I’d like to thank the APA for inviting me this afternoon to talk about the future of advertising from a perspective of how to use communications in the future…
The best way to see the future would be to have a time machineBut time machines go it two directions; we can see the future, but we can also go back in time and look at the past
But what I’d actually like to talk to you about is communities… the past, present and future of them – because it underpins everything we do as marketers
So, what is a community?It’s only ever these three elements; it just so happens the circumstances in which communities have existed have changed
I’d like to talk about three distinct eras… pre-industrial, industrial, and the network era
Think about how people formed communities in a world before mass-production; they were restricted to forming face-to-face relationships with the people in their immediate surroundings, and by and large the contexts they formed communities around would be focused on how their village or town, and their livelihoods within it, could survive and thrive.
The communication of information was limited by the nature of geography too… the distance between communities meant information travelled very slowly from one community to another
So communities were very local indeed. People were bound by geographical restrictions, and furthermore by social restrictions. We all had a place. But things began to change…
The industrial revolution changed communities all over the country, and the world. Small rural communities began to come together more in urban locations, around factories and mills… communities got bigger. And they got bigger because the factory and mill owners needed the workers for mass production of goods…
We mass-produced everything; matches, pins, canned food, cars…
…but with one small caveat… as long as everything was the homogeneous, as long it was the same
The mass media industry, born in the fires of the industrial revolution, works exactly along the same principles as mass production.The chain goes like this: there are significant production costs involved at the start (building a printing press, or a recording studio, or TV station), and relatively small duplication and distribution costs. All of these costs are initially borne by the creator, and recouped on a one-to-one basis from the consumer.
Then the communications are shipped or broadcast all around the country, so that all of the previously unconnected communities are united through mass media… information they all receive at the same time, and are all paying attention to.You could tell every community in the country the same thing all at once.
But the same caveat applies – it all has to be the same message. Exactly the same.
So whilst we now see communities built from face-to-face relationships in their geographical and class restricted locales, they have the ‘mass media’ feeding them information too… The things we can relate to each other about come from the mass media… because corrie is more exciting than your actual Manchester Terraced street, of course…
So all across the country, mass ‘national’ communities are being formed who all read the same stuff, watch the same TV, listen to the same radio… mass production didn’t just mass produce objects and information, it mass-produced consumers
Unsurprising, the mass-producing manufacturers love this… the thing about mass production is that you need equally mass consumption to make it financially viable. So manufacturers needed a way to talk to large groups of people.
And because everyone was paying attention to the mass media because it represented such a step up from the dull, everyday local lives they led. I didn’t matter then that the communications that companies were forced to produce were homogenous and one-way, because that’s how people received the rest of their information too.
Our communities were still local, but our frames of reference were from the mass media.Now, you know what’s coming next, don’t you…
The arrival of the network information economy, chiefly characterised by the internet, has ripped the mass-industrial model apart.
Be under no allusions of how deep and structural a change this is; Yochai Benkler’s book ‘The Wealth of Networks’ is a fantastic comparison of the shift; he points out that this shift is as fundamentally great a shift as we’ve had since Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’ ushered in the industrial age.
And one of the main examples of how big it is in in media; remember the production chain of communications?
In production, people have in their homes a machine capable of producing that which previously only large organisations could…
Then the nature of digital information as a non-rival good means duplication is near instant, and potentially infinite, at virtually no cost…
But perhaps the most important factor is the change in distribution; we can send information to anyone, anywhere, about anything, as long as they are connect to the network.
The chain has been destroyed – it’s been taken out of the hands of the communications creators
Essentially the revolution has meant that that people are no longer just ‘consumers’. They participate in the production, duplication and distribution as much as any creator… and they don’t just do this with other people’s information, they are equally at creating their own unique information too.
And we are connected like never before; if you imagine the scales weighing company-to-person and person-to-person communications, where once they had tipped in favour of mass media, they’ve tipped right back again.
Nowadays, we can form the communities we really want, with anyone around anything.
Clay Shirky makes a great point – we, as people and communities, didn’t really want the mass media landscape. But it was the best thing available to us, so we took it.We can form communities ourselves, around whatever we want…
Which means the big, homogenous brand messages we’ve been built to make and deliver of behalf of clients are being increasingly ignored… because people have better things to do. They’re part of the communities that they are genuinely, enthusiastically involved in.
Oh dear. What are we going to do? Pack up and go home?Hang on though
We’ve always just been about connecting people to companies.The purpose remains the same.The means are different.
We need to do this for companies; look at how they act in a community with peopl
Because right at the centre of it, companies are a little community of their own. People brought together around a common context, a purpose. We need to make sure they are connected as much as possible to the rest of society and the people who want to be a part of that context too.
