These blitherings originally appeared in Campaign magazine earlier this year, after they asked me what thoughts I had on the future of advertising.
I hope I’m still alive in 50 years time.
Yes, the downsides might be annoying: incontinence, immobility, severe drooling. But think of the upside: I get to watch Mad Men: Season 54.
What fun the 60s must have been to work in. What a cool time to have been around. The time the ad industry found there was a way to do things other than how it’d been doing them for years. When the conventional wisdom of David Ogilvy was superseded by the unconventional genius of Bernbach, Lois and Della Femina.
After having spent years perfecting their skills in posters, press and radio, the dawn of the decade saw admen still attempting to get to grips with a newfangled thing called television. ‘TV specialists’ were employed who knew how this cutting-edge technology worked but the television was yet to be used for anything more than what were, in effect, moving press ads; the public was so in awe of such a technological miracle that just seeing pictures move on the screen was still innovative enough to delight an audience.
The cohort leading the advertising revolution grabbed TV by the buttons and showed no fear. They did things no one had ever done that would still feel fresh today.
It was a different world.
How we chuckle today as we watch Don Draper and his colleagues breakfast on Bourbon and fags. How we titter when lines like: ‘It’s toasted’ are lauded as pure genius. And how we snigger when DDB’s mould-breaking VW ads are referred to as a passing fad.
Change was rampant back then. And like all revolutions it’s easier to spot with the benefit of hindsight.
Of course in 50 years time the show won’t be called Mad Men. It’ll be named something like ‘iGuys 3.0’.
And it won’t be set back in the 1960s, it’ll be set in the second major advertising revolution; the one we’re living through right now.
In iGuys 3.0 the underlying theme will be the ad industry’s attempts to master the new digital era.
And viewers will chuckle similarly at ciphers of our very selves back at the turn of the last century:
“Isn’t it hilarious that they used to have a separate name for what we now just call, well, we don’t have a name for it do we?… And how funny they actually formed separate agencies to do things just for that, full of people they called ‘digital natives’? … Oh look! They’re using an iPhone 4. I saw one once in the Science Museum. How did they live without an iEye (contact lens, nano-processor screen beaming information direct to the retina, produced by the Microsoftapple Corporation, so named after the two companies did ‘The deal of the century’)… Ooh, wouldn’t it be cool to have been around when they still had paper!!... Wow, that must have been before GoogleBook was thought-activated… They used to think 3D TV was cool. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!… Goodness! They’re drinking skinny decaf lattes! Of course! That was when Starbucks still existed, long before the Great Coffee Virus that wiped out half of America!!…”
Like the revolutionaries of the 60s, we at the supposed bleeding edge of everything are gloriously unaware of what the next half-century will bring. When it comes to the tools available to as a business, we’re currently seeing more innovation in one year than we saw in the last hundred. This means that anyone who believes they have mastered this brave new world is deluding himself. It has a life of its own and we must face up to the fact that we will never actually wrangle it to the ground. We will simply keep running to catch up with it, doing the best we can to utilise new stuff until the next new stuff appears. The best we can do is to evolve in parallel with the innovation.
Any ennui felt by those who’ve worked in this industry for a while when faced with a new problem and the same old tools with which to solve it, must surely by now have been transformed into pure, undiluted joy at the mouthwatering array of new opportunities just round the corner.
In the coming years evolution will go hand in hand with revolution. As consumers continue to understand and enjoy interactivity they’ll come to expect it from their brands’ communications. So we’ll have to continue to get better at hosting two-way discussions in all channels. This will be helped by the fact that penetration of Smartphones will continue to rise as their benefits become better understood by ‘the early majority’. This, in turn, will lead to interaction on social networks becoming even more ubiquitous. Meanwhile, the likes of FlipBoard and the Rockmelt browser will make the social web increasingly more accessible and user-friendly.
‘Event TV’ like ‘I’m a celebrity’ and ‘X factor’ will be utilised increasingly by marketers for their real-time social networking opportunities. Equally, IPTV will go mainstream, bringing with it TV advertising interactivity possibilities as never seen before.
The quality of TV advertising will rise as clients see the number of conversations that are going on around the good stuff. What was seen as a high investment five years ago for a commercial that would just see eight weeks of airtime is now increasingly seen as good value for something that will continue to be broadcast forever.
We’ll continue to get to grips with the tablet computers as they become the iTool of choice for millions. The interactive advertising possibilities of the iPad haven’t even begun to be explored and the partnership between Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs could open up whole new swathes of users to target, as well as creating what will undoubtedly become the template for what are currently paper-based publications.
Apps will continue to their stealth attack on the current browser experience, offering brands more opportunities to demonstrate their relevance to their consumers.
We’ll all get just a little bit bored of hearing the words ‘Can we have an Old Spice please?’.
There has, without doubt, never been a more exciting time to be in advertising. Unless spending your days drinking, smoking and shagging appeals (hold on, come to think of it…).
I’m off now to set my GalaxyPlus HyperHD Digi-Box Nano to record iGuys 3.0.
It’ll be such fun to drone on about what an amazing time this was to live through.
And to wet my nappy laughing at how different everything was back now.