Has Advertising Lost its Touch?
At Studio Culture, we’ve been re-watching Mad Men, and it got us thinking about the ways advertising has changed in the last 50 years. If you haven’t seen Mad Men, it’s an American television show set in the 1960s, about the lives of the men and women working in a Madison Avenue advertising agency.
Although the story of the show itself is fantastic, one of our favourite aspects is seeing all of the advertising campaigns the characters come up with for their range of real-life brands including Kodak, Heinz, American Airlines, Playtex, Coca-Cola, Jaguar, Hershey and many others.
Every advertisement the characters take on is a major undertaking – countless hours of creativity go into developing characters, stories, copy and designs. The ads are made to create lasting impressions, so they are always unique and innovative.
After being inspired by Mad Men’s approach to advertising, we found ourselves wishing that the advertising of today was a little more focused on creativity and a little less focused on data and the safety of mass-appeal. Tools and data are very useful, of course, but they shouldn’t be held in higher regard than creativity.
Advertisements cannot be successful unless they tell a story and connect with audiences – we think it’s time marketers started to focus on forging connections and not just getting CTRs.
A Brief History of Advertising
Although the history of advertising can be dated back to ancient civilisations, it became a major force in capitalist economies of the 19th century, with an increase in the popularity of newspapers and magazines. Since then, advertising has experienced major milestones like the introduction of television (the first TV ad was broadcast in 1941, in America) and of course the internet.
The internet has changed – and is still changing – advertising in numerous ways. Unlike print, television or radio, internet advertising allows for powerful technologies that can track responses, target consumers, connect with audiences and elicit purchases like never before. As Harvard Business Professor John A. Deighton puts it, “You can seamlessly move the customer from awareness to temptation, to transaction.”
Although the internet provides a great opportunity for sales, the focus on efficiency and data seems to be taking over from a focus on creating innovative campaigns.
Why Is Creativity Necessary?
Creativity is the spark that brings life to advertising and branding. Creativity connects with audiences, makes people think and gives brand messages (that would otherwise be dull and insignificant) a place in the hearts and minds of consumers.
- Is exciting
- Gets results
- Evokes emotion
- Is risky, in a great way
- Captures attention
- Makes campaigns stand out
- Highlights the uniqueness of brands
Creativity is essential. Without it, ads are meaningless.
Data-Driven Marketing = Loss of Creativity?
Data is a valuable marketing resource that enables brands to gather deep insights into their audiences and the most effective ways to reach them.
When marketing decisions are based on numbers alone, creativity is seen as a waste of time. This is particularly true when sales are low – marketers and their clients stop focussing on creative ideas and instead start punching numbers.
According to HSBC’s former head of marketing in EMEA, Philip Mehl, “Marketing used to be a creative challenge but it’s a data challenge now… When I think of TV ad breaks 20 years ago, probably six out of seven spots were entertaining – now it’s more likely to be one out of seven… Marketers have lost a lot of the skill of storytelling and the art of having an impact that actually creates a memory.”
By focusing on analysing numbers, marketers can easily lose sight of the creativity and individuality behind great ads. Data is important – it can provide intelligence, gather information, identify buying patterns and determine outcomes. But it cannot create an emotional connection with a consumer. In Mad Men, the characters spend as much time sitting around and waiting for a brilliant idea to come to them as they do with their pen to paper. We’re not saying employees should be sitting around all day – but we do think it’s important for marketers to take the time to have new, exciting ideas that are worth sharing.
Balance of Data & Creativity Is Necessary
Every business has access to the same tools and metrics, and this means advertisements can quickly start to look and feel the same. When marketers focus on data alone, ads become increasingly similar, strategies become near-identical, and all sense of innovation is lost. What’s needed is a balance. Data-driven marketing and creativity are not mutually exclusive – in fact, it’s the integration of data in creative work and the creative application of data that can ultimately win over customers.
Creativity Is Needed More Than Ever
The rise of the ad blocker (and ad-free experiences on websites) has many advertising employees biting their nails.
People are sick of being accosted with dull, interruptive and endless marketing content. They are tired of being targeted and seeing the same ads over and over. Millennials, in particular, have a different appetite when it comes to advertising (and generally much less patience for ads). According to Rob Tarkoff, president and CEO of social content management firm Lithium Technologies, millennials “don’t want to be targeted or broadcast it on social media like it’s a TV or a radio,” Tarkoff said. “They want it to be a conversation, they want to engage. It has to be a two-way interaction if brands want to succeed. It can’t be one way any longer.”
If marketers are going to defeat ad blockers, they really need to reconsider their approach to marketing. Advertisements need to be more creative and engaging now than ever before. The focus needs to shift from quantity to quality, and brands need to figure out how to engage consumers in brand conversations more organically.
As the world becomes increasingly data-centric and automated, it is important that we don’t lose our human touch. If marketers commit to creativity as much they do to analysing data, the future of advertising could be bright. Ad blocking is sure to put some fire in the bellies of marketers – and we’re pretty happy about it.
Contributed by David Bobis
For more articles like this, check out Voices.
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About David Bobis
David Bobis is the Head of Digital Marketing of Studio Culture. Based in Australia, Studio Culture is an award-winning agency that provides website development and digital marketing solutions to clients both nationally and internationally.