From Creatives to Creators: The Evolution of an Industry

Scroll through any YouTube video, browse through your Facebook feed or run a search on Google and you’ll see ads. Everywhere. And most of us are just itching to press that ‘Skip Ad’ button in 5, 4, 3…Ads are the interruption to the online experience that no one asked for.

Do Google and Facebook mind? Probably not. Google alone made 70.9% of their revenues from advertising between 2001 and 2017. So, how did advertising get here? How did the medium evolve from the darling of the 1950s to the irritation of modern life? And how can we predict where it will go next?

Marketing 101

Pre-industrial revolution was the simple trade era. Here, everything was done by hand including the harvesting and creation of products to trade with the local general public. Most importantly, reach to a wider audience further than your city (or perhaps the country) was a tough market to crack. Past the revolution, companies now believed that mass production was the marketing technique to increase sales. Manufacturing efficiently was the main concern, however, ‘where there’s product, there’s sales’ was effectively the ethos of this time.

From the 1920s, sales became more of a competition between businesses, which begun the early concept of marketing we see today. Companies started forming their own marketing departments and aggressively pushing their products out to gain awareness and persuade consumers to purchase. Here, relationships were important to nurture. Earning trust and loyalty meant turning customers into regulars, which proved to be an extremely effective strategy. Over the next decades radio and then TV advertising became the centralized mediums to reach the masses.

In the 1950s advertising — and creative agencies — reached their golden era, with brands paying agencies big bucks to develop strategies and distribute creative campaigns.

The internet and data proved to really change things up by the 1990s. Advertising wasn’t just about creativity any longer. It was about tracking and collecting consumer data to broaden campaigns beyond print, TV, radio and into social media, display ads, re-targeting, and content personalization. AdTech became the industry disruptor and the internet, once a seemingly vast and decentralized space became ever more centralized, with a small handful of platforms owning the monopoly on consumer attention and ad spend. Google aside, the top social platforms for marketing are Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Naturally ad agencies have had no choice but to adapt or die, to embrace AdTech tools and produce creative content to serve these social times. The only problem is that somewhere in between all the tools and targeting and data tracking, consumers got fed up with the whole thing. I’ve written before about how Generation Z feel especially disengaged, not least because they aren’t naive about the value of their data or their value as content creators.

Ad agencies aren’t naive about Generation Z either. In a video that was apparently meant for internal use, Havas described competitive players in the advertising world as ‘shi**y agencies’, while making the statement that marketing today in this “crazy world” is based on a model that was created way in the past. They also go on to explain that the real rivals for marketing are “kids with iPhones and millions of YouTube followers.

But why? 🤷

We all have cameras. Most have smartphones. Some even have drones. And most Generation Z and younger users are so used to documenting their lives, filming stories, using Snapchat, applying filters and slapping on stickers that simply entertain and make their peers just keep coming back for more. These are the stories that this demographic are interested in. They don’t watch TV and they don’t like advertising targeted to the masses. They want personalized, authentic and creative content. And boy, they are way better at creating engaging content in comparison to us trying to second guess what they want.

This is what Havas are trying to make their employees see in their leaked internal video. Traditional advertising will not reach into the minds of these users. Things need to change. And these ‘kids’ like to be innovative and want to create content. So, instead of turning it into an industry vs. Generation Z battle, the smarter move would be to join forces and give young consumers the control to write the next chapter of the advertising industry.

Welcome to…

The Age of Self-Sovereign Marketing

Sounds a little bit scary, doesn’t it? But essentially, it just means D.I.Y. marketing. So what does this mean for the creative agencies? Brands have always paid creatives a lot to produce content that is heavily branded and key message-laden — all the qualities of traditional advertising and qualities that turn younger generations off. In the internet era, they pay the same agencies for precise targeting based on the harvesting of consumer data, another quality which is as equally unwanted. In the self-sovereign marketing model, consumers take back control of their data and their content. They become the creators and key messages are replaced by the unscripted words, opinions and recommendations of one person to another. Now, the agencies can step back from creating and focus on developing strategies for tapping into and using that content wisely.

We here at WOM believe in the power of word-of-mouth and the need for the industry to embrace self-sovereign marketing. We’re building a blockchain-based protocol that any app or social platform can integrate so that their users can come any day, anytime and upload honest product recommendations about the things they love. Upon uploading this content, the user gives their consent for this content to be used for branding purposes. The recommendations then go through quality checks by other community members called curators to ensure they are perceived as honest and the creators, curators and platform itself are rewarded with WOM Tokens for their role. Brands and agencies cannot directly pay consumers to promote, but they can contribute to a neutral pool of tokens used to reward recommendations for any brand. Once they do so, the companies are then able to gain access to the content, enabling them to use it for their own marketing whilst simultaneously indirectly rewarding the content creator. This creates a fair solution for all parties to benefit from these endorsements. It frees influencers from creating branded spam for their following and brings a more engaging experience to the everyday user.

Marketing is changing whether you like it or not. As technology and smartphones integrate into our everyday lives with each generation being passed down new behavioral habits, we need to stay relevant to the ever changing worldwide audience. This is our marketing forecast. But what are your thoughts on this topic? How would you reach into the minds of people who do not want to be reached?

Visit WOM to see the evolution of marketing in action