Why Traditional Advertising is Kinda F**ked (and what we should do about it!)

Attention brands, business owners, advertising agencies, and media peeps!!!!

I have some bad news. And it’s not about the financial markets, the election, or your expanding waistline. Nope—it’s far, far worse.

Are you sitting down? Good. Here it comes…

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING IS IN A DEATH SPIRAL.

That’s right. DEATH SPIRAL.

Now before you freak and jump out a window (or worse—post nasty anonymous comments in reply to this statement), allow me to explain. And yes, to propose a solution… I am a Genius, after all.

Traditional Advertising’s “Death Spiral” can be attributed to 3 recent phenomena:
1.    Clutter
2.    Trust
3.    Social media

Let’s talk.

Clutter
I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter.

A little bit of nice, clean white space feels so much better.

If traditional ads were spaced like these last few paragraphs, they might actually WORK.

We might actually even ENJOY them.

But instead… most ads are more like this:
piledandsquishedrightontopofoneanothersothatwehardlyhaveachancetotakeabreath
letaloneprocessanyinformationordecodeanyoftheproductmysteriesorevaluatewhat
makesthembetterfastermoreeasiernewerDIFFERENTERorinanywaynecessarytoour
existenceonthisincreasinglyoverpopulatedplanet
GASPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear as mud? ☺

The worst part is that the Clutter Problem is escalating at a DEATH-SPIRAL-INDUCING rate.

Consider this:
In 1998 Google had an index of 25M pages. As of this summer, its index had hit the mind-blowing milestone of 1 TRILLION UNIQUE URLs.

A F**KING TRILLION!!!!!

Still more to consider:

There are >100,000,000 videos on YouTube.com—with >65k new ones being added DAILY.

In 2005 (most recent data I could find), there were roughly 40 BILLION product catalogs published. That’s equal to 134 catalogs for every man, woman & child in the US.

Yes, folks, the average person is exposed to some 3000 marketing messages per day… but the American Association of Advertising Agencies says we’re only able to absorb (at most!) 100.

And let’s face it, that’s probably an inflated number.

PS. 90% of people who can skip ads, do.

Yes, but most of those messages are crap. What matters is good creative. Killer copy. Pretty women with big boobs wiggling around to a HAWT soundtrack.

Ok… NO. Neither creative nor copy nor boobs—nor any combination of the three—are likely to solve the clutter problem. Besides… you’ve got 2 more hefty problems to solve.

Trust
“Lets talk about trust baby, let’s talk about you & me…”

People don’t trust advertisers. Period.

You know it. I know it. Let’s call a spade a spade and move on. But in case you’re still skeptical (or just plain crazy), here’s proof:

“In a 1998 Gallup poll rating honesty and ethical standards across a range of professions, advertising people ended up near the bottom, sandwiched between lawyers and car salesmen.”

SANDWICHED BETWEEN LAWYERS AND CAR SALESMEN, people!!!!! And perhaps, if we were to redo this poll today, they might change those to “Politicians and Pimps” (both of whom are better-dressed, frankly-speaking).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the trust that most consumers have in the opinions of other consumers.

“‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report.

And the trend is particularly true among younger consumers—namely, the ¼ of the US population (ONE F**KING FOURTH!) who are 14-24yo and were born wired.

Raised in a time where “SPAM” and “COOKIE” don’t automatically conjure images of food, today’s youth LIVES and BREATHES online:

  • They spend >16 hours online/week (online > TV)
  • 56% spend >1 hour daily sending instant messages
  • ¼ prefer social networks to F2F time with friends
  • Have an average of 53 online friends (vs. 11 “close” friends)
  • 96% use a social network DAILY

And they don’t care about your ad, people. They care what their friends think.

Trust me. 😉

Social media
Ah… every traditional advertiser’s favorite topic! YAY! Let’s hug.

Seriously, now—it’s common knowledge that people don’t like intrusive, one-way conversations. What is traditional advertising but an intrusive, one-way conversation?

The paradigm is shifting. Fast. Hard.

Ahh… The Solution!

Should we make the logo bigger?

Craft a catchy new tag line?

More girls? Bigger boobs?

No, no, no, no, NO!

Traditional Advertising’s Terminal Illness (aka Death Spiral) shall not be cured by a larger helping of the Same Old Shi*t. You’re going to have think different. Act different. BE DIFFERENT.

