Brands should adapt to new culture

10 October 2014

LONDON: The advertising industry is failing to move at the speed of prevailing culture, preferring to find new ways of doing what has been done before rather than exploring genuinely creative approaches, an industry figure has argued.

Writing in the 50th anniversary issue of Admap, which looks ahead to the future of brand communications, Gareth Kay, founding partner of San Francisco agency Zeus Jones, says that marketers need to look at a different way of using the skills they have developed over the years.

In an article entitled The post-disruptive advertising era, he argues that the entire language and approach of modern advertising, typically geared to attempts to make brands appear more human, is not working

He says there is little, if any, evidence to support this anthropomorphic strategy. Most Americans, he notes, wouldn't care at all if 80% of brands disappeared tomorrow.

"The disruptive advertising model has to change to help build brands that are more useful to humans," he asserts. That will require "a reboot of the advertising model, one that understands that culture has changed, and with it how the brands of today are being built".

Thus, where classic brand thinking involves delivering on a promise, modern brands should instead be guided by a purpose. Rather than communicating an image, it should deliver an experience.

The new advertising model he advocates differs from the old in three critical ways.

First, it is focused on people rather than brands - in an aside, he suggests that the habit of referring to people as consumers does not help in this regard. So the best brands "understand what people are interested in and work back from there" with great communication ideas "acting as a bridge".

The second aspect follows from this in that "the new advertising model removes the barriers between people and brands". Intrusive techniques don't really fit into this scheme, which also means rethinking measurement methods.

Finally, Kay believes that "great advertising … is the stuff that is baked directly into the experience. It's something you feel, not something you're told".

The extent of the change he advocates is such that he even suggests renaming the act of advertising.

"It perhaps carries too much baggage of bad practice and is too inextricably linked to being inherently disruptive," he says.

Data sourced from Admap