original content. As this continues to happen (and let’s be honest the best online content isn’t just ripping off a youtube idea… it’s actually NEW) then logos will become smaller, and content will become king. Ad agencies that can successfully adapt will in a way become producers of TV shows, musicals and music bands. It’s already starting to happen. And it’s actually kind of exciting.

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