REALLY DIFFERENT.

Start by shifting your focus more on branding and less on advertising. Yes, branding. That magical je ne sais quoi that ultimately results in the feelings/thoughts/attitudes that people have about your product/service/company.

You mean our tagline?
No.
Our logo?
No.
The killer copy on our website?
No.
…..Our tagline?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.

Your brand isn’t what you say your company/product/service is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Branding isn’t advertising.

In fact, it’s more like… your child. You can’t control it (though it’s natural to want to try)… but you can [and should] certainly influence it, enable it, embrace it, and inspire it.

Start by listening. Really listening. No, REALLY listening.

There. Doesn’t that feel better already?

The 2008 Bonafide Genius Awards

I decided this morning that if I must tolerate this brazenly idiot-ridden world day in and torturous day out, the LEAST I can do as a Bonafide Genius is acknowledge the scant flecks of brilliance that do occasionally grace my horizon.

In fact, I’ve decided to do more than acknowledge—I’m going to celebrate them, goddammit! If MTV can give out awards to the morons that claim 15 minutes of embarassing fame on Reality TV, then by golly, a Genius such as I can preside over her own goddamn award ceremony!

And so… the Annual Bonafide Genius Awards are born. Official 2008 Awards to be announced on August 8, 2008 (Get it? 8/8/08. Oh so genius, yes?)

I’ll happily consider nominations… post them in the comments or email them to me (mzkagan99 [at] gmail [dot] com). Please include the relevant Genius category (ie is it advertising genius? marketing genius? fashion genius? musical genius? foodie genius? etc.).

And just in case the lot of you are both stupid and lazy, I’ll throw in the first few nominations myself:

Music Video Genius:
Weezer, Pork & Beans video

Brand/Business Strategy Presentation Genius:
The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy & Design

Future Predictions/Conspiracy-Theory Genius:
Prometeus – The Media Revolution

…And now… I am spent!

Bon nuit, my dear friends.

Conscious consumerism + good creative = RIGHT ON!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed at least some of the buzz about corporate social responsibility and the growing trend toward buying from companies that reflect an individual’s values. Just the other day, BBMG published a report that states nearly nine in ten Americans believe the “conscious consumer” label applies to them.

Side note: The Genius disagrees. You have to have a brain to be conscious. Most of you lemmings don’t have one. Or at least you don’t USE it much.

So I felt particularly giddy this morning when I cast my eyes on the latest ad campaign for CREDO Mobile, a socially-responsible outfit that lives under the Working Assets umbrella and donates 1% of “your charges” (whatever that means) to progressive nonprofit groups.

The cleverly named “Say Much More” campaign launched last week in two markets, Seattle and San Francisco, and combines a nice mix of print, outdoor and online ads, running on Ideal Bite, Huffington Post, Evite.com and [hey, let’s see if we can piss off a few conservatives! why not?!] Weather.com. The ads, which look like a text-message-gone-wrong, juxtapose common mobile-friendly quips with provocative political/social statements, inviting the reader to [what else?] “say much more.”

The Genius approves! Yes, folks, for a change, Madison Ave has produced something compelling, emotive, personal, meaningful, and simple—all wrapped into one neat little package. See it and weep!

Incidentally, the creative for this campaign was done by SS+K, who get double points for their cleverosity (Geniuses can make up words whenever they wish! So, zip it!) because of this: a guerrilla marketing effort that marries the use of their product with an entertaining spin on some controversial/sensitive social issues.

Here’s the 411:

As part of the campaign, Credo is producing political street theater in select cities using projected cartoon images on the sides of buildings drawn by political satirist Tom Tomorrow. Images of people such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are shown next to blank dialogue boxes. Passersby can use their mobile phones to text in what they think the characters should say and then the words appear as part of the images.

“The concept of [the projection] was about how the Credo phone is not an everyday tool but a tool for change. In launch areas we wanted to target social media, beyond the everyday voice,” said Alice Ann Wilson, design director, SS+K. “This is voice that contributes to larger issues. The text projection creates a sense of community where everyone can use their phone to actively engage in the brand.”

Love it!!! I may be an acrid-tongued genius, but I’m also a sucker for really good creative. Particularly when it’s inspiring, clever, and… uh… reflects my personal values. If that makes me a “conscious consumer,” so be it. Consciousness is one [and perhaps the only] trend this genius is willing to yield to.


