Post-Advertising: The Futures of Branding, Advertising & Learning

In this series on The Renaissance of Utopias, we’re recapping IAM Weekend 17 and bringing you everything we learned and explored in one place.

At the upcoming IAM Weekend 18 (April 27–29, 2018) we’ll be discussing ‘The Subversion of Paradoxes’ looking at the contradictions, collisions and coexistence of realities, in the next 7 years. Join us!

As we move away from a post-industrial society into the internet age, how do we build creative ecosystems instead of just replacing it with contradictory “creative industries”? How can creativity evolve beyond this commercialism? How can we empower young people to follow their passions and what opportunities does this paradigm shift bring to the futures of work and education?

With these questions in mind, during the Post-Advertising session we decided to connect perspectives and topics which are not that common when addressing the huge topic of “Futures of Advertising”, currently dominated by algorithms, clicks and ‘digital’ everything.

One coming from a talent source, Europe’s largest specialist arts and design university, another from the heart of the industry, an innovative and experimental branding unit inside one of the largest global advertising and communications groups in the world and one from a niche publication who invited on stage one of the masterminds behind the largest single-day protest in U.S. history and a media activist challenging the stereotypes of muslim women.

Together we started exploring questions around the social role of creativity, commercialism, learning, branding, authenticity, influence and representation. Welcome to the Post-Advertising age!

IAM x UAL Futures

The session started with Luke Whitehead, Creative Learning Director of UAL Futures, an initiative of University of the Arts London (UAL) to demystify digital practices, foster transdisciplinary collaboration across the university and empower students with the tools to invent better futures.

He took the stage along with 10 students to share the story behind the first iteration of the UAL Futures Studio, a project created in partnership with IAM, that aims to critically understand and shape how emerging technologies will transform the social, cultural, economic, environmental and political questions driving the futures of student experience and the things they care about.

“We call our teaching philosophy ‘speculative pedagogy.’ It blends processes, tools and methods from design thinking, futures thinking and speculative and critical design, providing a framework for designing educational experiences that help students develop creative attributes, digital skills, and collaborative mindsets.”

Note: We will share more details of this project in an upcoming special feature of IAM Journal. Stay tuned!

Form&: Post-Branding and Micro Utopias

Next up Carolyn Centeno, Head of Development, and Manuel Dilone, Principal at Form&, an experimental NYC-based branding unit part of the global advertising company HAVAS Worldwide, shared their insights on how the advertising industry is moving into a world of post-branding.

Often, the word ‘branding’ is often moulded to fit many different contexts, and without a common vocabulary, brands, and what they mean, have themselves become fractured, Carolyn said. Likewise, many core values at the heart of brands have become predictable, static and repetitive (e.g. honest, real, authentic), so Form& set about exploring how brands can be adaptive, contextual and, most importantly, how they can listen better.

Manuel explored this further, explaining how brands have shifted from being static (just having a logo and one message), to being dynamic systems (with multiple voices across multiple channels) and being shaped by computational design: they learn, listen and respond to the environment around them.

From this starting point, IAM partnered with Form& to present Micro-Utopias, an audiovisual installation created for IAM Weekend 17 exploring the different communities and dimensions that develop on the Internet. Playing with the idea that one person’s utopia could be another’s dystopia, the installation physically manifested the relativism and diversity of perspectives found online, a phenomenon that brands must be aware of if they wish to contribute good in an increasingly ephemeral world.

Ricarda Messner & Caia Hagel : SOFA Magazine

The Post-Advertising session closed with Ricarda Messner and Caia Hagel, founders of SOFA Magazine, who shared the story behind what they describe as the SOFA Universe, which also includes events, talks, workshops and chat rooms. In other words, a ‘globalized intersectional chat zone’ created to empower diverse voices to tackle one tantalising, terrifying, tantamount and/or taboo topic every issue. Because…

Life is a Chatroom

As internet cultures drive a fundamental societal shift, Ricarda and Caia highlight the importance of an empathetic, judgement-free zone where we can engage with the crucial topics of these days. Be it Gen Z, fashion politics, the gender spectrum, video games, webcam sex, authenticity or the role influencers, SOFA exists ready to look into the near futures in a different way.

For IAM Weekend 17, we partnered with Ricarda and Caia to present the first edition of ‘Will U Still 💘 Me Tomorrow?’, a sofa conversation series / IRL chatroom to explore further the topic of their second issue: Cyberlove.

With a bold question as a provocative welcome screen, *CAN WE COWGIRL CAPITALISM?*, they invited Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, media activist and founder of, and Vanessa Wruble, co-Founder of the Women’s March and Okayafrica, to discuss the cultural significance of influencers, representation of marginalised voices, and how those voices can leverage their influence to push brands and advertising in the right direction.

A Post-Advertising world will require us to build a dynamic, truly diverse and inclusive, purpose-driven system in place of the current one, which can too often be overly commercial, static and lacking in meaning. And the way moving forward is to empower the youth of today with bolder, more imaginative attitudes and approaches. As Kanye once said:

At IAM Weekend 17, we heard how UAL Futures is doing exactly that, how Form& is creating systems for brands to listen and SOFA is opening spaces where alternative voices and topics can be heard and discussed, and by doing that they are redefining the creative ecosystems these young people will become a part of.

Together, they show that by engaging thoughtfully with the difficult questions of the day, and by adopting a critical but optimistic outlook, we can bring about better alternatives for our futures and finally go beyond the contradictory idea of fostering creative industries in a post-industrial age, and instead start cultivating creative ecosystems.

Watch here the talks from this session of IAM Weekend 17 or listen to the audio versions on Soundcloud

Tickets now available at:
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