Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A lesson in values-centered advertising from Steve Jobs

As we begin a new academic year, I think it’s appropriate to attend to this timeless lesson in advertising from Apple’s Steve Jobs. In this circa 1997 video Jobs announces a new ad campaign—Think Different—for Apple computers, he tells us that advertising is not about promoting a product’s features, rather it is about communicating values. That’s a time-trusted vision of advertising’s role offered up many years ago by Albert Lasker, who built the advertising business into what it became in the 20th Century, and it is an approach best exemplified by brands like Coke and Nike. However, with new social media quickly becoming advertising friendly—and new digital ad agencies popping up all over the place—advertising in the 21st Century is beginning to look quite different. Values-based advertising? Perhaps. More likely the instant gratification offered by a message on your mobile phone will more likely rule. Values-centered advertising may be usurped as marketers increasingly employ geo-location, behavioral tracking, SEO and other means and methods to narrowcast a message directly to you when you are in the best physical position to take advantage of an offer. These technical newer approaches, like Facebook Places and Foresquare, among many others, seem to lack the emotional connection Jobs talks about in the video; perhaps these newer approaches are appropriate for the hard economic times in which we live. I don’t know if emotionally driven, values centered advertising is on the wane, but it is clear that new approaches that take advantage of new social media and associated technologies are on the rise.

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