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GLOBAL 2016: Advertising as we know it has ended, with products moving to center stage

Consumers want the truth, not fancy words and pictures
 
by Renato Duo
Planning Manager
J. Walter Thompson, Sao Paolo
Renato.Duo@jwt.com
 
Advertising as we know it has come to an end.
 
That wonderful world of smiling families and golden ballrooms of perfection, settings of inspirational waltzes, with a beautiful and emotional speech being given in the background has ended. It has ended for many reasons, but it has ended mainly because people no longer believe it.
 
It is rational speech 2.0; the evolution of what you see is what you get; the consumer attitude of: “I want to see exactly what I want to get. Show me exactly, clearly and quickly what the product has to offer and, who knows, I might buy it.”
 
Cartesian. Raw.
 
And if the current idea in recent years has been to keep the consumer at the center of the conversation, then the natural evolution of this – considering our business is to sell, regardless of the scenario – is that the product for the consumer starts to become central as well. Meeting a need. Fulfilling a desire. Providing a solution.  
  
And therefore, that beautiful speech about a brand made to make TV viewer’s hair stand becomes almost unnecessary, and the emotion intended to arouse in consumers no longer real.
 
The game is not over
This does not mean that advertising will turn into an infinite succession of functional demos and cold testimonials about the latest discovered benefits. No, advertising is not becoming a medical leaflet.
 
A great example of this is the campaign to launch the new global positioning of Coca-Cola: “Taste The Feeling.” In this campaign, intrinsic attributes have become the real protagonists. And this hasn’t resulted in any piece of the advertising looking like a medical leaflet or even a simple testimonial. It is simply a product and like each one of its assets, it connects to the consumer’s daily life needs. Check it out on YouTube and see how clear the message is: I am a soda for your daily life. Period.
 
It is also easier to realize that this change does not mean, in any way, we are heading backwards and travelling down the pyramid steps of building brands. It might only mean that the story of a brand should not be necessarily told in such a vertical way with pyramids, stairs or other ascension metaphors. Things may be more horizontal.
 
The sky is the limit; not the destination.
   
Always on alert 
But okay, let’s face it. This doesn’t happen simply because people have overdone it with endless emotional empty speeches. Environment and time must be considered. 
 
It is the era of a mobile phone in one hand plus a product to be sold in the other. It is an era of influencers. An era of reducing intermediaries, of less control of speeches, and mainly, of infinite opening of channels.
 
Channels that deliver the most essential commercial communication that exists; a relevant character, speaking in a consistent manner and in love with a given product, to those who want to buy it. Wouldn’t it be the greatest thing done since Don Draper walked up Madison Avenue?
 
This is the very reason why it’s not up to us to be reactive, but only to study how we are going to live with this new paradigm from now on, where the medium starts to be as important as the message, or perhaps even more important.
 
Sharp information
Another factor has also contributed to this theory of the end of advertising as we know it: the (not so) new way of facing data.
 
The day that a simple database took steroids and become big data changed everything. This hypothetical machine, impressively large, kept somewhere unknown and secret, that eagerly collects information about me, you and any other person who has used some gadget just seconds ago, has strengthened even more the parameters of the practical speech in advertising. In other words – knowing exactly what consumers want and providing them with an exact message about a certain need without fancy words or hyperbole – getting straight to the point.
 
Once again, I reaffirm: it is not the end; only an evolution. One more step among thousands we have already taken. We have survived the use of computers in agencies and the first dot-com bubble, and, yes, we will survive all of this once again.
 
After all, advertising as we know it has come to an end.
 
Long live advertising. 

Action Points for brand building post advertising

 
1. Provide guidance.
As brands have become more porous to multiple influences from a contemporary and hyper-connected world, marketing and advertising agency teams have lost part of their roles as leaders and builders of a brand. However, they assume another role just as important – guiding and managing the brand through the constant movement of  its image.

2. Get more creative.
The end of advertising as we know it requires being even more creative. Objectivity and truth are watchwords for any brand. But this does not mean that the solution is to fill consumers with demos, explanations and very extensive reasons to believe.

3. Identify the influencers.
Influencers become assets of a brand. We should use them. Or, at least, understand their importance.