I wrote a piece a few weeks ago called ‘the structure of advertising revolutions’.
That was all about the way in which we should expect the advertising world to deal with changing paradigms, based on how the scientific community does. It was inspired by Clay Shirky’s video, blog and book, pointing out that the new media don’t have to be an additional load for customers, and that the overall effect can be to free up cognitive function, and to simplify our relationships with brands.
So. Are we there yet. Will we reach this post-marketing-apocalypse-techno-babble-euphoria? Or, is this quasi-Marxist ‘perfect distribution of information’ vision just so much more dungaree wearing nonsense?
And perhaps here we are starting to see some evidence that we’ve reached nearly the top of the hill. Whilst the advertising agencies keep trying to repurpose their wares to suit prevailing circumstances – W&K in particular making a spectacular advert which people actually tuned in to see – many firms seem to be reconsidering their position in networks, understand how influence and reputation is distributed, and at least starting to listen closely to what their customers are telling them.
If you’d told me five years ago that high-street banks would be considering allowing their staff to speak directly to customers using blogs or that Cannes Gold winners would be a website which was supported with advertising – not the other way around – I would have assumed you were still drunk on the Kool Aid of 99/2000.
But what’s happening in every marketing department company in the world (from the guy who also does sales, to the multinational with teams in every country) is new, and exciting stuff. Of course there’s been some goofy failures. When, precisely, was marketing immune from huge, public and embarrassing mistakes. But for every bit of fake user-generated content, or every time the Playstation boys trips over their skateboarding trousers, we see an attempt to really try and do something new.
Perhaps it isn’t any more than the rephrasing of an age old phenomenon (as Leo says in West Wing, the internet turned out to be ‘no more than an efficient distribution mechanism for gossip and pornography’). Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to human nature, but we cannot deny that the world has changed recently – if only to revert to a pre-TV, pre-media monopoly time.
So, should we go a bury our TVs in the garden? Well not quite yet. Mass media events will still exist, like the Olympics or the Apprentice. We need common points of social reference. But don’t expect your kids to feel the same way. And what are you going to say to them… it would be hard to make a case for our older fashioned ways being more healthy or intelligent.