70 ‘things to watch’ in ’07 reviewed

In December of 2006, brand-building power-house JWT produced a list of “70 Things to Watch in 2007.” A copy of it landed on my desk earlier this year, and at the time, I thought… well, this is kind of interesting.

Being a genius and all, I dipped it in a healthy dose of skepticism and filed it away in my wait-and-see-what-the-idiots-think file, where it sat collecting dust until… this morning.

I am particularly fond of the intro that frames the list:

“As globalization continues to make our world seem smaller, localization will come to a head in 2007,” says Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT. “We’ll put great emphasis on sourcing everything from food to textiles. Decadent and excessive consumption will fall to the wayside as we stress quality, minimal environmental impact and support of local producers.”

Right… and Hillary Clinton will ask Monica Lewinsky to be her Vice President, and a dozen purple pigs will fly out of my butt.

Of course the sad part is that I desperately wish Ann’s prediction came true… but then what in the world would I do for a living if there were no more interest in decadence and excessive consumption???

Anyway… here’s the list—with a few brilliant comments from Your Truly in bold. See how many of these things you’ve heard of—er, agree with. My personal fav has got to be #30: “brand sluts”. How and when did that become a cutting-edge trend???

Seventy Things to Watch in 2007 (by the folks at JWT):
1. Skype/VoIP
2. Wii and the next-generation gaming systems
3. The business of social networking (love it!)
4. Pop-up stores, restaurants and bars … installation style
5. Shrinky Dink technology (TVs are flat and hidden, iPods are down to half an ounce,
speakers are smaller and less visible, and so on)
6. The rise of nanotechnology
7. Sustainable construction/green buildings
8. Hydrogen fuel cell technology
9. Veggie-bus: school buses running on biodiesel fuel
10. Trans-fat fallout
11. Reality show talent searches (is that an oxymoron or what?)
12. Ohio State’s freshman basketball phenom, Greg Oden (who?)
13. Fear of agri-terrorism (Is that like, when McDonald’s runs out of Happy Meals?)
14. Halal foods
15. Participatory advertising (user-generated advertising and music video competitions) (love it!)
16. Premium-drink bars (thirsty just thinking about it….)
17. Organic fabrics
18. Stem cell research
19. Iceland (???? Really?)
20. Hybrid dogs (Dogs that run on batteries or solar panels? Huh?)
21. Locally sourced produce (how retro!)
22. Churchonomics: religion as big business
23. Reunions of donor insemination siblings (that’s an after-school special in the making, no?)
24. Hitting the off button: demanding downtime
25. Indian cross-over actress Aishwarya Rai
26. Home-schooling (EW!)
27. Natural building materials such as stone and wood
28. Binge chilling (sweet!)
29. Personalized diets
30. Brand sluts
31. Modernized tradition
32. Chindia
33. Alpha moms
34. Internet TV
35. Citizen journalism
36. RSS feeds
37. Fresh Direct
38. Google domination (Google as acquirer, and Microsoft as Google follower)
39. Mobile video
40. Rachael Ray
41. Inconspicuous consumption (like when I hide my copy of People under the whole wheat tortillas at the check-out line?)
42. X-Factor’s Leona Lewis
43. Dreamgirls’ Jennifer Hudson
44. Environmental causes
45. Companies going green
46. Barack Obama
47. Soft, natural hair
48. Microgeneration (generating one’s own energy)
49. Party planning for teens
50. Paying for user-generated content (sweet, maybe I’ll make a few bucks after all)
51. Higher-waisted pants
52. iPhone (this should have been at the TOP of the list!)
53. Co-branding (think Nike plus Apple)
54. Britain’s Amy Winehouse
55. The rebirth of raves
56. Energy-saving lightbulbs
57. Sacha Baron Cohen
58. Mash-ups (music, Web sites, everything)
59. Japanese apparel chain Uniqlo
60. Promoting “Brand Me” (uh… hello… that’s so 1999)
61. Ensemble TV casts (Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, Criminal Minds)
62. Multilingual cinema
63. “Kidults”
64. Transformers (the movie)
65. Web-based microfinancing
66. Generosity (not that!!!!!)
67. Al Gore, the environmentalist
68. Unstrategic alliances (Paris and Britney, Tom and Brooke, Bush Sr. and Clinton)
69. Europeans getting fatter (it’s about time!)
70. Age shuffling (40 is the new 20, for example)