The creative revolution
The sixties are long gone now, but a few things have survived remarkably well. The music of the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors is still played today (in fact, these bands share an accumulated 60 million likes on Facebook), and there’s also the hipster subculture which keeps a lot of accessories on display. But also, more importantly for advertising; the principles of Bernbach.
Back in the sixties, media, then mainly radio and television, where getting more and more densified, and Bernbach was one of the first to understand that advertising had to stand out in order to work. He’s now creditted for this, in what we call the creative revolution.
The principles, showcased in the Volkswagen ads ‘Lemon’ and ‘It makes your house look bigger’ still work, but time has passed and now it’s not just new media we have to adept to, there’s also a new set of rules.
There’s a historic trend going on, which can be traced all the way back to Gutenberg’s invention of mechanical movable type printing, which sparked the Printing Revolution (and is now widely regarded as the most important event since the Middle Ages). In the 18th century, the output of printed books had already reached one billion, up from a mere one million in the 15th century.
The invention of Gutenberg ensured that books where easier (and therefore cheaper) to print, and thus they became easier to spread, and with that, also the information they possessed. People began to read about other theories and different truths, and so the control of authorities weakened.
Since then, there have been many technological breakthroughs, and every time, institutes, such as the Christian church, lost power, and it won’t stop until the Bible has been firmly placed into the fiction section of the library.
Think about the power of technology; what’s the first thing a totalitarian government does? Limit the technology of its citizens. Just look at North-Korea or China. There’s no free internet in those countries. The access of information is restricted.
The thing is though, manipulation and demagogy still exist, even in what we call ‘the first world countries’. It’s called advertising.
Promotion, manipulation, propaganda, advertising; call it what you like. Truth is; advertising often overcolours the product it’s selling. This used to work, but now, and especially in the future, this won’t suffice.
This ‘overcolouring’ is a lot easier with values, rather than facts. To illustrate, let’s use cars as an example. If you think about a Jeep, you think about a sturdy car. Porsche; fast. Ferrari; even faster. And Volvo is safe. But the thing is; there’re heaps of car brands which are a lot safer than Volvo.
With Twitter, Facebook and review websites such as Gizmodo and CNET (for cars, Euro NCAP), we have an incredible amount of information at our disposal, making it easy to see through these wry promises which brands make.
Thanks to technology. But hey, don’t underestimate the power of friends (in combination with technology, such as Twitter and Facebook).
This week, a friend of mine tweeted about disgusting noodles. It seems trivial, but from now on, I won’t buy that brand, regardless of how much money that company will spend on advertising. And my dad bought an iPad, mainly because his colleague advised it. Now Samsung could have splashed millions and millions of dollars promoting their tablets, but it would have been irrelevant.
The industry formerly known as advertising?
There will be a shift in advertising, and it will be forced from the outside. The way people purchase goods is changing fundamentally, and the field of play is levelled. This will result in better products, because bad products just won’t sell anymore. Advertising, as we now know it, will become less effective. What people need (and want) are products and services that are actually worth talking about.
Some brands are doing it right. Zappos.com, an online shoe and apparel shop, stopped advertising about it’s free overnight shipping, however, the free service continued. Zappos stated: ‘Nothing’s changing about our free overnight shipping, we’re just not advertising it anymore. It’s true that we would probably get more customers if we continued to market free overnight shipping as opposed to surprising customers with it, but we decided that we wanted Zappos to be known as a customer service company, not a marketing company.’
And Whole Foods Market’s advertising budget is less than a tenth than that of their competitors, and most of it is spend on announcing functional messages such as new store openings. Their company is build on the principle that if you create a brand that people like, you don’t have to advertise and say the broccoli is $.10 off this week. Since prices of supermarkets are relatively negligible, people will simply choose the brand they fell best about (or the supermarket which is nearest). Either way, money spend on advertising is wasted.
These are brands that successfully ditched advertising, but there is still a role for advertising to play. Despite, I think we’ll go back to a time when there weren’t even televisions in our livingrooms yet, and where word of mouth was how you got to know about new products. That mouth-to-mouth advertising might not just be solely on the streets and in livingrooms anymore though; also online, but it’s still very similar. That’s the way we’ll get to know brands, and believe in them. The choice between, let’s say, televisions is simply so huge, who are you going to believe? Twelve brands all saying they have the best deal for you, or your friend?
The role of advertising in this? Nobody knows. I, for one, think that advertising of the future will be some sort of vehicle for people to share their recommendation. It would make reviews more poetic and entertaining. Some brands are already trying this, but still in advertising media. They should use anything but advertising media; anything that can tell a story.
Of course, this is still very abstract – but I do believe that it will happen, and somebody will eventually crack it.
Question is; will it still be advertising?
I don’t know.
Big companies are losing control, and it’s adding to the consumers’. It goes beyond advertising: Amanda Hocking sells an average of 9,000 e-book a day, without a publisher. Rebecca Black, mock her or not, has reached more than 15 million listeners. Without a record label. And Justin Bieber, well, he didn’t get any help from some platform like Disney or Nickelodeon – it was just his mom, uploading videos on YouTube.
That’s cool, cause it means David can still defeat Goliath.