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  • 22 Feb ’11


Advertising 2010 Post Mortem: How an industry is dying to be reborn!

I read a fascinating article on the present and future of advertising on fastcompany.com over the weekend, although it’s scope and insight is far broader than just the advertising industry. It got me thinking about my views on where I am and where we are in the industry at the moment.

It’s no secret to any of us working in advertising/design, that the emergence of digital and more specifically social platforms & media has turned our industry on it’s head. So much so that the model of working and getting paid for work has been all but destroyed. there are some, in the old guard, who are clinging onto the hope that this is a passing phase but for those of us who are digital natives it’s clear that this is the new way of the world. The old days are gone, and they are not coming back!

From a personal perspective I feel that I have been VERY LUCKY for the last few years. I was a partner in a design agency for 6 years before I moved to Dublin. 90% of all work I touched was print based. Although this did change to about 70% by the time I left. I joined DirectBrand just over two years ago when it was known mainly for Direct Mail expertise with a leaning towards digital also. Over the past two years we have moved our work rapidly towards a purely digital environment. This is where our companies communal interest lies. In parallel to these career changes on a personal level I was also a very early subscriber to social networks. So I have seen the growth and the change naturally. It didn’t jump up on me. The result of this is that I don’t feel lost within the industry right now. Hence “VERY LUCKY”.

Digital has changed everything from a creative standpoint. We are now being encouraged to start “Story Building” rather than “Story Telling”. This in itself is a strange notion, not only from an advertising / design perspective but any creative perspective. From an early age we learn to consume information with beginning a middle and an end structure, the traditional three act structure. We are reliably informed that the best stories follow this structure. In advertising, you get the setup, the pitch and the payoff. Up until recently all Digital design operated on the same principal, we set the scene with a digital environment, starting the story off. We then gave the information, allowing the user to decide if they wanted to continue based on what you were saying. Finally we provided an avenue to finish the journey. Be it a shop to buy the product or to download further information, an email contact point or other contact details. But as you can see the journey in all these examples is linear. There is a set path. If you fall off, your only option is to go back and start again. The new turns everything on it’s head. We now build the beginning and the end of the story. What happens in the middle is up to the users, our job is to facilitate the users needs in the experience. We also have to be aware that the end of the story can and will change to suit the user. In a sense we are writing communal stories. each one of which can be told to any other user through the social environment. By story building we are allowing the user to become involved, to edit or change the story to suit them. We need to let go of the reins and allow the user to take control. To many this is still an unthinkable model to work in, the message has always been one way, from advertiser to consumer, but this approach pulls the rug from under the core foundation of advertising, that the advertiser controls the message.  But it’s a model that makes infinitely more sense in a digital world.

From a business perspective, the problem with this new model, is that our traditional forms of working and being recompensed is so completely broken. So much of the work we are now creating can be automated and “platformised”. Strategy, concept and creative have always been the most highly prized assets within agencies yet we have been essentially giving away this value to clients for nothing since the dawn of the industry. Clients did’t pay for the idea, so much as they pay for the production of the idea! And thats the question everyone is trying to answer. How do we make a business out of this new model?

Danielle Sacks’ article over on Fast Company is a very worthwhile read and delves much further into the topic than I have here. I wholeheartedly recommend jumping to the link below and checking it out.

[Original article via Fastcompany]

Ian Sorensen

Ian Sorensen is a creative director who likes to write about himself in the third person. He has been making things look good for over 12 years and hopes to share his passion for good design / advertising / illustration with all those who visit this site. He also wishes you a good day!

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