The Future Of Advertising? It’s Still “The Idea” Stupid

Currently, there are a lot of “experts” out there with opinions and declarations about “the future of advertising” (1.6 billion {update: 2.3 billion] Google results). A lot of blog posts, a lot of podcasts, a lot of events, a lot of buzzwords. A lot of nothing.

Where is advertising going? What’s the next thing? What’s the next next thing?

At the Cannes Festival of Creativity in June, the letters AR, VR, MR, ML, AI, and IoT were tossed off casually in about a million half-drunk conversations.

But none of them is the future of advertising.

Also not the future of advertising are: MarTech; blockchain; programmatic; influencers (macro, micro, nano); “experiential” “storytelling”; Facebook (LOL); “cagencies”; “Watson”; bots; influencer bots; programmatic bots; copy bots; customized drones; brain chips; moon projections; and “no advertising” (well except, ultimately).

MarTechies are now promising they can deliver the right message to the right consumer at exactly the right time. “Message” is the most important part of this digital wet dream advertising model. Because “technology” does not create ”deep” “immersive” “hyperconnected” engagements to consumers. Only messages (aka, ideas) do.

When I write “idea” here, I mean the idea behind the creative of the ad campaign/project. Ad creatives call it the “concept.” These concepts are an ad agency’s products. They are what clients pay them for, or at least, what they should be paying them for.

And every client — during any campaign/project presentation— should ask the agency: “What’s the idea/concept?” If the agency can’t give you a simple, concise answer, show them the door.

Here’s a recent good idea:

Colin Kaepernick boldly just did it when he first chose to sit and then kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem before two San Francisco 49ers preseason games in 2016. Prodded by Wieden & Kennedy, Nike — with Kaepernick’s approval and involvement — turned these protests into controversial ads.

Unlike most of today’s “purpose” ads, this one tied to the brand perfectly and at least felt authentic. The old “traditional” formula — visual, headline, logo, tagline — worked wonderfully. And good ideas like this do not come out of conference room brainstorms or really any kind of collaboration. An idea always comes from one mind. Always. (Doubters please read this passage from East Of Eden.)

As the great “creative” George Lois said earlier this year:

“Reject group grope. Teamwork might work when building an Amish barn. But it can’t create a big idea.”

The “future” of advertising? It’s always been here, and always will be right here, staring you right in your stupid face.