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In Her World (Real or Imagined), the 30-Second Spot Rules

From the ANA: Linda Kaplan Thaler Sees a Future in Which We Are Wal-Mart

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- "Innovate and Die" could have been the theme for Linda Kaplan Thaler's presentation today on the long-predicted demise of the 30-second spot, in which she offered an alternative universe in which the commercial unit triumphs over all of its challengers, both present and future.
Linda Kaplan Thaler imagines one day consumers will just give up control again.
Linda Kaplan Thaler imagines one day consumers will just give up control again. Credit: Rohanna Mertens

Like other agency bosses speaking at recent industry events, the CEO and chief creative officer for Publicis Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group took a comedic, but optimistic view of the TV spot's resilience in the age of consumer control. It's hard to say whether Ms. Kaplan Thaler's presentation at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference here had any practical lessons to impart, but it certainly was entertaining.

The 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award
While admitting that no one really knows when the 30-secoond spot will actually die, Ms. Kaplan Thaler presented a video for the 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award that shows how commercials will ultimately have triumphed over the barrage of technology and consumer trends that should have killed them.

The video showed a historic timeline of advertising, from the first "cave drawings" for a butcher to Da Vinci's early "storyboards" of Vitruvian Man. By late 2006 the internet plummets and by the following year Osama Bin Laden turns himself in and computers and digital devices have gone the way of the Pet Rock and Paris Hilton.

In 2008 consumers protest that they actually don't want any control and by 2016, George W. Bush had been awarded his second Nobel Prize for astrophysics and Wal-Mart had merged with the U.S. No longer just about the lowest prices in the country, Wal-Mart's ad of the future announces: "We are the country."

"If advertisers stop advertising, we could be a nation of readers," she warned in jest. "Is that a future we really want for our children?"

Digital media innovations
She also made fun of what digital media innovations we could see in the future: Swiss Army phones; urinal ads for Target; and the BabyBerry handheld device to tell mom when to schedule a feeding.

In looking at her own real-life agency experiences, letting consumers have control has led to hundreds of consumer-created spots for client Aflac, while condom maker Trojan has made "sexual harassment much safer" at the agency, she joked.

"We live in a world addicted to entertainment," she said, adding: "The message is the message and, if you make it funny enough, consumers will follow it wherever you stick it."

While much of her presentation poked fun at consumers' insatiable appetite for simple, diversionary content, it's a bit ironic that she chose to spoof the industry's challenges rather than offer actual solutions. The endless parade of "Make 'em laugh" presentations is one reason why the 30-second TV spot could go the way of the hula hoop.

The last big agency merger
Her final tribute to the 30-second spot before it is "reinvented and innovated into extinction" was a video montage set to Barbra Streisand's "Memories," warning of the future of the ad agency. The last of the big agencies merge to become WPPIPGBBDODDBWK/OM-Grey and Associates, while Google and the Four A's become Googlegaga.

In a moment reminiscent of the pivotal scene in "Planet of the Apes," in which Charlton Heston realizes the new world he discovered is actually not so new, the final spot of the presentation was a 30-second version of the irritating but effective HeadOn commercial.
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