The danger of confusing the future of advertising with Facebook

Written by on July 4, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments
FreeImages.com/ Liahna Reyes

FreeImages.com/ Liahna Reyes

The advertising equivalent of the Mobile World Congress has just finished in Cannes. Among the empty bottles of rose, over turned chairs and a whole raft of meaningless industry awards (called Lions, for some reason) are some rather sad conclusions.

The first is that there seems to be a weary realisation that when you say online advertising what you actually mean is Facebook or Google. These two companies together took almost two-thirds of the $60 billion online advertising market in 2015. That statistic alone would influence you into thinking that there were no other games in town.

There was a focus, according to most of the reports, on getting the message right across all channels, not just repurposing TV adverts. Tablets, laptops and smartphones are basically just small TVs, right?

What is slightly depressing is that this once intellectually mighty, creative, hard-drinking, dynamic industry seems be a step behind. How long have we been propping up bars and saying ‘of course, with advertising, your message must be designed for and work across all digital channels’? Yet, only now does the advertising industry seem to be getting there.

What is even more depressing (apart from one of Facebook’s booths that looked like a portaloo) is that the industry seems obsessed by quantity rather than quality.

Even we mere mortals in the digital world know that there are no longer any clear cut divisions between PR, marketing, advertising and, well, just getting your message across in the most relevant way that you can.

And the ad blocking threat seems to get ‘worse’ and yet seemed to get little airtime at the event. With almost half a billion people using ad blocking software and the next generation of browser ready to block adverts by default, there was anything but a sense of panic. Our own theory (based in customer service wisdom) is that for every person who is annoyed enough to take action, there are 10 who are thinking about it, and certainly feeling the same way. And talking of TV, try going and asking a 25 year old if they own a TV. The answer will probably be ‘no’ followed by the question, ‘why would I need to?’

Yet, instead of discussing the threat, they majored on the rise of VR, programmatic advertising and those Lion Awards.

Only a few brands and companies had the courage to get to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter, said one, is that 95 percent of advertising is crap.

These few big brands are investing in studios so that they can make compelling stories that people will actually want to watch and engage with. They know it is about the story. Others should follow suit, it is, after all, not actually necessary to buy entire studios nowadays.

The sadness was that these brave souls who acknowledged the real problem with the industry did not even get a Lion.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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