Just the other day, I noticed a few creative directors on LinkedIn complaining about the state of advertising.
Well, not just the other day.
I could hop online any given weekday and find cranky ad folks decrying the latest influencer shoutout, questioning the brand value of an expensive stunt or (my personal favorite) arguing semantics about whether content is the same as advertising.
When I look at those rants and snarks, I don’t actually see the points and counterpoints anymore.
I see denial.
I see very talented people who still believe advertising is frozen in time. And it often is.
But it’s also one-off stunts created solely to generate buzz and awareness, memes with ugly typography and 84-second videos that don’t begin with a concept or end with a tagline.
That’s what advertising is now, right alongside brilliant integrated campaigns.
The sooner we embrace the diversity of what creative can look like these days, the happier we will all be. And the better the work will be. That is, if our goal is to advertise a product or service in 2019, the current and actual year. Isn’t the most exciting part of our job finding new ways to influence people to buy something?
So why all the hand-wringing?
Part of it, as much as nobody will admit, is plainly obvious: fear of change. The reaction I saw online to a recent article about a woman who wants to turn high-profile influencers into creatives was all too predictable: big-agency creative directors got huffy about people who "don’t know anything about brands" trying their hand at our job.
The unwashed masses couldn’t possibly understand how to sell a product in a compelling way! It’s impossible! There’s no strategy!
The reality is that things change. Whatever "advertising" was 50 years ago -- or even 50 days ago -- it isn’t now, and won’t be tomorrow. As creatives, it’s easy to bemoan this fact. The people we’re advertising to? It’s not important to them.
I don’t know a single consumer sitting around waiting for the next great print ad. I know plenty of real, live people who are waiting for the next awesome meme to share or chance to buy a Whopper at McDonald’s because that’s an amazing brand experience.
But hey, I’m just a random creative from a shop you never heard of. Don’t let me stop you.
Make the ads so damn good, brands realize they’re wasting their money on all the things that are apparently killing real advertising. I suspect that won’t happen, though, because it’s a hell of a lot easier to claim there are bad or "non" ads out there than it is to create work so powerful and successful that it renders all new forms of marketing pointless.
A 30-second TV spot so strategic and effective, it makes everybody forget whatYouTube even is? Bring it! In the meantime, the content studios and experiential gurus of the world will continue to pick away at the agency model. Just as much intelligence and craft will be put into the work they produce. That work simply won’t look or feel like what’s comfortable and familiar. Or maybe if you look closely enough, it will be very familiar -- a tactic that’s been used for decades, but just has a new name or media wrapper.
You might be reading this and thinking, "Wow, you sound pretty cranky too." I admit it.
And that’s the problem. Instead of breaking consumer’s brains with innovative TikTokvideos, a not-insignificant percentage of us are debating whether a TikTok video is even advertising at all. Guess what? It is. And when something even more unexpected comes along, that will be advertising, too.
It’s our job to create the best damn version of it possible.
George Ellis is creative director and co-founder at Bandolier Media in Austin, Texas.