Predicting how technology shapes our future is always an interesting sport. Science fiction writers usually get things right in principle, but often miss the mark on specifics. So let’s take a look at what David Oglivy predicted three decades ago about how advertising would evolve.
In the last chapter of Ogilvy On Advertising, Ogilvy predicts “13 changes”:
- The quality of research will improve, and this will generate a bigger corpus of knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t. Creative people will learn to exploit this knowledge, thereby improving their strike rate at the cash register.
- There will be a renaissance in print advertising.
- Advertising will contain more information and less hot air.
- Billboards will be abolished.
- The clutter of commercials on television and radio will be brought under control.
- There will be a vast increase in the use of advertising by governments for purposes of education, particularly health education (emphasis added).
- Advertising will play a part in bringing the population explosion under control.
- Candidates for political office will stop using dishonest advertising.
- The quality and efficiency of advertising overseas will continue to improve – at an accelerating rate. More foreign tortoises will overtake the American hare.
- Several foreign agencies will open offices in the United States, and will prosper.
- Multinational manufacturers will increase their market-shares all over the non-Communist world, and will market more of their brands internationally. The advertising campaigns for these brands will emanate from the headquarters of multinational agencies, but will be adapted to respect differences in local culture.
- Direct-response advertising will cease to be a separate specialty and will be folded into he ‘general’ agencies.
- Ways will be found to produce effective television commercials at a more sensible cost.
Ogilvy was a smart guy. On the surface, most his predictions seem almost utterly wrong and ridiculous. #8 on political honesty is laughable (perhaps he was being snarky?). To be sure, there’s an air that’s a bit Austin Powers-ish in Ogilvy’s sensibility, but his fundamental advertising views were rather timeless.
And yet, if you overlay today’s technological scenery onto some of his predictions, there’s a certain logic which still holds true.
Twitter, blogs…the Web weren’t around thirty years ago, so I suspect if he were around today he’d appreciate how today’s media challenge traditional assumptions concerning the canvases of marketing.
Let’s look at one example: #2, “There will be a renaissance in print advertising.” Given the bankruptcies of newspaper companies, his prediction seems way off, right?
But: there is a renaissance in today’s version of “print” advertising: the iPad exemplifies this. Ogilvy sensed that “print was (going to be) dead” and he probably understood it would need a resurrection.
What the iPad represents is a convergence of new media (software) with traditional media (hardware). For the last fiften years or so, our conception of information consumption has been based on the Desktop Model. Consequently, we’ve grown to assume that the “old” way of consuming (head down, gazing into something you hold in your hands) has vanished forever.
But the iPad destroys that assumption. The iPad is bringing back “print” but in an electronically-enhanced way.
If that’s true, then the traditional creative skills of advertising are not only not dead, but will be essential as we see the maturation of these novel media.
Skilled marketers will know how and when to thread and weave the following: long copy and short copy; direct copy and ambient copy; ad placement and social availability; and when to step in and when to stay back in social media.
People are going to get sick of Socialganda, just as much as they got sick of dopey ads slapped together with steaming buckets of dreck. Sick of being followed by brands. Sick of having their personal exchanges intermixed with brands who they needed for 15 minutes but never took the hint that the party was over.
Advertising – the kind built for today’s technological conditions – will become a far more appealing option than attention-fraying social engagement.
(Just because I Liked your brand on Facebook because I needed or wanted your product today, doesn’t mean I truly want to be your friend for the next twenty years. When I Liked you, I was responding to what was a convenient ad, and not because I longed to “engage you in conversation”.)
As far as the problem of where social media fits into agencies, #12 give us a hint: it will be folded into their operations. It’s just that agency-client relationships will have to be tighter than before. Meaning: agencies will have to understand their clients better than they ever have.
The agency-client relationship will have to be so coal-to-diamond tight, in fact, that they’ll be able to tell their clients they have bad breath and the clients will be on their knees thanking them. That’s the revolution agencies need to make happen.
That’s a turn off to die-hards.
It’s a turn-on for those who can’t wait for the future by plunging into it today.
Creating the future is more accurate than predicting it.