Thursday, August 27, 2009
Just what is advertising?
I have to admit I’m confused…I’ve been studying advertising for a long time, but I no longer seem to know what it is. If you “Google” the term advertising there is consensus that it refers to the promotion—informing and/or persuading consumers--of a product or service through paid announcements. But when you consider, for example the “dancing babies” video for Evian bottled water, how might we square it with that definition of advertising? The video’s distribution is not paid for, it contains no obvious message (what in advertising, they used to call a selling point), and it lacks persuasive elements and information (product features or benefits). So, how can you call it advertising? What the video does have is an emotional kick, which is intended to provide consumers with a vague association between those positive feelings the video evoked and the brand or product/service. Those feelings may be strong enough that consumers want to spread the word to other consumers.
In this way the advertisement is the consumer herself or himself. And, that is how products and services are being promoted in the 21st Century. This position is confirmed in an August 27, 2009 Wall Street Journal article in which Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group, the world's largest (by revenue) advertising firm, who says, “it’s not going to be in 30-second TV ads; it’s not going to be in newspaper or magazine ads; it’s going to be…digital.” So, perhaps a good starting point this semester is to reconcile the traditional definition of advertising with this newer form. Do we even want to call it advertising?
And, what skills do you think it takes to create successful advertising of this kind? I’ve always said that confusion is a mark of intelligence, so it is my hope that through this confusion that you will comment below regarding how you might explain the Evian dancing babies, Cadbury eyebrows, or T-Mobile dance viral videos. I think that would be a good place to begin our semester.