“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can take their place.” So said Marilyn Monroe, and so quoted Leo Johnson from PwC at an Advertising Week session entitled ‘Megatrends and the Future of Advertising’. In the Henry Ford era, says Johnson, advertising enjoyed its golden age; the discipline was a striptease designed to evoke desire.
These days, technology has made it easier to reach more people, but that alone isn’t the answer. According to Johnson, there is one important question that advertisers need to ask themselves: “Are you using technology the way that bankers did in 2008? To manufacture demand for something that isn’t there?” He went on to quote Kentaro Toyama; “Technology is not the answer – it is the amplifier of intent.”
In the developing world, technology is being used to address real-life issues, and in many cases mobile solutions are circumventing the lengthy, process-driven approach that we are used to in the developing world. “The Titanic of the mega city is starting to sink under the weight of immigration and urbanisation,” says Johnson, “giving way to the gilded lifeboat of the smart city.” Advertising is having a similar Marilyn moment; something better is on its way, but it needs to be pushed.
“The question isn’t whether advertising is future-proofed,” says Saatchi & Saatchi’s Richard Hytner, “but rather, is business future-proofed? How do you take these potentially painful mega-trends and use them, jiu jitsu-style, for good?”
In the case of Saatchi & Saatchi, this means going into companies and building a culture of sustainability. In order to achieve this, Hytner believes that creativity needs to be unlocked in the boardroom. “We need to lose the myth of the fearless leader,” he says. “Reputation currently rests on one person; the CEO. We need whole teams, and I believe the marketers in the room are the first among equals for that.”
And as far as leveraging mega-trends jiu jitsu style goes in advertising, it all comes down to data. Data leads to the kind of insight that results in campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty, because advertisers have closer access than ever before to what their consumers want and how they think.
“You have to be willing to deal in truths, not confections,” says Hytner. “People wouldn’t care if 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow… We need to make irresistible brands sustainable, and sustainable brands irresistible.”