David Lubars Thinks You’re DumbBy Mark Boles
Here is where my advertising and marketing brethren pontificate on the future of advertising. In my mind it’s a useful exercise if only someone would actually do anything about it.
Lately, this issue is one of the most widely discussed topics in the marketing/advertising community. Forrester has several reports on the matter. Fast Company is planning to dedicate the December/January issue to the “tumultuous state of advertising.” As a part of this issue they recently asked the three top creatives of three very different agencies to visually demonstrate the future of advertising.
David Lubars, BBDO’s chairman and chief creative officer said this, “Everything will continuously change, but people will always stay the same. Go back 70 years, go ahead 50 years, a human is a human. There are primal things that will always drive us: Will this product be better, will it help me succeed, will it make me more attractive? So the technology and the way we to speak to people will change, but those fundamentals will never change.” How he visually represented this is pictured above.
Herein lies the disconnect between the consumer and marketers.
One of my previous blog posts was about the chaos that is today’s consumer marketplace. These days we can’t even agree whether or not to call ourselves consumers. Alex Bogusky wonders if the term is a dirty word. Grant McCracken offers the term “multipliers.” No matter what, they’re far more diverse, sophisticated and interesting than we’ve ever given them credit for. And while we try various new means of reaching consumers such as geo-tagging, QR codes, harnessing viral and so forth, at the end of the day on the whole, we default to the same old same old. No disrespect to David Lubars. I don’t even know the guy and am not so sure they’d let me in the building but the same old same old is generally what agencies like BBDO produce. Advertising to the lowest common denominator.
Don’t get me wrong, BBDO has done some amazing work and continues to do so and the sheer size of BBDO globally is beyond intimidating. Nevertheless all too often it seems like big agencies are in protectionist mode as the biggest purveyors of disruption marketing.
Every day, the 30-second spot is becoming less and less relevant. Commercials are background noise. Banner ads have become plain beige wallpaper. Brian Morrissey recently pointed out that click through rates on banner ads have stabilized. Phew. Good. At .09 percent. Ummm Houston… we have a problem.
Grant McCracken has a wonderful section in his book “Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living Breathing Corporation” where he refers to the “American scholar Lewis Mumford [who] offered his vision of the world created by commerce.” It looks something along the lines of the set of “The Truman Show”. As McCracken says, “This became the intellectuals favorite thing to say about popular culture: that culture touched by commerce must be diminished by it,” when in fact the exact opposite has happened. So while Lubars would have you believe that we as consumers are primal and simple the reality is we have evolved considerably. Sure there are ways to simplify explaining consumer purchase behavior but in general consumers are extraordinarily complex.
In Mark J. Penn’s book “Microtrends: Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes” he says, “With the availability of choice has come a rise in individuality. And with the rise of individuality has come a rise in the power of choice. The more choices people have, the more they segregate themselves into smaller and smaller niches of society.” In his book he offers glimpses into 82 of these “niches”. To me, that’s relatively daunting.
We talk about the notion of true change but the reality is we continue to produce mediocre dumbed-down work largely at the request of the client.
Agencies are still effectively layers upon layers of management with peer-to-peer alignment with clients. That being said, clients haven’t asked for it to change much. When the ads aren’t performing, fire the agency!
In my humble opinion it’s going to take CEO/CFO level leadership on the corporate side to force their CMOs and marketing organizations out of their comfort zones to explore agencies with new business models and to change the way in which they interact with those agencies and who takes responsibility for idea creation. And to consider bringing some of those people who generate ideas in-house.
I don’t think there is one standard “agency of the future”. I think there will be numerous solutions providers who all find unique ways to solve client’s problems and I think the more flexible and nimble those types of “agencies” are the better they will succeed.
“For the enterprising client that can see clearly through the chaos, this new world holds promise. Kraft, for instance, has assembled a growing Rolodex of 70 new specialist partners. This isn’t some fringe brand — it’s Kraft, the country’s largest food marketer, which spends some $1.6 billion on marketing every year. The company is so open to new thinking that it recently hired a startup called GeniusRocket to develop a new campaign for the relaunch of its Athenos Hummus.”
My bet is that agencies will look a lot more like production companies and content will be king. I am also betting that audience segmentation will be far less about traditional demographics (age/race/HHI) and will be more about lifestyle/lifestage/interests. As we know Facebook is betting most heavily on “groups” and I guarantee you they will mine the data of the largest groups and offer up “access” to the largest groups at a steep premium. Social media in general has proven itself as a place where people with like interests congregate irrelevant of race or household income but don’t think for a second the consumer isn’t hip to what’s going on. We as marketers must be respectful and creative as to how we segment consumers.
May the best content win.