SPEEDING TO THE FRONT: NEW MEDIA AND TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING WILL COMBINE TO CREATE A 'GOLDEN AGE'

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Since man emerged from the primordial swamp he has been obsessed with speed. Getting out of the quagmire was his first priority.

In fact, you could argue that speed has been the driving force of man's progress.

From the invention of the wheel to the breaking of the sound barrier, speed has been an obsession, and it is at the very foundation of all economic activity. Link it to efficiency and you have the essential formula for winning in virtually everything you do.

But what has all this to do with advertising?

The task of advertising is to communicate as quickly as possible to as many people as possible.

Advertising has played a fundamental part in powering Western economies. The Pony Express was great at getting the "word" across America, but nowhere near as effective as TV.

Commercial TV has been one of the major drivers of economic growth. Let's not forget that; in fact, let's celebrate it.

So the next time some bright spark predicts the end of broadcast advertising, you might ask him how the next Bill Gates is going to persuade his future customers of the value of his product. Or how Mr. Wal-Mart is going to tell everyone he has just reduced the price of detergent.

People who predict the end of broadcast advertising don't realize they're predicting the end of economics as we know it. Karl Marx tried to do that and look what happened to his ideas.

One of the amazing but obvious developments of dot-com businesses is how fast they're turning to "conventional media" to establish their brands. All those new companies that were going to replace established media are turning to "old media" to build their businesses.

It's a funny old world, isn't it?

Advertising's value is it builds momentum. If crafted properly that momentum builds into fame. Fame is the most valuable thing a brand can possess.

Fame adds a perceived value. Famous things (or people) can be shared, referred to, laughed about. They are a talking point, a shared experience. In short, they bring people together. If you are in any doubt over people's need for that, ask yourself why soap operas or sports -- in any country you care to mention -- are so popular.

Those same people are buying your product, and the same motivations apply.

If we accept that businesses of the future will succeed only if they utilize information faster than their competitors, then it doesn't take a brain surgeon to reach the conclusion that those advantages have to be communicated faster.

We hear a lot of talk about new media, one-to-one marketing, etc., but unless they can deliver to mass audiences simultaneously, they will not replace broadcast media.

Of course, new media create new avenues of opportunity. But the real value of a medium as an economic force is in its ability to reach as many people as possible as fast as possible.

In fact as we enter the "thin air economy," where companies are increasingly selling something intangible, the value of brands increases exponentially. We could argue that advertising is about to enter a "golden age."

New media is not, as predicted by many, going to be the end of advertising, but is in fact its ally. As it becomes increasingly easy to start new companies with new ideas, it becomes obvious that these new internet companies must establish themselves as distinctive brands if they have any chance of success.

Are there enough talented companies to cope with this explosion of brand creation? I don't think there are. But whatever happens, speed and reach are going to be essential.

The pony express always got through, but by God it took a long time.

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