John Hegarty's rant last week on how TV ads are getting worse fails to recognize that advertising is now witnessing its most creative dawn. Never before has marketing been so exciting and innovative. It's why now is such a fun time to be a part of this industry.
I spent a couple years at the Death Star (as it was affectionately known by BBH employees). Hegs was one of the most enjoyable creative directors I had the pleasure of working with in 15 years of advertising. And it was truly enjoyable producing some great advertising for Audi, Barclays and Lynx.
We made slick TV ads, beautifully crafted by well-paid creative teams. Print ads followed an equally well-trodden path. Agencies knew what they had to do to help clients sell more products. Back then, agency life was, well, simple.
John has always been critical of using data in advertising, but clever data usage is the only real hope advertising has left in its ability to survive in a chaotic and democratized world. The world's biggest TV networks can't guarantee brand advertisers 18-34 year olds. YouTube and Facebook can and they do it through data.
Now that marketing has taken a paradigm shift and is entering the abyss of the unknown, brands and their agencies can no longer rely on such conventional ways of marketing; it's now all about data. Does that great TV ad work? Do clever posters on subways have any real impact? Does that extremely expensive full page in the NY Times move the needle? Without data, brand advertisers are just shooting in the dark.
Kids are growing up on a diet of Netflix and Spotify, most advertising to them is what they may catch a glimpse of on the side of a bus. A TV ad to this generation will be easy to miss, skip and probably irrelevant and untargeted. Meanwhile Netfilx is building a content creation business around data, which tells them, who likes what and how long that person watches for.
So it will be to the detriment of the brands and their agencies that fail to figure out how to get creative with not only the idea but also how they employ targeted data creatively.
Digital agencies, social agencies and content creation shops are now competing with the BBH's of this world as these new breed of creative shops have figured out how to create content which can weave it's way through the social world, effectively reach the audience and get shown on TV through the news outlets, as it newsworthy. We're seeing social video become more of an event, which can pick up press around the innovation. A good TV ad is a one-way street without any sharable potential.
Consider that the only ad being talked about at media conferences two months after the Superbowl is not a TV ad, but a tweet created by Oreo during the game.
Brands need to accept that data will drive their sales and qualify their creative, but just making a better TV ad (as Hegs would very much like to see) is not going to better a brands marketing efforts in the long term. Brands have to figure out how to create mobile aps that customers find useful and delightful, build loyal Facebook fans (not just buy them) who engage and enjoy the brand conversation, and have something interesting to say on Twitter. They need to create brand videos at the rate of a newsroom (Vine will help you) and make YouTube a central part of their marketing efforts.
Never before have brand advertisers had a complex shopping list of marketing requirements which all take specialists to deliver against; never before have we seen such an unprecedented amount of customer touch points allowing brands to figure out who likes what, why, where and when.
Surprising your audience with creativity will always win out, but it's not just about making a great TV ad anymore.