Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Future of Advertising – Less Is More

Advertising is not being revolutionized, contrary to some popular and public opinion. It will not disappear overnight. Or magically reappear tomorrow in a form that we can’t recognize.

However…

It is slowly and surely mutating and the changes are tectonic. And may be unrecognizable from today’s advertising given a few years.

The real changes aren’t about youtube, myspace and video piracy. Nor about the well chronicled and already announced death of the 30 second spot well commented on by Maurice Saatchi in his FT Article “The Strange Death of Modern Advertising”. Where he talks about sociological, technological and psychological impacts creating the big change.

The deepest and most insidious (for defenders of today’s advertising) is the continuous and ubiquitous spread of information. As our access to information goes up with every passing day, we become less amenable to persuasion. Earlier, the sheer effort of comparing information regarding features, service, experience etc was a key factor in our dependence on what advertising told us. The classic snake oil salesmen depended on their clients not knowing much about what they were selling. This included a complete lack of knowledge about benefits, competition, prices etc. Information Arbitrage was the basis of a lot of 20th century marketing and selling. Modern advertising is of course less cynical, by and large, but it still has it’s cesspools of cynical selling that depends on buyers not knowing better.

In this environment of buyer ignorance, came the image makers. This phrase from the eponymous book by William Myers is born of the ability of advertisers to influence greatly the world view of their consumers.

However, with information has come disenchantment. Information has opened our eyes to the failures of our businesses, our governments and our heroes. Wide eyed wonder has perhaps been lost for ever. The UK is currently at 70% broadband availability. We will soon be in a world of ubiquitous and permanent connectivity. Where any assertion can be checked and any fact can be ascertained with relative ease. As Steve McLaren takes charge today, his managerial track record can be found here on Wikipedia. This site on England Football, will track his ongoing performance as well. The point is, its all there. The FA cannot convince the England football fans an “image” of Steve McLaren that doesn’t fit with the facts. If you feel like something more inspirational, this video (from youtube, where else!) will tell show you how he transformed Middlesboro’s performances last season. No scope for spinning, image creation. Max Clifford be warned, its getting harder every day.

This is the reality for advertising today. Whether your product is Tony Blair, the New Beetle or Mr Muscle cleaners. And if you thought it was just one persons word against the other, that’s where user content and user groups have played a major role. Services like TripAdivisor will give you the low down on other travelers experiences.

Bottom line, you can’t convince me.

The answers for advertisers and marketers may lie partly in the category and information content of their products, but more importantly may like in focusing on “informing” rather than “persuading”. Of course this may push companies to focus on the product itself so that the information isn’t a disincentive for the buyer. The focus may shift back to creating good products.

Well that isn’t all that bad then!

2 Comments:

Blogger Kannan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Kannan said...

Ved - Very interesting and provocative thoughts-
What do you think of the problem with an over-abundance of information on any given topic to a point where sifting through it all may prove as tough as having no information at all?
I guess a prospective consumer's willingness to invest time and energy to research a given product or service will depend upon the level of involvement in the purchase decision. Would that suggest that traditional forms of advertising may still work for low involvement/ impulse buy products and services?

10:19 PM  

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