It’s probably fair to say that most industries have groups of people that are obsessed about the future – to the point that it’s often quite myopic and even destructive.
This certainly isn’t unique to the advertising industry, but it’s certainly more pronounced.
Perhaps it’s the pursuit of fame and short-term fortune. There’s certainly some ignorance surrounding the history and evolution of the industry. Maybe they simply like predicting the future and exalting the death of one thing over another just for shits and giggle.
The reality, particularly in our industry, is that very few things die at the expensive of another. They are simply forced to evolve.
Look at media more generally as an obvious example. People naively love to say that everything is dying at the hands of social media and the Internet, particularly TV.
That doesn’t mean you should listen to the old school media types pumping out these kind of generic are stats either.
In many respects both are wrong and have totally taken their eyes off what’s important. Humans are inherently social and always have been. It’s really not some new enlightening discovery. Thanks simply to technological progress we can be more social than we used to be.
Yes it is true that people love great stories that are audio-visual. This kind of content has never been more popular, or social in the truest sense of the word. It’s also true that people will also want to watch them on great big fucking screens in their front rooms.
BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THE CURRENT ADVERTISING MODEL WILL SURVIVE.
The clever money is of course on companies such as HBO or more recently Netflix. Companies that spend efforts and Dollars reinventing TV and understanding how that will impact business models and consumption will win. Any company ignoring it, or trying to invent something so radically different will fail.
Getting slightly more esoteric for a second, take the printing press as another example. Despite Newspapers having a tough time the printing press won’t die in the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely to operate on such an industrial scale but it will still be around in some way, shape or form.
You wouldn’t be totally wrong if you thanked Gutenberg for being able to 3D print a base on the Moon.
Getting even more esoteric just to prove a point and stay on the printing press theme, I love a story used by Frank Rose in The Art of Immersion
Rose highlights how Charles Dickens used to promote his books. Back in the day, the printing press was obviously expensive so he couldn’t afford, or risk, getting a few thousand copies of a novel printed. Dicko would then write one or two chapters at a time and spruik them around Universities in the form of lectures.
The audience would then write him letters on what they thought of the story – good, bad or ugly. Dickens would then take that feedback and improve and refine them before moving on to the next chapters.
I think this is one of the best examples of demonstrating how concepts such as interactivity, social behavior, collaboration and beta testing are not new in the slightest. We just didn’t give them labels like we do today and we certainly forgot to use them in marketing, probably around about the time TV was invented.
From an advertising point of view I generally cringe when I get a brief on my desk asking for a ‘cool digital idea’. It’s a bloody dangerous brief and one that should be avoided at all costs. I love briefs that use technology to solve old problems.
Take KLM’s ‘Must See Map’. It’s brilliantly simple. The human need and behaviour is first, technology second. It’s reinventing the old map rather than trying to coming up with something so techy it’s impossible to use and canes my data.
Essentially start by reinventing what people currently use, rather than trying to invent something new. More often than not, you want a reinvention of something rather than an invention. In fact you could say all great inventions are exactly that.