So, how to do it? Well, for the purposes of today, I’ve looked less at the first crucial stages (making sure the community of you own company is right), and more at the role that external communications, and specifically TV, might play…33
Talking of TV, let’s start with something Michael Grade said last year, when he was complaining about Google…Now, Sir Michael of course has a vested interest in Content, less so in Technology. So maybe he would say that.33
But Emily Bell at The Guardian responded with something very interesting; creativity only goes into the space technology has created for it…33
…and most technology folk are motivated by one of four things…33
So that was kind of interesting… then a smart fellow called Ed Cotton in San Francisco suggested that this was maybe a nice way to think about brands in the future… Useful, Entertaining, Educative or Connective.41
Which is really appealing I think as a checklist; what do you DO for people as a brand?42
Because, let’s be honest, people aren’t listening to the old ‘information’ messages as much as they were… firstly because we get our information from the internet, or from the 200 friends we have at the end of an instant communication device… and secondly because, well, the interesting stuff people are sharing with each other is more interesting42
So if we’re about connecting people and companies, it’s not really about just making 30 second vignettes… it’s about doing something for people. Being educative, entertaining, useful, connecting them with others
Let’s look at two examples…44
The first one, perhaps somewhat predictably, is Cadbury’s… after all, Cadbury’s have proven that TV still works, right?44
And you’ll all be aware of the terrifically entertaining and engaging ads…44
And they do entertain; here’s a word cloud of the sorts of things people in research said when asked how the ad makes them feel… the bigger the words, the more people said it…<number><number>
…and more conventionally, a bar chart… but significant numbers of people appreciating the fact that Cadbury’s were entertaining them…
So right, fine, entertainment. Cadbury’s clearly have that covered…50
…but surely just making an entertaining ad isn’t any different from the old top down model..?True. Which is why it’s all the other stuff around the TV that makes it work hard.50
Now, more than ever, you’ve got to take into account every possible touchpoint with the consumer in your communications mix50
So, with the new eyebrows campaign… yes, you’ve got TV50
Then there’s all the PR-able stuff… where other people in the media pick it up and run with it50
There’s the little fun things around it… like the ‘Dennis Healy-ator’50
…and of course you can annoy people on buses the length and breadth of the country with the free ringtone on Orange…50
…and being a new campaign, there’s lots more coming……that I can’t tell you about. Yet.57
Anyway, if you do lots of things around people, they start feeling warmer towards your company…57
…and when that happens, they can now share that warmth with others…57
One major, major place for Cadbury’s that this happens is of course Youtube. Already there’s a fair few views of the ad (about 3 million), and the User Generated Content is beginning to pick up too…57
If it does as well as Gorilla did on Youtube, then we’ll be doing well61
What we’re seeing is that the Cadbury’s campaigns are about entertainment, that’s true. But they’re more about Connecting people together… a shared experience, a moment of joy.62
So for Cadbury, TV ads are still an essential part of the plan.But they are just a part. Increasingly, it is unlikely to work on it’s own.65
Which brings me onto the second example; TV is an essential part of this plan too. But there’s not a TV ad in sight…65
Sage, the business solutions company you may know best as software specialists in accountancy, came to us just over a year ago looking for a way to connect beyond the standard B2B options of trade press and online.65
Now, unlike many B2B companies, who focus on a small niche, potential Sage clients can live anywhere across the UK, and can range from being the sole trader to being pretty large enterprises…65
So what, we thought, can we offer the SMEs? Can we help them to connect to Sage by offering something that the larger international businesses have lots of that they can’t afford?69
Well, one thing that larger organisations have that smaller ones don’t usually is a lot of training courses, outward bound exercises, teambuilding, staff training and improvement… what if we got Sage to provide some of that for people?69
…then we could do it al over the country too, and reach all the audiences…69
…and hell, if we’re doing all that in this day and age, we might as well film it as content, and make it a competition……but if we’re now making a programme of it, well, the obvious thing to do would not be to make a brand new format that we’d have to publicise…69
…let’s bring back the format that kickstarted the whole outward-bound business training anyway…69
So we did. Sage, PHD & Drum PHD worked with ITV to secure the rights, produce the show, and broadcast it on primetime ITV1. It’s already been taken as a format to Ireland, and we’re now looking at a wider worldwide roll out in the future too.69
Very clearly having a central property like the Krypton Factor entertains people. But it wasn’t just the entertainment value we were looking for…75
By co-creating such a property, Sage could show how they do indeed live and breathe business; it was the perfect embodiment of the Sage community…75
On the site there’s a host of different interviews with noted business people offering useful advice…<number>
…and there’s the wonderfully addictive suite of brain training games, which not only advance your business brain, they tell you your business IQ, and show you where you’ve come compared to everyone else…<number>
…which you can then go across to Linkedin to discuss in the groups there dedicated to Training Your Business Brain…<number>
All in all, it’s doing all of the jobs we talked about brands of the future doing…80
…and across the country, it’s building up a great community of people who want to train their business brains…80
We’re now in the middle of this really exciting, rich crossover of the old mass-industry world, and the new network society… and what we’re seeing is that, currently, the new world is helping the old world work better.
So I’ve no doubt that the future is going to be amazing.
Transcript of "The Future of Advertising, APA, 17/02/09"